Reality: You’re Soaking in It

Where do I even begin? That this isn’t the way I’d wanted to see the season end seems so beyond doubt that it hardly bears mentioning, and yet I just mentioned it. Even though a thing is obvious, it still needs a voice.

I hate writing this. I hate thinking this. Honestly? I hate everything about this.

But you can’t go through life hating, right? Well, you can, but it’s probably not a good idea. Besides, it’s just baseball.

“Just baseball.” I hate that, too. Like that somehow negates it all, makes the experience less important, less real. Yeah, buddy, screw you.

Anyway. Now you see the problem. I can’t even get started. Do I whine about Monday night’s outcome (box score), or do I express gratitude at having witnessed a tremendous game that most teams didn’t have the right to play? Do I make excuses for Jake Peavy, Brady Clark, and Trevor Hoffman, or do I give the Rockies their props for outplaying our guys?

Yeah, I said it. They outplayed the Padres. Deal, yo.

Or maybe we can think about Milwaukee. Sure, let’s play “what-if” there instead. Why did Hoffman throw eight bazillion change-ups in a row? What if he shows Tony Gwynn Jr. a fastball? (What if Gwynn hits it?) Or perhaps we’ll go back further and pin the blame on Mike Winters for baiting Milton Bradley, Bradley for gobbling it up, and Bud Black for taking out his own guy in the process. Or we could…

Here’s what happens when you go down that road. Aside from the fact that you make yourself miserable, you’re not even being honest with yourself. Replace every “should have” throughout the course of a 163-game season with “could have” and see what happens. When you say “should,” you’re basically conceding that games don’t even need to be played. Yeah, probability and all that. Okay, fine; I get it. But on the field, none of that matters. The only legal tender currency is what actually happens — you may know it better as reality.

Painful? Sometimes, yes; sometimes, no. But it remains constant even as it constantly changes.

I’m not making sense again. Sorry, it’s been that kind of life.

Another approach would be to take pride in knowing that the Padres, despite missing two of their starting outfielders and getting negative contributions from the best starting pitcher and best reliever in franchise history, pushed an improbably hot Colorado team to the edge of a mile-high precipice. This one might work better a few months from now, when the throbbing is less intense.

How can we reflect at a time like this? How can we analyze and be philosophical? Why would we want to even if we could? Now that the season’s over, it’s not like there’s a sense of urgency. Grieve, mourn, vent. Whatever it takes. Then sort through the rubble over the winter and return in spring with maybe a more prominent chip on the collective shoulder.

We can’t play in the big game? But, but… well, then, do it already. Nobody gives us respect? Oh, but they do; they give us exactly as much respect as we have earned. Want more? Okay, play better. Until then, suck it up like everyone else and get back to work.

The Padres have completed their fourth straight winning season. That’s the first time in franchise history if you’re scoring at home. They’ve made the transition from lousy/mediocre to good. How do they get from there to great? I don’t know, and I’m not prepared to think about it just yet.

I do know that this organization is in better shape than ever and that the better it gets, the more I want. This is a credit to the folks who run the club but also a burden for them. Not that the Padres have anywhere near the same track record, but I’m beginning to understand why the Braves couldn’t sell out home playoff games in the ’90s. At some point, as obnoxious as it sounds, reaching the playoffs isn’t enough.

To say nothing of not reaching the playoffs…

* * *

Man, this post sucks. I keep writing because… well, I don’t know what else to do. Is it spring yet?

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234 Responses »

  1. 36 & 37: Yes, declining K rates and increasing BB rates are definitely an area where you can see a negative trend; however, these rates have not yet manifested as an inability to do the job he’s being paid to do. Yes, they decidedly have made him a less dominant pitcher, but we all knew that already, or should have known it. I just don’t see that as being what many people are saying. They seem to be saying he’s completely shot, and I don’t buy it.

    TW, did you notice his DH numbers on BP? Despite his decreasing ability to keep hitters off base and from making contact reflected in his K’s and BB’s, he’s still putting up negative Delta H numbers.

