Jake Peavy, RHP
What I said: “If he’s going to maintain his place among the elite pitchers in baseball, Peavy really needs to become more efficient.”
What happened: From a visual standpoint, it seemed like Peavy had less trouble putting hitters away once he got ahead of them in the count. Unfortunately I cannot find anything in the statistical record to support this. What I did notice is that the GB% (percentage of balls in play that resulted in ground balls) against Peavy jumped from 38% in 2006 to 44% in 2007; the latter is more in line with career norms. Not surprisingly, Peavy saw his HR/9 cut in half. It bothers me that I can’t get better agreement between visual and statistical observations. I don’t entirely buy the theory that Peavy didn’t really slip much in ’06, but I find myself without a solid rebuttal. As for increased efficiency, it didn’t happen. Peavy threw a career-high 4.03 pitches per plate appearance, and his pitches per inning checked in at 16.2 — roughly the same as for his career. Bottom line: Peavy improved, but I’m not sure why.
Chris Young, RHP
What I said: “Like Peavy, if Young can resolve at-bats more quickly, he could take another step forward, which is a scary thought considering how good he already is.”
What happened: Young is such a strange pitcher. Every year, he throws more pitches per plate appearance than anyone else in baseball, has the worst groundball-to-flyball ratio, and allows the opposition to run wild against him. And every year, he pitches well. When talking about Young’s 2007 season, we need to differentiate between pre- and post-injury. He landed on the DL with a strained oblique muscle after working just two innings of a game at Colorado on July 24. At the time, his 1.82 ERA led MLB. Opponents were batting just .184/.257/.267 against him. After his return, Young’s command deserted him. He went 0-5 with a 5.96 ERA over 10 starts and walked an alarming (for him) 5.47 batters per 9 innings. People will talk about regression to the mean, and there’s some truth to that, but clearly Young was not right over the final two months of the season.
Clay Hensley, RHP
What I said: “Like the two twentysomethings ahead of him in the rotation, Hensley could stand to improve his command.”
What happened: It’s amazing to realize that the Padres almost reached the playoffs despite having one, maybe two effective starting pitchers in the second half of the season. Anyway, Hensley didn’t improve his command; instead he got hurt, stunk when healthy, returned to the minor leagues, and stunk some more down there. Is it cliche to say that his career is at a crossroads? Is it sour grapes to claim that if he’d contributed anything in ’07, the Padres would have been the best team in the National League? I have no idea what the future holds for Hensley, and neither do you.
Greg Maddux, RHP
What I said: “As he did for the Cubs and Dodgers in 2006, Maddux will provide good short-term value for the Padres.”
What happened: Maddux faded in September, but overall, he did exactly what I expected. He took his turn in the rotation, worked about six innings each time, and finished with a league-average ERA+. Maddux also did something I hadn’t anticipated — he tossed the Padres’ only complete game of the year.
David Wells, LHP
What I said: “The Padres… aren’t asking for much. If Wells can even make 20-25 starts this year and continue to lead by example, the club should be happy.”
What happened: Wells made 22 starts for San Diego, and for the most part, the results were not pretty. His key problems were an inability to pitch effectively away from Petco Park (7.99 ERA in 10 road starts) and work deep into games. Wells drained the bullpen. In games he started, the Padres used an average of 3.41 relievers, who threw a combined 68 pitches over 4 1/3 innings. This also had the effect of forcing manager Bud Black to carry 12 pitchers all season, thus limiting his bench options. The question isn’t whether Wells should have been released, it’s what took the Padres so long to cut bait?
Trevor Hoffman, RHP
What I said: “Hoffman won’t light up the radar guns (hasn’t for years) and he’s good for no more than about 60 innings, but despite recent declines in strikeout rates, he shows no signs of slowing down.”
What happened: Except for those final two games in Milwaukee and Denver, I nailed this one. Hoffman worked 57 1/3 innings and posted an ERA+ of 140, same as his last pre-surgery season in 2002. The strikeout rate continued to decline, but for the vast majority of the season, Hoffman remained effective.
Scott Linebrink, RHP
What I said: “Linebrink has good stuff and command, and he’s durable. Many clubs have inquired about his availability as a potential closer, and the Padres would not hesitate to use him in that role themselves should something happen to Hoffman.”
What happened: Linebrink’s command disappeared, and so did he (being jettisoned to Milwaukee in July). It appears that 2006 was not a fluke, but rather the first stages of decline. Linebrink is making the transition from dominant setup man to generic middle reliever. It’ll be interesting to see whether the Brewers offer him arbitration (he might accept, you know) so that they can collect compensatory draft picks.
Cla Meredith, RHP
What I said: “It would be irresponsible to predict anything close to a repeat of his phenomenal 2006 campaign, but Meredith should remain one of the better setup men in the National League now and into the near future.”
What happened: Meredith dominated in April, then struggled, then came on strong in the second half. He is durable and, despite being a sidewinder, doesn’t have appreciable lefty/righty splits. From a visual standpoint, his biggest problem appears to be the fact that a lot of the worm beaters (5.78 G/F ratio — are you serious?) he serves up find holes. Still, Meredith gave the Padres 80 innings of above-average work out of the bullpen, and in my humble estimation, he’s a decent bet to improve in ’08.
Heath Bell, RHP
What I said: “With a new franchise and a defined role, Bell has a chance to be a useful big-league reliever.”
What happened: Er, that was an understatement. Bell basically duplicated Linebrink’s 2005 season and became one of the best setup men in baseball. Some have identified Bell’s success as a product of his environment, and if we interpret that to mean an organization that gave him the chance to succeed, then I agree.
Doug Brocail, RHP
What I said: “Brocail is nothing special, but he’s only being asked to fill the Jon Adkins/Scott Cassidy/Brian Sweeney low-leverage innings role.”
What happened: At age 40, Brocail gave his best performance of the century (heh). He struggled in June and July, but otherwise pitched well. Brocail’s command sometimes deserts him at inopportune times, which means that watching him pitch can be a bit stressful.
Andrew Brown/Kevin Cameron/Justin Germano/Mike Thompson, RHP; Justin Hampson, LHP
What I said: “Both Kevin Towers and Bud Black have been impressed with Rule V draftee Cameron, who draws praise for his abilities to get lefties out. Thompson, meanwhile, provided the Padres with several shots in the arm as a rookie in ’06 and gives Black a guy who has experience as a starter if something should happen, say, to Wells.”
What happened: Brown was traded for Milton Bradley, Cameron stuck with the club and pitched well in the first half (0.31 ERA) but not in the second (5.34), Germano ended up making 23 starts, Thompson was a disaster, and Hampson worked 53 1/3 mostly low-leverage innings out of the ‘pen. That’s a lot of value out of the final spot on a 12-man staff.