Kouz Control

Let’s start with the obvious: The Padres were lucky to win on Wednesday night (recap | boxscore). In a reversal of two recent losses in Atlanta, the Padres came away with a victory when they probably shouldn’t have.

David Wells pitched another fine game at home (2.67 ERA in five starts at Petco Park this year), but for six innings, Chicago’s Sean Marshall had the upper hand. The young southpaw, just up from the minors and making his first start of the season, held the Padres scoreless for the first two-thirds of the contest.

Then came the pivotal seventh inning. Both managers left their starting pitcher in a little too long. Bud Black got away with it, Lou Piniella didn’t.

In the top half, Wells walked back-to-back batters with one out. Mark DeRosa followed with a bloop single off the glove of Marcus Giles to load the bases. Then, after falling behind Cesar Izturis, 3-1, Wells induced the Cubs shortstop to rap into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.

Did I mention that the count to Izturis was 3-1? Honestly, the Padres had no right to escape the seventh unscathed, but somehow they did. Thank you, Mr. Izturis.

Okay, so the Padres were lucky. Now tell ‘em about Kouz. Did you see where that thing landed?

Right, we’re getting there. In the bottom half of the inning, Khalil Greene struck out for the first out. Josh Bard then lined a one-out single to center, bringing Kevin Kouzmanoff to the plate.

Kouz is becoming a fan favorite. It’s hard not to pull for a guy who handles himself with dignity even during difficult times. Or maybe we all just like to say “Kouz” when he comes to bat.

Or the home runs. Did you see where that thing landed?

Yes, it could be the home runs. Whatever the case, in this particular at-bat, Kouz watched Marshall’s first pitch sail outside for ball one.

Piniella then strolled to the mound. It was the kind of stroll that usually comes with a hook.

The Cubs had a left-hander and a right-hander warming in the bullpen. Presumably the right-hander, Mike Wuertz, would be coming in to face Kouzmanoff. Odd that Piniella should wait till a 1-0 count to make the change, but evidently he’d seen something he didn’t like.

Or not.

Piniella returned to the dugout without Marshall. After missing again to fall behind, 2-0, Marshall left a fastball out over the plate and Kouz destroyed it. The ball landed in the upper deck in left-center, an estimated 438 feet from point of departure.

Home runs hit at Petco Park through May 23, 2007
The Padres have outhomered the opposition at Petco Park, 20-5, through May 23, 2007.

Aside from the fact that it gave the Padres a lead they wouldn’t relinquish, there’s something else I liked about Kouzmanoff’s homer: He pulled the ball.

Kouz has a beautiful opposite field stroke that results in line drives to right and right-center. He’s similar to ex-Padre Phil Nevin in that regard, only Kouz (usually) doesn’t get quite as much loft as Nevin did, which plays a little better at Petco — it’s tougher for outfielders to track down a ball when it doesn’t hang up there all day.

I love Kouzmanoff’s approach, but it’s great to know that he can turn on one when needed. That is what will keep pitchers honest and keep the gaps open for Kouz all season long.

Great, thanks. You can stop talking about Kouz now.

Okay, then. Scott Linebrink worked a scoreless eighth and Trevor Hoffman sealed the deal with his 13th save. As has become his custom, Hoffman provided some drama in the process. DeRosa, who finished with four hits, lined a two-out triple into the right-field corner. Hoffman then came back to get pinch-hitter Jacque Jones on a sinking liner to right to end the game.

Wells? Efficient and effective. Kouz? Love him. Bullpen? With apologies to Stevie Smith, they were not breaking but bending.

Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good. Wednesday night was one of those times.

The Padres Prospect Report

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.


Pete Laforest: 4 AB, 1 R, 1 H, 2 RBI; HR, SO


Chase Headley: 4 AB, 1 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; BB – .340/.429/.583
Mike Ekstrom: 5.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R, 0 ER, 6 BB, 2 SO, 0 HR – weird!


