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. #48@LynchMob: As uninspiring as it would be to call up a catcher hitting two-twenty something, I think their focus is on defense and calling a good game from the catcher spot. Why else would they keep throwing Josh Bard and his .220 average out there everyday while Colt Morton, a potential 25-homer guy, rides the pine? KT mentioned in the NC Times article that “Hundley is doing very well behind the plate blocking the ball”, so I just think they’re more comfortable with Hundley defensively than they are with Morton. At this point, I just want a backup that Bud Black is comfortable putting in the lineup. It’s obvious that isn’t currently the case.

    #49@parlo: If they think Gerut is capable of taking his place, he could be gone. I’m not sure they feel that way though.

  2. #50@SDSUBaseball: I thought it was a mistake to have Headley playing LF in Portland, and would have much rather they kept him at third and figured out what to do with Kouzmanoff after Headley was called up. Kouz didn’t have a lot of trade value but he could have been valuable for us in a Casey Blake way – adequate 3b, backup 1b, can play in the corner OF spots in an emergency. But right now Kouz’s value is pretty low, no reason to trade him if he’s not bringing anything back.

    #51@JMAR: It does seem like Black doesn’t like something about Morton. Or he doesn’t like something about Bard and is punishing him. Severely.

  3. #52 TomWaits: Maybe the pitchers are uncomfortable with Morton. It wouldnt be the first time a pitching staff was finicky about a particular catcher.

  4. #53@parlo: That’s possible, but it’s Black’s job not to let that unduly affect him or the team. If the pitchers like Bard so much, they shouldn’t want him to be treated like a rented mule. He’s not doing much to help the team when he can hardly get the bat off his shoulders. Let’s hope today’s off-day freshens him up.

  5. OT … second-basemen continue to be “easy to find” … it’s the one organizational strength … we all know about Antonelli … and we’re getting to know Sogard via the Farm Reports … but did you know that the AA 2B-man, Brett Dowdy, recently had a 22-game hitting streak (which started last season)?

    He hasn’t shown up on prospect lists … but his performance speaks for itself …

    … 1.038 OPS in 70+ PAs … just fyi.

  6. #55@LynchMob: Yeah, I’ve been noticing that Dowdy has been on fire this season. He’s definitely not a prospect because he’s already 26 years old. The guys at Mad Friars say he is one of the fastest players in the system, although his stolen base total does not reflect that (38 in 401 career games). I believe he’ll be a free agent after the season if he’s not on the 40-man roster. My guess is that he’s a future utility guy.

  7. The Blue Jays won. Now the Padres and Reds are tied for the worst record in the majors.

  8. Farm Report Preview … Ft Wayne with a solid team effort …

    The MadFriar guys say good things about Wynn Pelzer … and every once in while he flashes some lights-out numbers … I think he’s recovering from an injury.

  9. Inman pitching well thru 6 tonight …

  10. update: The Reds just won, so the Padres have the worst record in the majors.

  11. #50@SDSUBaseball: #52@Tom Waits:

    I agree that sending Headley down to play LF almost exclusively was also shortsighted. Chase’s slow start while playing a new position begs the question in hindsight: is there a faster way to destroy his value? Calling him up to play LF in Petco on this team might do it.

    Still I don’t think Kouz’s defense has improved all that much this year, so you are right in that he is not going to fetch anything of great value unless he starts hitting 300/350/500 again.

    I am really beginning to wonder why such a statistically minded organization with some great brains in its front office has consistently failed over the years in evaluating its own talent or failed to leverage talent that looks good on paper (Geer, McAnulty, Knott) for value before it’s exposed to the Majors.

    This team needs a shakeup, but calling up Headley, Hundley, Estes, and/or Hensley won’t do it. Trading Greene and another for Felix Pie and Cedeno would be a good start, but I think the organization is too risk adverse to do it fearing the inevitable fan backlash.

    I am frustrated as the rest of you, so maybe trading one of the team’s lone marketable players is not a good idea, but something has to give.

  12. #61@Bruce: The funny thing is… I dont understand how Greene is marketable.

    I really see no reason to call up Headley. He hasnt been good this year and I dont think he should be playing in the OF. I hate to say it, but is there a chance his one good year in AA wasnt enough or maybe even a fluke?

  13. #62@SDSUBaseball:

    Boy, that’s a bit rash, don’t you think?

    Here’s something else that’s a bit rash: Colt Morton has not impressed me at all at the plate.

  14. Im ok with holding off on calling up Headly for a while to see if Kouz starts swinging the bat better and then try to move him and put Headley at 3B.

    I’m not really sure what the plan is at this point I dont think the Pads have the players in their system to compete with the Dodgers and DBacks for the next 5 years and We know that they will not spend the money to bring in any veteran talent. Maybe this is why the continuously drafted polished college players because they new they could not sit and wait for a bunch of 18 year old kids to develop and mature…

  15. #62@SDSUBaseball: Headley has looked alot better as of late he has gotten his numbers up to .264/.350/.406 which is pretty good after his abysmal start.

  16. #63@Stephen: Rash? No. I just know everyone (including myself) got excited about him after last year. Now seeing how he is playing in Portland, I dont know if he is ready. It might be good from him to spend a year in AAA. Everyone is always talking about sample size and it looks like one year in AA wasnt a big enough sample. I am not throwing the kid out, I am just saying let him play out a season in AAA. I dont think that would hinder his development.

    #65@Steve C: I agree. He has started to turn it around. I just wish they would play him at 3B here and there aswell.

  17. #51@JMAR: Morton will never hit 25 bombs in SD…heck, he never hit 25 bombs in the minors…

    He is not that good…he is big (big catchers don’t seem to age well) and presents a good target, but that is about it.

  18. #67@Coronado Mike: I know he’ll never hit 25 homers because he’ll never be a starting catcher, mainly because he’d probably strike out way too much and isn’t good enough defensively. If he was ever given a full-time catching job, though, I think he’d hit around .215 with 25 HR’s. It doesn’t mean he’s ever going to catch full-time. The comparison was to Bard, who’s hitting around .220 with no power, and Hundley, who is hitting .220 in AAA with some power, and why the Padres would prefer those two over Morton.

  19. #68@JMAR: Your assessment of Morton sounds about right to me. He basically has Russell Branyan’s skill set on offense. I really hope Morton connects with one before he returns to the minors because his homers are fun to watch.