Went to Vegas over the weekend. Thought about betting on some baseball games, but the return on investment is terrible. Hard to justify laying down an upper-deck ticket for a 60% chance of winning a bag of peanuts. Mutual funds would be better, but I couldn’t find any at the sports book.
Meanwhile, down in Miami, the Padres were busy winning a series against the Florida Marlins. If not for a hiccup by Scott Linebrink on Friday night, it might well have been a sweep. Still, the Padres now have won six and tied two of their 11 series so far this season.
Next up, four in Atlanta with the Braves. Marcus Giles and Greg Maddux return to the place they called home for many years. After a brief lapse in 2006, Bobby Cox and the Braves are back to their winning ways. Tim Hudson is missing bats again, Chipper Jones and John Smoltz are playing like the future Hall of Famers they are, and Kelly Johnson is emerging as one of the early surprises of the season. After missing all of ’06, Johnson has made the unlikely move from left field to second base and finds himself among league leaders in OBP, runs scored, and walks.
As a team, the Braves are leading the NL East with a 19-11 record. Pythagoras puts them (as it does the Padres) at 17-13. For as strong as the offense and the front of the rotation have been, the back end and bullpen have been vulnerable. Left-hander Chuck James has been somewhat passable, Kyle Davies and Mark Redman, a little less than that. The ‘pen, despite the additions of Mike Gonzalez and Rafael Soriano, remains beatable. Then again, with their offense, it may not come to that.
The key to this series for the Padres will be holding the bats in check and getting the starters out of the game. Keep the games close and hope for a battle of the bullpens. In other words, standard operating procedure.
The other intriguing player on this Braves club is right fielder Jeff Francoeur. He’s always had sick plate coverage but a complete absence of discipline has made him something of an offensive liability (.293 OBP in 2006) despite gaudy traditional numbers (29 HR, 103 RBI) — hello, Joe Carter.
This year, though, Francouer has become more selective at the plate. He’s not there yet, but you can ask anyone who’s ever faced Vlad Guerrero how difficult it is to get guys out who can drive just about anything. Francouer is 23 years old and he’s learning to take pitches without making any sacrifices in power. He’s making the transition from freakish to dangerous, and I’m very glad he doesn’t call the NL West home.
On another note, we (you and me, not the Padres) are trying to find suitable alternatives to Geoff Blum for that last bench spot. With a 12-man pitching staff (a gripe for another day), the Padres can carry just five guys on the bench. One is the backup catcher, Rob Bowen. Two others, Russell Branyan and Jose Cruz Jr., play on a semi-regular basis. That leaves two spots, currently occupied by Blum and Oscar Robles.
Blum and Robles essentially are redundant pieces. The numbers don’t bear it out, and perhaps I am biased due to watching Blum flail at sliders down and in for the past couple of seasons, but I feel much more comfortable with Robles at the plate. He battles up there in a Dave Roberts kind of way.
From a roster construction standpoint, the problems with Blum are that a) he brings the same skill set to the game as does Robles, albeit in a slightly inferior fashion (my opinion) and b) he cannot hit lefties. Cruz effectively is the only right-handed bat off the bench, and he’s the Padres’ best hitter right now, which means he’s in the lineup more often than not. That leaves — what, Maddux and Jake Peavy?
Given that the Padres have committed themselves to carrying too many pitchers, the question becomes one of whether better alternatives than Blum exist for the final bench spot. The answer depends on what you need that spot to accomplish. In a perfect world, the Padres would add a right-handed hitter who can play just about anywhere. A very quick (i.e., not exhaustive) look reveals a paucity of names:
- Willie Bloomquist
- Juan Castro
- Damion Easley
- Ramon Martinez
- John McDonald
- Luis Rodriguez
- Mike Rouse
- Marco Scutaro
- Wilson Valdez
- Chris Woodward
First off, that’s a very ugly list. Second, the only guys on it that I’m comfortable calling an upgrade over Blum are Easley and Scutaro. Too bad the Mets and A’s have no reason to part with them. There might be players with similar skill sets in the minors — last I checked, the most “promising” name was Jeff Keppinger.
If the Padres can’t conjure an Easley/Scutaro type, maybe they need to go in a different direction? As others have noted, the most pressing need on this club right now is a right-handed bat. Beyond lamenting the fact that Paul McAnulty bats from the left side, what can we do?
I haven’t looked at available options that closely, but a couple of names that intrigue me are Eduardo Perez and Kevin Thompson. Assuming Perez is still playing (he’s 37), he can mash lefties (.265/.362/.501 over parts of 13 seasons). He probably could play a little first base, and possibly some third base or a corner outfield spot in an emergency, and would give the Padres a legitimate threat off the bench from the right side.