David Freese: 2 AB, 0 R, 2 H, 0 RBI; 2B, 2 BB
Manny Ayala: 5.0 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 3 SO, 0 HR


Aaron Breit: 0.2 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 3 BB, 1 SO, 0 HR – yuck!
Pablo Menchaca: 2.1 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 1 BB, 1 SO, 0 HR – more yuck!
Ernesto Frieri: 2.0 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 0 BB, 1 SO, 0 HR


I opened a can of worms (in the comments section — by the way, if you’re not commenting here — shame on you. It’s a good baseball community) with my Ichiro-to-Padres suggestion yesterday. Let’s stir the pot some more…

  1. Ichiro is a solid (to put it mildly) center field defender (leads MLB center fielders in range factor)
  2. Of the available center fielders in the 2007-2008 free agent class, he’s the least likely to lose range (because of his Steve Finley-esque body). Mike Cameron is regressing this year, Andruw Jones is clearly not at his 1999 levels, etc.
  3. His defensive profile — sick range and a great arm — are ideal for Petco’s cavernous alleys.
  4. His hitting approach is ideal for Petco and the NL West: He slaps it most of the time but he’ll occasionally turn on balls if the pitcher is careless (would work well in Arizona and Colorado).
  5. He rarely strikes out (between 53 and 71 strikeouts each season).
  6. Even with his low walk totals (between 30 and 70 each season), he has a career .376 OBP (overall career line: .330/.376/.437).
  7. He has an 80% career success rate stealing bases (247 for 307).
  8. As was pointed in the comments section, his biggish contract (not just big, but big related to what other contracts will be) will be offset by additional ticket sales, merchandise sales, etc.
  9. Ichiro would command a shorter contract than Andruw.
  10. One factor potentially reducing the insanity, the 2006-2007 free agents who received the biggest contracts, have not been living up to those contracts.

[Ed note: I agree with most of Peter's points, but I'm not so sure about those last two. I remain unconvinced that the owners, as a group, are capable of "reducing the insanity" when it comes to free agents. That said, I believe that Ichiro's skill set is perfectly suited to Petco Park. I also agree that Ichiro's marketability is a huge point -- from a business perspective -- in favor of possibly doling out more than his on-field contributions merit. I've got more thoughts on this, but I'm a little too focused on the current season to delve too deeply just yet.]

It’s nice to see Chase Headley get a multi-hit game. Including tonight he has only hit .263 over the last 10 games.

I really liked Aaron Breit coming in to this season. He is really struggling:

2-5 with 6.57 ERA in 38.1 IP, 47 H, 35 R, 28 ER, 3 HR, 15 BB, 22 SO

Last season he was among the league leaders in K/9. I can’t help but wonder if he’s injured.

Thanks, Peter. Good stuff as always. We’ll wrap up the draft preview tomorrow. Meanwhile, the Padres go for the sweep on Thursday night. The IGD will be in effect around 6 p.m. PT. See you then!

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41 Responses »

  1. “…There’s something else I liked about Kouzmanoff’s homer: He pulled the ball.”

    It’s funny – just yesterday Mr. Ducksnorts himself and I talked extensively about this.

    It was GREAT to see Kouz pull that pitch.

  2. Even greater was that the pitch was on the outer half. Kouz recognized it, knew he could pull it and did so. He’s shown he can go the other way on an outside fastball or pull the hanging slow stuff and he’s strong enough to hit it out either way.

    Hit Tracker doesn’t have a distance yet but he has Kouz’s homer off Jason Schmidt on 4/14 at 447 feet. That’s Russ Branyan type power except Kouz can hit for average. We just might have our long wished for power bat.

  3. Kouz also pulled his first hit, a rocket grounder through the 5.5 hole. Against Cincy, he pulled his smoked double over Dunn’s head. He pulled a single in Seattle so hard to left that Adrian couldn’t score with two outs – but Adrian couldn’t score on most hits to left.

    He is hitting to all fields, and frankly his May performance is more consistent with his minor league track record than his April performance.

    I think he has a fair chance at finishing with a .270-280/.340-360/.470-490 line

  4. Adrian not scoring from 2nd shouldn’t be a huge surprise….he might be the slowest non catcher in the majors

  5. In jest, my biggest concern with KK is that his performance seems so correlated with Cameron’s. Ice cold April for both, hot May for both. So can KK keep improving when he is dependent on Cameron’s continued success? Makes me worry.