    Generally, this is deemed to be luck, but when you look at a guy like Trevor who has put up negative numbers in 12 of 16 seasons with one season of 0, I have to think he’s having an impact on the hitter’s ability to put the ball in play for a hit. And again his past four seasons of Delta H are better than his 4 seasons prior to surgery.

    No argument you can find a decline or negative trend in those K and BB figures, but I still see him getting the job done in the 9th, with no one on, and a lead, at a high rate one more year.

  2. Pat, WOW!!!

    I understand sample size very well and you’re playing semantics comparing part of Brosius’ post season resume with Hoffman’s ENTIRE post season resume.

    I understand you want to stick up for the guy, we all wish he had another 1-2 good years left in him but it’s getting about time to face facts.

    -Yes it is only 12IP, but those are the most important 12IP he’s had without a ton of success. I don’t see why you have a problem with me saying he hasn’t pitched as well in the post season as he does during the regular season, its a fact. You asked for numbers, I posted them.

    -More importantly: Hoffman’s in the decline phase of his career. That K rate is starting to match what we all visually see, a pitcher who doesn’t generate any swing and misses any more. It is getting time for the Padres to start making other plans. They can no longer afford to turn the ball over to him in the 9th and start packing up the equipment.

  3. 96 – giddyup. I plan order one, hang onto it and burn it in a ritualistic ceremony as soon as the Pads make the playoffs next year.

  4. No, Mark, you don’t understand it. You’re still trying to draw a conclusion about Trevor’s clutch/big game/post season performance based on 13 IP. You can’t becasue there isn’t enough data there to draw a conclusion from. The numbers in that small of a sample show nothing other than randomness and luck.

    Trevor’s ENTIRE post season resume is 13 IP, Brosious picked up 17 AB’s in the 1998 WS; it’s as reasonable a comparison as your assertion that you can draw a conclusion on Trevor based on 13 IP.

    Yes, Trevor is in decline; no, 2 blown saves, despite the horrible timing of their occurence, is not evidence he’s done or that he can’t pitch in big games. I hope this helps clarify what I’m saying.

  5. 102: Hoff has this last year in him and we need to take care of it properly. We need to groom Bell and give Hoff the chance to still save games and go out on a good note. He is definitely not the same guy, but he deserves to go out starting next year and get the chance to save games one last year. If he cant make adjustments then the club will have to.

  6. I’m not drawing any conclusions about Hoffman based on his post season performance, I’m simply saying he hasn’t been good. Sorry, thats a fact. He’s been worse in the post season then regular season.

    It would sure be nice to have a larger sample size to draw on, but unless you’re a Yankee/Red Sox there isn’t going to be a big enough sample to be statistically significant. So do we completely discount it?

    Sorry I’m not comfortable acting like the playoffs don’t exist, especially when his post season experience is creeping up on what amounts to 2 months of work during the regular season.

    You seem to be missing the point on the K rates and BB rates and his decline. Most of us are saying they better start to think of other options to bail him out when the going gets tough because if Hoffman loses much more stuff he’s Germano out there.

    Doesn’t seem like someone I want trying to protect a 2 run lead with the playoffs on the line.

  7. 101: The question then becomes, how many pitchers can get that job done – 1 inning, with no one on, and a lead, at a high rate one more year. And, by averages, who’s going to face the worse half of the lineup half the time.

    The pitcher who is going to be the best at that is the same kind of pitcher who is going to be the best at every other important pitching job. He strikes out a lot of hitters, doesn’t walk many, and keeps the ball in the park. The fact that lesser pitchers can succeed in the role suggests the role itself is easier to perform than many believe.

  8. 101, again: I find it hard to counter a serious, steady decline in rate peripherals with a counting stat. It gets close to Joe Carter territory. Sure, he had a 290 OBP and a 391 SLG in 1990, but darnit, he drove in 115 runs!! That tells us that RBI are a function of opportunity more than skill or performance, just like saves.

