Frame by Frame

One aspect of the Padres we examined in the Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual was their run differential by inning in 2007. Among other things, we learned that the Padres completely dominated the ninth inning of games last year, outscoring their opponents, 81-44. Not including extra frames, the Pads had negative run differentials in just two innings (sixth, -2; seventh, -4) in ’07.

With about 20% of the 2008 schedule in the books, I thought it might be instructive to see how the this year’s Padres are doing. I also thought it might be fun to try a different approach in looking at this question. Instead of using straight runs scored minus runs allowed, what if we use the Pythagorean theorem to determine the expected number of wins at various points during a game? For example, how would the Pads’ expected win total after three innings compare with that after six?

I used the 1.83 exponent version of the Pythagorean theorem (yeah, PythagenPat and Pythagenport are slightly more accurate, but they’re a pain to calculate and the extra precision isn’t worth the extra effort in our case — we’re checking email, not overclocking the processor) and found the following:

Expected Wins through End of Inning
Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 End
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference and are through games of May 4, 2008. “End” includes extra-inning games. For 2008, totals are expressed in seasonal notation (i.e., expected wins per 162 games).
2006 111 91 88 88 86 86 87 86 87 86
2007 84 89 87 88 88 87 86 85 89 89
2008 44 51 52 59 77 76 63 60 57 57

The first thing that jumps out is how awful the Padres have been in the first inning of games. They’ve been outscored, 24-14, in that inning, which translates to an expected record of 44-118. (Don’t get too hung up on the exact numbers here, we’re just trying to get a feel for how good or bad the team performs at point A relative to point B.)

You’ll also see how well the Padres are doing in the middle innings. We’ll look at this more in a moment, but for now it’s enough to know that the the Pads have outscored their opponents, 15-2, in the fifth so far this year (holding guys to a line of .099/.188/.119 always helps). That’s remarkable for a team with an overall run differential of -43.

Now for the really depressing news. The Padres are getting hammered in the late innings. The seventh has been their worst so far (outscored, 24-6), but really, it doesn’t get much better after that. From the seventh inning on, the Padres have been outscored, 65-28. How bad is that? Keep reading…

Another way to look at this is to break games into three segments: first three innings, second three innings, and everything else. Here are the Pythagorean records for the same three seasons using only runs tallied in the designated innings:

Expected Wins for Innings
Year 1-3 4-6 7+
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference and are through games of May 4, 2008. “End” includes extra-inning games. For 2008, totals are expressed in seasonal notation (i.e., expected wins per 162 games).
2006 88 85 87
2007 87 87 93
2008 52 104 29

Again, for this table, we’re using only runs scored in the particular innings noted. You’ll see that the Padres were very consistent in ’06 and got stronger toward the end of games in ’07. This year, in an admittedly small sample, the story has been quite different. The team stumbles out of the gate, scrambles to make up ground in the middle innings, and then gives it all back (and then some) at the end.

How much of the poor end game falls on the hitters, and how much on the pitchers? Good question:

From Seventh Inning to End
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball Reference and are through games of May 4, 2008.
7th inning
Padres .196 .272 .277 50
Opponents .276 .361 .415 110
National League .254 .332 .394
8th inning
Padres .209 .282 .296 63
Opponents .252 .314 .358 89
National League .250 .336 .389
9th inning
Padres .198 .255 .323 76
Opponents .300 .376 .456 154
National League .230 .311 .371
Extra innings
Padres .192 .281 .244 34
Opponents .238 .315 .313 60
National League .250 .367 .376

The rightmost column (sOPS+) denotes how well the Padres are performing relative to MLB. As with OPS+, 100 is average, so for rows marked “Padres,” higher is better, while for rows marked “Opponents,” lower is better.

I was hoping we might identify the specific root of our problems in late innings, but it’s pretty much a systemwide failure. The eighth inning is almost tolerable, while everything else is a complete mess.

We’re dealing with extremely small samples, but I can tell you that Cla Meredith has been brilliant (.176/.211/.235) in the seventh inning, while Joe Thatcher (.379/.441/.552) has been brutal. Thatcher has faced more batters in that inning than anyone else on the Padres staff this year; I don’t know how those appearances break down in terms of leverage, but I’d be strongly inclined to move Thatcher into a less meaningful role until he and Darren Balsley can figure out what he’s doing on the mound.

As noted earlier, the eighth has been okay. Kevin Cameron, Wil Ledezma, and Glendon Rusch all get smacked around, but those guys generally come into games that are already out of hand. His early shakiness notwithstanding, Heath Bell (.208/.276/.264) has been just fine in the eighth.