    In seriousness, and KK will have his slumps, it does show to me, and hopefully to him, that he can hit ML pitching. I was developing hypotheses that there was some magical improvement from AAA to ML pitching that was a threshold he could just not cross. Thankfully not.

    Great to see us win one we deserve to lose given some tendencies this season. GY’s mentioning of Atlanta is perfect. We out hit and out scored them for the series and get a 1-3 record as thanks.

    I would love Ichiro, and hope we can get him. As mentioned in the summary posted, I buy into his lean, lanky build aging better than Jones. And I cannot stand Jones smirk while he hits. Maybe I would like it if it was on my team, but it would be hard to stomach.

    I would take Ichiro’s defense and low 800s OPS (or even high 700s) in a second. As long as the fences stay where they are, I cannot imagine a more important defensive position for us.

  6. I definintely agree with the general sentiment that Ichiro is better suited for Petco than most of the other FA CFs. I like Torii Hunter as well, but I think he’ll be looking for a Vernon Wells type deal. SI.com had a great article up yesterday on why Andruw Jones is hurting his marketability with this season’s play, which is a pretty decent read.

    On an unrelated note, I think it’s time to DL OG and free P-Mac. I think that Bud owes it to P-Mac to call him up and give him some regular playing time to showcase his talents.

    It was great to see Bard set up that Kouz missle (apologies to Anthony, that’s just such a great call), but I’m still concerned about our future catching situation. Peter, would it be possible to check in on Luke Carlin’s performance in the minors as well, or is he pretty much destined for minor league notoriety?

  7. Geoff, I just tired to post a lenghty entry. By any chance did it get hung up somewhere?

  8. #7: Sorry, bud; got it. BTW, Carlin is batting .244/.374/.329 at Triple-A Portland. He’s 26 years old, so I wouldn’t count on him for much…

  9. Thanks Geoff on both counts. I had no idea Carlin was looking so abysmal…

    Here’s an interesting read on why Andruw Jones (different from mentioned above) is not the player he used to be…


  10. Bleedcubbieblue.com has some interesting stuff this morning:

    “San Diego has been a house of horrors for the Cubs, whether the stadium was called “San Diego Stadium”, “Jack Murphy Stadium”, “Qualcomm Stadium”, or the new place, Petco, which seems to have walls 5,000 feet away for Cub hitters, but — at least for the last two days — has been easily reachable for Padres batters”

    This is why I don’t want to change Petco. As I’ve said before, I want opposing hitters to feel like pitchers do when they go to Coors. Get inside their heads, make them feel the park is against them. If I look outside and see the May Gray/June Gloom on a day game I get excited because I know it’s going to keep the balls in the park. Low scoring games mean one swing of the bat can win it, and our pitching is better than anyone elses so we should win more often than not.

    The Cubs were leading 1-0 with a man on first and one out in the seventh when Piniella visited the mound to see if Marshall was tiring.
    “I was yelling, ‘You just jinxed him, Lou,’” said winning pitcher David Wells, who called Piniella’s visit “the kiss of death.”

    Boomer called it.

    Lately I’ve been reading a lot of IGD’s at other sites and one thing that strikes me is the foul language and bitterness. I just want to thank Geoff and all the commenters here for keeping it clean and generally positive. Even when we’re complaining the tone is so much more upbeat than most other sites.

  11. This is the best comments section of any that I am aware. Don’t read the IGD ones a lot, since I go to some games and try not to be on the computer when watching and/or listening to the game, but I assume the same holds there.

    Mad props to the Ducksnorts commentariat! :)

  12. #10: Good stuff from BCB. As for Petco, I love that our guys are responsible for 80% of the homers hit there so far this year.

    As for the IGDs, I can’t thank everyone enough for the level of participation and quality of posts. I’m happy to indulge in the occasional “whine and cheese” but that burns itself out after a while. The best way I know to foster continued intelligent discussion is by focusing on solutions rather than problems.

    Long story, short: Thank you!