  9. Pat

    I see you argueing sample size and what not but unfortunantly Trevor has become rich pitching (mostly) 1 inning at a time. So 12 or 13 innings that you guys keep stating doesn’t look to me to be all that small considering the role. While I don’t think Trevor is completely washed up because I think he can still be useful in the right situation, it looks obvious to me he is no longer our best option at his position.

  10. 107: I think I read before that 70% of the time a run doesn’t score in an inning, and I think it’s upwards of 95% that 3 runs don’t score. Just on average alone I think the save stat is pretty useless.

  11. 108: The job may be easier at times but that does not discount the pressure that the closer faces every time he is on the mound which is not measurable and obviously I cant really back it statisically. I am sure there make been alot of shut down relievers that struggled once they became “closers”

  12. YO … can somebody go check this out and explain it to me?

    The video (link labeled “Carroll drives in Holliday “) has been updated … and audio dub’d with an “explanation” … which doesn’t make any sense to me … WHAT????? HELP?????

  13. 112: The Rockies are best just leaving it as questionable and not inflating the issue. Saying “He see’s that he tags home plate and calls him safe” in the end sounds like BS to me.

  14. OT … from …

    With Helton, after 1,577 games, and Diamondbacks infielder Jeff Cirillo, after 1,617 games, going to the playoffs this season, the Mets’ Damion Easley, who has played 1,593 games, has the unwanted distinction of playing the most games without experiencing the postseason.

  15. 112.

    The freeze frame CLEARLY shows he isn’t touching home and the explanation guy says the ump can see he touched it? What?!?!?!

    Listen guys congrats on winning the game you have a really good team and you had an epic run to end the season but F YOU if you think you can freeze frame the perfect evidence of Holliday not touching home and then tell me he did touch it!

  16. 112- what a bs explanation – it totally contradicts what the video is showing in freeze-frame! I hadn’t seen that camera angle, and from it it’s blatantly obvious that Holliday’s hand never touches the plate.

  17. Does anyone know what the baseball rules are on retirement papers? Are the Padres still on the hook for Trevor’s guarantee contract in ’08 if he decides “you know what, I don’t have it anymore, I’m done.” Trevor retiring before ’08 is not outside the realm of possibilities.

  18. 117: I’d hate to see Trevor go out now. The guy is all class. And he’s still good, tho’ not great anymore, and still useful. I just want to see him, and the entire bullpen, used optimally – or, at least, more optimally.

  19. 113 … it’s not the Rockies … it’s MLB (via … and it “sounds like BS” because it *is*! Clearly we need to “let it go” … and I will … eventually. I understand that ump’ing MLB is *very hard* to do … but this audio-dub seems fishy to me … an aroma of “cover up”? I guess I’m wanting the ump to say “I saw him touch the plate, and I made a mistake with the late and ho-hum safe signal” … isn’t that where we’re at? If so, let’s say so …

  20. 119: Its a Rockies correspondent from

  21. 118 … uh, I’d rather vent about the video … but now I’m confused … what is “more optimally”? Is that like “giving more than 100%”? And it’s even more confusing when folks add that he’s not been used in the “high leverage” situations like Bell has. And if we can’t figure that all out in retrospect, I don’t blame BB for not figuring it out in real time …

  22. 112- uh, they’ve changed the video! There is no longer the weird guy’s voice.

  23. 122 … WOW, you’re right! See! See! Something’s fishy!!!

  24. It’s a second dubber… doing voice-over from the grassy knoll.

  25. 111: I agree. One of the defining traits of Trevor Hoffman is that he’s been able to excel in the closer role due almost entirely to his mental makeup. There are any number of guys with better stuff who just can’t handle the pressure. Armando Benitez comes to mind.