The other guy, Thompson, is an outfielder in the Yankees organization. He’s old (27) for Triple-A, but last season hit lefties to the tune of .288/.372/.541 while playing for the Columbus Clippers. I have no clue what, if any, plans New York has for this kid, but he seems like someone who could be useful in a Jon Knott kind of way (actually, I wouldn’t mind seeing Knott back in San Diego).
I dunno. The more I look at this, the more convinced I become that Blum is a symptom and not the problem itself. The real issue is that the Padres are carrying 12 pitchers, which creates fewer spots on the bench, which leads to the need for greater versatility among those occupying the spots, which leads to the justification of Blum’s presence on the roster.
Solution? If I called the shots, I would go to an 11-man pitching staff, release Blum, and use my last two roster spots on McAnulty and Perez (assuming he’s ready, willing, and able to play).
But that’s just me…
by Peter Friberg
You will not see all the notable performances from the night before, but you will see the notable performances from those who are actually prospects.
Friday, May 4, 2007
Luke Carlin: 3 AB, 2 H, 1 H, 0 RBI; 2B, BB
Jared Wells: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 2 BB, 6 SO, 0 HR
No notable performances
Matt Antonelli: 5 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 1 RBI; 2 SO
Matt Bush: 2 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 1 RBI; 2 BB, SO
Cedric Hunter: 5 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI; 2 SO
Kyler Burke: 4 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI – Scuffling!
Jared is out to prove that we haven’t heard the last of him.
Kyler Burke has only gotten hits in 4 of his last 10 games (5 of them, 1 double, in 35 AB). He’s currently hitting .188/.258/.250. I ranked Kyler #9 in my Padres Top 25 back in October 2006. If Kyler’s struggles continue, he could jepordize his long-term future with the Padres. As noted elsewhere, the Padres have 11 picks in the first four rounds (and will likely use a few on power bats) and several “corner” bats doing well in High-A and Double-A (Freese, Blanks, Huffman, Headley, and Venable each could end up as corner outfielders in San Diego ). So Kyler needs to get his swing on if he wants to keep his name in the mix.
Saturday, May 5, 2007
Paul McAnulty: 3 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; 2B, 2 BB, SO
Vince Sinisi: 4 AB, 2 R, 3 H, 3 RBI; 2 HR, BB
Tim Stauffer: 3.1 IP, 5 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 4 SO, 1 HR
Cesar Ramos: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 1 HR
Matt Antonelli: 3 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; HR, 2 BB, SO
Matt Bush: 5 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI; SO
Wade Leblanc: 6.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 10 SO, 0 HR – Wow!
Kyler Burke: 3 AB, 1 H, 0 H, 0 RBI; BB, 2 SO
I’m not convinced Vince Sinisi is a prospect, but that’s a heck of a game.
I am convinced Tim Stauffer is not a prospect.
Stauffer’s 2007 statistics:
11.57 ERA, 11.2 IP, 21 H, 15 R, 15 ER, 5 BB, 9 SO, 2 HR
Grady Fuson has a weekly appointment with Coach John Kentera on the Mighty XX on Thursdays (at about 12:30 p.m. PT, I think). Last week he talked about Cesar Ramos and about how he had put together a few good performances. Fuson also said that the Padres still really like him but that he needed to be more consistent with his delivery. Fuson went on to elaborate that Ramos will occasionally lean toward the plate too early in the delivery, and it ruins his control and command. If he stays back on his push leg, he gets the desired results.
In 30 2/3 innings this year, Wade has allowed only 21 hits and 10 walks while striking out 30. Despite only two of starts being at home this season, Wade has yet to allow a home run. After two rough starts to open the season, this is Wade’s forth consecutive shutout performance.
Last year caused people to question Matt Antonelli as a top prospect. This year he’s answering those questions.
Sunday, May 6, 2007
Leo Rosales: 1.0 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0 HR – 8th save
Chase Headley: 2 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 2 RBI; 2B, BB, SO, SF
Nick Hundley: 5 AB, 0 R, 0 H, 0 RBI; SO – hitting .177
Matt Antonelli: 3 AB, 1 R, 0 H, 0 RBI; 2 BB, 2 SO
Chad Huffman: 3 AB, 2 R, 2 H, 3 RBI; HR, SF
Rayner Contreras: 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; 2B, SO
Nathaniel Culp: 5.2 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 0 HR
Ernesto Frieri: 0.1 IP, 1 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 2 BB, 0 SO, 0 HR
Apparently this weekend’s report should be called, “The Antonelli Report.” All Matt did was go a combined 4-for-11 with a home run and 4/5 BB/SO ratio while scoring 3 runs and knocking in 4. Matt is now hitting .309/.424/.464.
Thanks as always, Peter. Chris Young and Chuck James hook up in Atlanta on Monday evening. We’ll have the IGD up and running by 3 p.m. PT.