  13. 10: I do have a Pavlovian Petco dimensions reponses, so apologies all around, but I think it is much more likely that Petco’s dimensions get into our hitter’s heads, so they are trying to alter their swing, which, until someone with some hitting expertise tells me otherwise, I strongly believe is a very, very bad thing. Visiting hitters just have to put up with it a few games, so are presumably less apt to make adjustments. The HR difference this year is great, but…

    Pads HR, V HR, difference
    2007: 20 – 5 +15
    2006: 75-92 -17
    2005: 54-64 -10
    2004: 57-75 -18

    Looking at the broader question of OPS

    2007: 655—539————–732—-701

    Clumsy chart, but the point is that in 2004, 2006 Petco did not help us. In 2005 it seemed to,and so far this year it has been huge. It will be interesting to track this OPS gap through the year. If it holds up, then we may be onto something. But if it starts to look like historical numbers, it could be a problem. What jumps out? 539 OPS allowed at home. We are actually hitting worse at home than historical numbers but giving the opposition nothing, absolutely nada.

    So the story on Petco this year is not so much that we are hitting better (we are not on a absolute basis or relative to road hitting), but that our pitching/defense is off the charts better, both absolute and relative to the road.

    Is this because Petco is getting into visitor’s heads? My question would be “Why start now?”. It could be sample size (it is early in the season), but something is different about the interaction of our pitching/defense and the park. I don’t think our outfield defense has improved (Cameron has looked worse, not better), Crudge is not better than Roberts. So I am at loss to explain it aside from variation, but it will be interesting to track over the season.

  14. Free P-Mac! If OG is hurting his knees, he can’t field, can’t run, can’t turn on pitches, he should go to DL and get P-Mac up here. Less Blum, More P-Mac! Shoot, less Blum more Robles.

  15. Looks to me like the HR issue is irrelevant – this year’s outlier small sample disregarded. the Padres have out OPSed their opponents at Petco, largely because of superior plate discipline in the past. The Padres also have a winning home record.

    The Padres ahave a much better pitching staff this year, featuring 3 ground ballers as starters – Maddux, Hensley/Germano, and Peavy. Young is an IF/F guy, so Petco doesn’t matter too much to him except on fly balls, but I don’t recall too many wall balls that would be HR in other parks. Wells is the only guy who appears to get noticeable peripheral advantages from Petco’s spaciousness.

    As it gets warmer, the Padres will hit better at home, and so will the opponents. Happens every year.

  16. 12 – good feelings about the Padres all-around, good feelings about Ducksnorts as well. Geoff, has there been a correlation over the years between the fortunes of Padres and the fortunes of Ducksnorts, much like Kouz and Cameron?

  17. I haven’t looked too deeply into the numbers but it seems to me that the move to Petco coincided with the decline of our three aging sluggers, Klesko, Nevin and Giles. Good pitching combined with a general lack of power is going to make Petco appear worse than it really is.

    Now we’ve got young guys like Adrian and (hopefully) Kouz who aren’t set in their ways and accept Petco for what it is. Maybe we’ll see that continue as the years go on and we get more young players.

  18. Keith Law was at it again today.

    Barry, San Jose, CA: Hi Keith – I can’t think of a more solid one through five rotation in the majors than Zito, Cain, Morris, Lowry and Seabiscuit Lincecum. Can you?

    SportsNation Keith Law: Boston, with Beckett. Detroit. I think the Angels have a solid case. I have to say I would be extremely wary of acquiring any pitcher from San Francisco or San Diego – their home parks and their weak competition make their pitchers look a lot better than they really are.

  19. A: None of the above. Oakland has the best starters’ ERA. Law isn’t far off on the Angels (they are second). Padres are 3rd and are helped by Petco. But Boston? Pure ESPN scatology.

  20. Nate Silver at BP said this today about Ichiro! …

    I still think this is likely to be one of the worst free agent signings of next winter.

    … he doesn’t say much about why that’s his opinion … age = 33 … lack of power means that any decline in reflexes could be disastrous, given his plate approach.

    Nate’s opinions are ones I respect … just another data point in the conversation …

  21. 18: I actually think he has a point there. Petco is going to make our pitchers look better, although I think he phrases it the wrong way, since Peavy and Young are going to be good no matter where they pitch, and nobody has an delusions of trading for Maddux or Wells and getting great seasons. He gets it wrong with respect to trading for San Fran pitchers, though (with the exception of Lincecum). I wouldn’t trade for them because they have bad peripheral numbers and are getting really lucky, park aside, to be putting up low ERAs.