    107: I would disagree that the best closer is the guy who’s the best at every other pitching job. Often it’s the guy with one (Rivera) or two (Gagne) dominant pitches and/or the guy who throws too hard to pitch 7 innings (Wagner). There’s no doubt Trevor would fail as a starting pitcher but his unique skills and psyche are perfect for a closer.

  26. Closer is a tough job. I hate when people say “save” is an over-valued stat. Ask any baseball manager, the toughest 3 outs to get are the last 3.

  27. How would you guys feel about making an offer to a guy like Tom Glavine? I know he is most likely to stay on the east coast but I would love a quality left hander in the rotation. It would be a good story for he and Maddog to be re-united and he I feel is still a better option than Wells was this year. We’ll see I guess but just throwing out a name I wouldn’t mind taking a shot at. He might be a good guy to have around some of our young guns also.

  28. 127: If your going for vet lefty I’d prefer to go get Pettite but i dont think either would come here.

  29. “more optimally”… okay, that does suck. How about closer to optimum? Which, I think, is pretty simple. You start by tossing away formulas like:

    7th inning, of course, Thatcher (or, last year = Meredith)
    8th, of course, Bell (last year = Linebrink)
    9th, of course, Trevor

    And instead going with the game situation (score/inning/outs/runners on base/etc), and the batters coming up, and choosing a reliever based on those things. And pretending that the Save rule was never invented.

  30. 123: if you watch the video on the home page the dubbing is still there

  31. 129: Amen to that. I hate the specialized 7th and 8th inning thing. Closer is one thing, but there is no way only one guy should pitch the 7th or 8th no matter what

  32. 126.

    I think today save is a totally over-valued stat. Coming in with nobody on and getting 3 outs with up to a 3 run lead to me is not that impressive. When guys were going 2+ innings coming in with people on base and stuff saves were earned todays save is really more of an “Agent’s” money stat to me. Not saying Trevor or Rivera and the top guys are not great and don’t do a good job at what they do I just think the stat is really over-valued.

    Prime example is last night Heath Bell and Joe Thatcher even Doug Brocail pitch really admirable games with many more pressure pitches than Trevor threw and they get no type of stat that matters.

  33. 129.

    That’s a hell of an idea!

  34. 132: Yes but generally your closer comes in earlier in a tie like the Rockies closer did and pitch in that pressure situation. I think bud was more confident in Bell and Thatcher at that point than Hoffman though. Especially when he ran Bell out there for that 3rd inning.
    i dont think the save is overvalued at all, especially with the padres i believe there were probably more 1 and 2 run saves than 3 run saves. i didnt look it up though.

  35. Tom Glavine…sigh haven’t we learned anything about aging pitchers from watching Hoffman the past couple of years?

    Those declining K rates do come back to haunt you eventually.

    They need another starter capable of being better then league average(hopefully 2)

  36. 126: perhaps not every reliever can thrive in the 9th, but many, many can and do. Every year, we see guys emerge out of nowhere and do extremely well in that situation. What makes them different from their colleagues in the pen? I’d say it’s 10% ability, and 90% opportunity!

    So when Ron Washington says he needs a “proven closer”…

    …after the great job CJ Wilson and Benoit did this year, you know, it’s just nuts!

  37. Missed that video, and the page no longer exists. What was it about?

  38. A good look at the ump’ing in last nights game by BP’s Joe Sheehan … (sub reqd) …

    Here’s the key paragraph …

    In real time, and in replays, it certainly didn’t appear that Holliday was able to touch the bag. McClelland’s slow “safe” call and Holliday’s reaction—he seemed to be anticipating an “out” call and was surprised by McClelland—support that idea. There are alternate explanations for both of these; McClelland may have been verifying that Barrett dropped the ball, and Holliday was clearly shaken up on the play. However, my best judgment is that Holliday missed the plate, McClelland blew the call, and the two teams are tied 8-8 with two outs in the bottom of the 13th.

