Amazin' Avenue: After a whirlwind offseason of trades and free agent signings, the Padres sit in 4th place in the NL West at just 24-27. What were your expectations coming into the season and have these first two months changed them?
Gaslamp Ball: I predicted an 88-win finish that I figured would be good for second in the NL West. The Gaslamp Ball community was in a similar boat, with most of us predicting between 86 and 90 wins for the season. 88 seems like a high mark to hit right now, but the Padres had a pretty rough May, schedule-wise. June sees them playing a combined 13 games against the A’s, Reds, and Diamondbacks, all of which present a great opportunity to get back on track.
AA: Brought in from the Dodgers to provide a big bat and some star power, Matt Kemp has 1 home run and is hitting a measly .244/.277/.328 so far after a bounceback 2014 at the plate. Has Kemp looked as bad as the numbers say he's been? Also, what should we expect to see defensively from Kemp and the rest of the Padres' outfield?
GB: For whatever reason, May has always been a bad month for Kemp. Over his entire career, he’s hit .258/.318/.378 in the second month of the season. He’s obviously hit new lows this season with a .174/.209/.202 line, but I don’t think he’s been as bad as the numbers show. He doesn’t look totally lost at the plate, so I’m hopeful that he’ll put things back together soon. His defense has been what you expect of Matt Kemp in right field. It’s not great, but when the bat is working, it’s a worthwhile tradeoff. Wil Myers in center, on the other hand, has been pretty bad for the Friars. But he’s on the DL right now, and Will Venable continues to be a fantastic defender. Did you see him rob Mike Trout the other day?
AA: One of the more questionable areas on this Padres team coming into the year looked to be the infield and it appears they've mostly struggled. Specifically, Jedd Gyorko has really regressed after a nice rookie year in 2013. What happened to Gyorko and what can the Padres do to wring some more offense out of their infield?
GB: Jedd Gyorko has been such a frustrating case for Padres fans. His 2014 was bad, but we had an explanation for it. He missed most of June and July last year with plantar fasciitis. When he came back, he hit .260/.347/.398. But there’s no explanation for the way he’s played this season, and there’s no real fix for the infield, short of trying guys like Derek Norris and Wil Myers at new positions or some more A.J. Preller magic. This is something the team will likely just have to ride out.
AA: Andrew Cashner, Ian Kennedy, and James Shields are lined up to throw in this series for the Padres. Why has Kennedy struggled so much this year and how has Shields looked the first two months of this contract? And given the Mets are so familiar with him from his time in Atlanta, what's the deal with closer Craig Kimbrel's rough start?
GB: If you look at Ian Kennedy’s peripherals, they’re mostly in line with his career numbers. His strikeout rate, walk rate, and fly ball rate are all what you’d expect. But his HR/FB rate is at a whopping 20.0%. And really, it looks like he’s just serving up meatballs. I’ve got no idea if it’s fixable, but my fingers are crossed. Shields has had a bit higher ERA than you’d like out of your ace, but his league-leading 88 strikeouts are nothing to sneeze at, and perhaps most importantly, he’s gone 6 or more innings in all but one start, and that kind of reliability is priceless. And for right now, I’m just going to keep chalking up Kimbrel’s struggles to small sample size. We all know he’s much better than this, and he’ll settle in for another crazy stupid awesome streak.
AA: The Padres' pitching staff has allowed 66 home runs, 2nd most in the majors, which is particularly odd given Petco Park's pitching friendly nature. Is this just a coincidence or is there a reason why Padres pitching is serving up so many home runs?
GB: This is probably mostly a coincidence. There were some minor changes to left field, where the fences were brought in a couple feet, but it doesn’t explain the number of homers. Some have speculated that the park’s shiny new scoreboard may have altered wind patterns, but I don’t buy it. I think the pitchers are just struggling to find a groove right now.
Thanks again to Richard Garfinkel for giving us a preview of this series! Make sure to check out Gaslamp Ball for more info on the Padres!