  22. #16: Yes. In fact, I’d say the correlation is identical to that between the fortunes of Kouz and Cameron.

  23. 20: Interesting. I tend to think the opposite. Ichiro is always in tremendous shape, he’s unlikely to get fat. If he loses a step or two he’s still going to be one of the fastest guys in baseball. He’s not going to lose his fielding instincts or cannon arm. With his approach at the plate I don’t think he’s as vulnerable to a decline in reflexes because he’s just trying to put the ball in play.

    Granted, most of his offense is tied up in his batting average. I’d hate to sign him to a 4/$60 million contract and end up with another Juan Pierre.

  24. Good to see the discussion has not gone away…I have missed my DS time…

    A couple of quick thoughts…

    Re: 17…not throwing mud, but rather just a point…the decline in power also correlated with increase in age and an increase in the testing/awareness of steroids (all mentioned guys have had numerous rumors regarding their steroid use/abuse). Also, the players you mentioned were hitters that primarily had power to RF, admittedly a death zone in Petco.

    I love Ichiro…I pay to watch him play, but with that being said, I do not want him here. Unless Kouz turns into a 40+ HR bopper soon, we need a bat. Preferably a RH Pull hitter (FREE PAT THE BAT). There is a big advantage having a feared HR hitter in the line-up…we had that with Nevin/Vaughn/Klesko at the Murph/Q, but never had the complimentary parts…now we have all complimentary parts, but no bopper. If we are spending $10+mm per year, the guy better be more than a slap hitter.

  25. I’d be shocked if the Padres could ever sign a 40 HR guy as a FA, I can’t see them handing out a contract on par with what ManRam got.

    Now if Kouz stays at .300/.350/.500 for the rest of the year then I’d be very, very happy bringing in Ichiro.

    I think we’ll have a much better idea about how FA is going to be handled by how they handle the draft next week. If they only take signability guys and lose Latos I won’t be holding out much hope for a big name signing.

  26. A couple of things on the stadium and potential free agents. Jay has a post where he talks about the Padres OPS at home and how Petco didn’t help us in 2004 and 2006. That’s true, but the important thing is that it didn’t hurt us either. Every season but this one the Padres have been outhomered at home but have still had a more productive offense. I think that’s an important point.

    I think people are wary of Ichiro because he is just a singles hitter. If his average goes from .330 to .300 he probably at best an average hitter, and if he hits .280 he turns into Juan Pierre. He’s such an unique player that no one really knows how he will age. Of course, he is very athletic, and those types of players tend to age slower.

    Finally, about the stadium and free agents. Regardless of where the fences are, the Padres are not going to sign an elite power hitter — they are just going to cost too much. So why would you move in the fences for a player that will never play here? They may develop such a player but they are never going to sign one. That’s simply a fact.

  27. On dead pull right handed power hitters (like Khalil Greene for instance): “[Former Padres hitting coach Dave] Magadan said drives to direct left tend to get blunted by a left-to-right cross-current, funneled between the ballpark’s third-base bulwark and the Western Metal Supply Co. building. Magadan said the current scrubbed speed off high drives, causing them to stall.”

  28. Ignore park factors based on a month and a half’s worth of games. The sample is way too small. A full season of games is not really a big enough sample when dealing with park factors.

  29. Without looking into it too much, I am very much against signing Ichiro. He is 33 and gets by on speed. If he loses a step, he’ll be less productive by a lot. He’s already only an .800 OPS guy and 33 year olds with all their production wrapped up in speed can’t be expected to do anything but get worse. Unless the front office knows something we don’t, I say no to Ichiro.

  30. 26: Agreed. Why move fences just to make the fans happy? If Kouzmanoff is progressing as the season goes on, he and Adrian are going to be the heart of the lineup.

    As for Ichiro, I’d love to have the guy but probably not at the price he’ll be commanding. Plus, is a 4-years contract going to do it? Hard to imagine Seattle won’t match that.