  39. Grady Fuson coming up on 1090….interesting to see if “the Coach” decides to ask any decent questions about players actually in the Padres organization, or if he asks about Dodgers/Giants players like normal

  40. 125: Hoffman hasn’t gotten by on, er, moxie. He had a mid-90s fastball for part of his career, a Bugs Bunny change, and in his best years had absolute pinpoint command.

    The best starting pitchers, what do they do? Strike people out, don’t walk people, keep the ball in the park. They need more pitches to do it, and they need to have stamina, but those are the consistent earmarks of great SP.

    The best relievers (non-closers), what do they do? Strike people out, don’t walk people, keep the ball in the park. They don’t need a starter’s variety of pitches, they don’t need the ability to throw 60 pitches an outing, but their earmarks are the same.

    The best closers, what do they do? You know what they do. They strike people out, don’t give out free passes, keep the ball in the park.

  41. 126: You may hate it, but it doesn’t make it less true. And nobody’s saying it’s easy, just not mystically hard. Managers will also tell you they prefer Joe McEwing to Jack Cust.

  42. 135.

    If Closer genereally came in earlier like when the game was tied they would get wins and not saves if their teams won the game.

    All I am saying is that I am not that impressed by closers these days because they usually come in with no runners on and only get 3 outs. If you have a guy with good stuff come into a game late against hitters that have been seeing other pitchers all game long and get 3 outs you shouldn’t be surprised. They should totally be able to do that. Closers are not just scrubs they are good pitches with good pitches and good stuff. If starters have to 5 innings to get a win closers should need a little more than 3 outs IMO.

  43. 138: look on the home page

  44. “the coach” makes no sense:

    -the team needs to figure out what to do about 2B, CF and C

    -Bard is the unsung hero of the ballclub, he had a great year

    How do those 2 go together? He’s arbitration eligible so you resign him and move on.

  45. 138 … the page link’d to from #112 is still there … as is the video of the last play … all that’s changed is some audio dub that was a weak attempt to “explain” what might have been going thru the ump’s mind … so weak that it’s now gone …

    One other thing I just noticed in the video replay is that the Rockie-on-deck seems to run up to Holliday after he misses the plate in a way that suggests he is about to urge Holliday to go back and touch the plate … just sayin’ … they know … they *all* know …

  46. 131: If it makes sense to have a specialized role for the 9th, it makes sense to have it earlier. Players seem to prefer defined roles, a lot like employees in other businesses do. I wish the Padres, or some team, would go a different route. Some kind of bullpen rotation, but you wouldn’t be able to hide weaker arms as easily.

    135: There usually will be more 1 and 2 run saves, because those are 2/3 of the possible save situations. Managers go to their closer in tie games at home. You almost never see it on the road.

  47. 146: If you look on the home page the dub is still there.

  48. 139: That’s exactly right. McClellan isn’t waiting to see if Barrett has the ball, it’s been obvious since the jump that he doesn’t.

  49. Here’s another paragraph from Joe Sheehan’s article (link @ 139) that’s relevant to the other topic-du-jour …

    Hoffman’s struggles give us another opportunity to poke holes in the closer myth. After all, if being a closer—getting three outs with a small lead 40 times a year—is about will and desire and perseverance, shouldn’t Hoffman have been able to end one of those two games in a dogpile? I can’t imagine someone not having the desire to win a game that would clinch a postseason berth. If non-physical skills are so critical to being a closer, and Hoffman is one of the exemplars of that role, then why aren’t the Padres playing any more baseball this year?

    The fact is, closers are just relief pitchers with a narrowly-defined role, and the way to become a closer, to be branded one, is to pitch well the first four or five times you’re put in that role. It’s baseball’s version of witch-dunking. There’s no special skill involved beyond the ones that make you a good relief pitcher—two good pitches, an ability to warm up quickly, and above-average strikeout, walk, and home-run rates. The mythology that surrounds the role is a joke, and a detriment to the game as a whole. Trevor Hoffman didn’t fail as a man last night; he failed as a pitcher.

    … well said, Joe!