In the ninth, obviously Trevor Hoffman has struggled early and he’s working the highest-leverage situations. Meredith, Bell, and Enrique Gonzalez have been terrible, while Rusch has merely been bad — all in tiny samples (only Hoffman has faced more than 10 batters in the ninth this season).

On the hitting side, I won’t break it out by each inning, but the top performers for innings 7-9 by OPS are Paul McAnulty (22 PA, .200/.273/.400), Khalil Greene (40 PA, .206/.250/.412), and Tony Clark (20 PA, .250/.400/.250). So yeah, the Padres simply stop hitting after the sixth inning, which puts extreme pressure on a bullpen that hasn’t been as sharp as it was last year.

Who is to blame for the Padres’ late-inning woes? Most everyone wearing a uniform, really.

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69 Responses »

  1. So Mr, Young, I hear you saying that your frustrated with how the Padres are playing. Have I got that right? Reading between the lines, I’d your damned pissed off.

  2. OT … Yo … LynchMob the PimpMob here! First and foremost, let me assure you that I’ve put my money where my mouth is …

    *TODAY* would be a *GREAT* day to donate $39 to Ducksnorts. If you want to trust me on that, then *just do it* and I’m sure GY will explain to you in a thank-you email :-)

    If trust is an issue for you, drop me an email at imhl58 at hotmail dot com and I will explain it to you 1-on-1.

    (Note: if you just want in for a 1/10th share, then plunk down $3.90 and see what happens :-) )

  3. More talk (sort of) of a Greene/Pie trade in the works, I wonder is we will start hearing rumors about a deal for wilson soon as well…

  4. #3@Steve C: Wilson?

  5. Very interesting, GY. But systemwide failure? Come on! Anyone with eyes knows it’s all Trever Hoffman’s fault!! ;-)

    It would be nice to say there’s nowhere else to go but up from here, but unfortunately for baseball fans who have been here before, we know that is not necessarily true becasue we could just end up staying this bad all season long. Twould be unfortunate and not much fun at all, but it does happen. I’ll keep hoping for regression to the mean, or maybe that someone steps up into a leadership role, gives a rousing clubhouse speech and the team chemistry builds this club into a team that just knows how to gut it out and win the tough ones. :-)

    In the meantime, hey, at least it’s baseball season, we live in a great city and we still have a major league club in town. So take heart!

  6. #4@Tom Waits: Yeah; you remember Castaway, right? That volleyball is playing for the Marlins AA club.

  7. #4@Tom Waits:

    wasn’t there a ton of rumors alst year about the Pads being interested in jack wilson if greenie was traded?

  8. #6@Pat: Can he recognize a slider?

    #7@Steve C: I don’t remember those rumors, but I’d be surprised if they went that route. If Greene is traded to the Cubs, they’ll have 5 middle infielders (Greene, Theriot, Fontenot, Cedeno, DeRossa). Not hard to see Cedeno coming back in a slightly larger trade.

  9. #2@LynchMob: I sent you an email, but then my brain engaged and I’m pretty sure I understand why THAT number and why TODAY.

  10. #1@PM: Well, yeah, of course. I hate losing and I hate crap baseball. Right now I’m seeing way too much of both. The Padres have built a (minor) tradition of winning since moving downtown, and they’re not even close to living up to my expectations of them. This isn’t a crap franchise with crap players, this is a good team playing terrible baseball. Hopefully these guys can right the ship soon, preferably while it still matters.

    #9@Tom Waits: Heh, okay, I’ll come clean. So it’s my 39th birthday. Decent of the Padres not to lose on it. ;-)

  11. Happy Birthday, Geoff.
    Everybody is drinking to you today in San Diego. Hooray!

  12. #8@Tom Waits: I agree that the move does not maks sence from the cubs stand point but we have heard alot of talk about the cubs being interested in greenie.

    I could see this deal possibly working OG/Greenie/Inman/Cash to the cubs from Cedeno/Pie

  13. Happy Birthday GY!

  14. This team reminds me of the 97 squad in some ways. That year’s team had a great offense but holes in the pitching, and it was like watching a lawnmower engine tearing itself apart. You could tell that there were only a couple of parts missing, but they weren’t minor parts and their absence prevented the entire team from functioning well.

    It hasn’t helped that so many prospects in the high minors have struggled. Harder to get excited when players the front office deemed untouchable (with reason) are playing just as poorly as the major leaguers.