Unraveling

That sucked.

In case you’d forgotten how 2007 ended, the Padres gave a nice little encore Sunday afternoon in San Francisco. They battled back from a deficit, took the lead in extra innings on a two-run homer, then watched Trevor Hoffman give it back, with the game ending on a bizarre defensive play.

As was the case with Scott Hairston last October, Adrian Gonzalez‘ dramatic home run is now just a footnote, not the story. Nobody cares that he pounded the first pitch he saw from rookie left-hander Alex Hinshaw over the center field fence at PhoneCo Park. Nobody cares that he sat on and crushed a breaking ball after watching Hinshaw throw a steady diet of them to Brian Giles, who was caught looking at a particularly nasty one on 3-2 that kissed the inside corner.

No, the story is that Hoffman blew the save and the Padres lost the game. Some people have dubbed me a Hoffman apologist, but the truth is, I’m an evidence apologist. I look at things and try to figure out what’s happening. In this case, Hoffman is struggling. His command isn’t as precise as it has been in the past and he’s paying for it in a big way.

Hoffman has had successful stretches this season — he dominated between April 13 and May 30 (14 IP, 1.93 ERA, 11.57 K/9), but that’s cherry picking. The trouble is, he keeps getting nicked up here and there, and every once in a while he implodes. it’s happening now more often than in the past few years:

Trevor Hoffman: Runs Allowed by Game, 2006-2008
  Runs (%)
Year G 0 1 2+
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are through games of June 1, 2008.
2006 65 84.6 7.7 7.7
2007 61 78.7 13.1 8.2
2008 20 65.0 25.0 10.0

This table is a little weird, but basically, Hoffman is coughing up at least one run in a game roughly 2 1/2 times as often now as he was in 2006. It would be nice if that were an illusion, but it’s not. Neither is this:

Trevor Hoffman: Lefty/Righty Splits, 2006-2008
  vs RHB vs LHB
Year PA BA OBP SLG PA BA OBP SLG
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference and are through games of June 1, 2008.
2006 134 .214 .231 .328 114 .194 .272 .301
2007 124 .169 .187 .305 111 .299 .376 .423
2008 43 .190 .209 .262 40 .382 .462 .647

I haven’t looked at a breakdown of his pitches, but my suspicion is that either Hoffman isn’t throwing as many change-ups as in the past or nobody’s biting on the pitch. Heck, maybe both. Regardless, this is a disturbing trend.

The weird part is that Hoffman is striking out more batters than he has at any point since returning from surgery in 2003. That and the fact that we’ve never before seen him struggle like this.

I still don’t know what you do with Hoffman if he’s not closing games. Modern setup guys typically work 70+ innings a year, which he hasn’t done since 2000. I suppose if the ‘pen were deeper, you could let him split seventh-inning duties with someone (presumably Heath Bell would work the ninth and Cla Meredith the eighth — yes I know, but this is how teams use their relievers nowadays).

The other thing that’s worth noting about Sunday’s game is the way it ended. Edgar Gonzalez got the start at shortstop, spelling Khalil Greene. It’s a nice idea, because you don’t want to wear down your regulars over the long haul, but coming into the contest, Gonzalez had played just 22 of 895 professional games at short, none since 2006.

We saw this with Callix Crabbe earlier in the year, and the theory is that with a 12-man pitching staff, you want extra bats on the bench, not defensive specialists. That said, this is the second time I’ve found myself lamenting the loss of Geoff Blum (or at least Oscar Robles). Why a big-league team refuses to carry a backup shortstop is quite beyond my comprehension.

Anyway, after Fred Lewis slammed a badly misplaced pitch off the top of the wall in right-center, the Padres had a chance to escape the 10th without further damage when Hoffman induced light-hitting Jose Castillo to roll to shortstop for a possible inning-ending double play. Randy Winn was running on the pitch, and it would have been close at second, but E-Gon never looked in that direction, deciding instead to focus on Lewis coming home. Except that E-Gon never threw the ball, so the game ended with him holding the baseball in his hand.

Again, I can’t really fault Gonzalez for not making the play. He was put in a position to fail, and that’s exactly what he did.

I dunno. Losing stinks. We need to blame people. Today I’ll go with Hoffman, Bud Black, and E-Gon.

Tagged as: , , , , , , ,

32 Responses »

  1. I’ve been a “Hoffman is done” griper, but run of solid performances, after a string of bad outings starting at the end of last year, showed he still had stuff in the tank.

    It just looks like he has less in the tank. His K/BB ratio is dead-on, but his HR/9 and H/9 are both up. Along with the ERA. The HR/9 may be fluky (only 3 HR) and H/9 fluctuate with BABIP, so that can be unreliable as well. So one could argue is just getting a bit unlucky.

    But when I watch him, he seems somewhat binary: when he has his old stuff (well placed fastballs, control of the change), he is very effective. However, there seems to be more times where he is off: walking guys, missing on location with the FB, and the change not helping to counter that.

    That loss sucked, but playing bad teams (Nats, Giants) has helped, but am nervous about the next stretch. That said, the team has me hoping the floor has not completely collapsed.

  2. It was a tough loss, but it was inspiring to see us play as well as we did this weekend. It’s undeniable that the team is playing better baseball right now, and hopefully we’ve found a couple gems in the new pitchers we’ve brought in. I think if we can pull within 5 GB as of the ASB, then the season is still not a bust.

  3. I honestly don’t think E-Gon had a play either way. Iguchi didn’t exactly get to second quickly. If people want to point to the fact that Khalil not being in hurt us that is fine but outside of a phenomenal play (which he is very capable of) I see almost the exact same result from Greene.

    Griping and nitpicking the loss yesterday aside I agree with you Geoff… That SUCKED!

  4. Yes, we are frustrated and seem to have a need to blame people. I start with the guy who tackled Milton Bradley, which lead to the horrible ending of the 2007 season, Harry Black. Bud may be an example of why few former pitchers become big-league managers. The cheapo Padres were looking for a low-profile guy to replace Bruce Bochy. Low profile equals low salary, certainly not Dusty Baker money.

    The UT story this morning had quotes for Rich Aurilia who second guessed the positioning of Edgar Gonzalez. I DO NOT place on blame on EGON, who as Geoff explained is not really a shortstop. Why didn’t a coach move him into a position where he had a chance to throw out the winning run at the plate?

    It is hard to believe that the Padres do not have a real shortstop to fill in. Too cheap to keep Blum but tossed away a million on a damaged pitcher, Mark Prior, who never tossed an inning for the team. And don’t get me started about Oscar Robles, and leave EGON alone on yesterday’s fiasco.

    Who would you guys like to see as the next Padres skipper? Does Tim Flannery come to mind? Black will not be gone until at least very late in the season, because the cheapo Padres would not want to pay someone not to manage, although Harry is not doing much managing, in my mind.

    How about Alan Trammell? I do not know if Tony Gwynn wants the job or is even ready, but his name drifts across my mind. Yesterday sucked. Thanks for reading my venting rant.

    ballparkfrank in vegas

  5. It’s just a bit frustrating to see quality start after quality start and yet the Pads are still on pace to lose 98 games. The starting pitching has been good and I feel that the bullpen will improve as the year goes on. Will the hitting improve ?

  6. #4@Frank Barning: The Padres exercised Buddies 09 option in march so I don’t see them letting him go until at least the end of next season. Also its hard to blame buddy for the mess that is the 08 season. What is he suppose to do play Greene for 162 games? Not pitch Trevor in the 9th? force Greenie to recognize an outside slider? Magically heal CY’s face, Priors arm, Peavy’s elbow, Estes thumb, and Hensley’s shoulder?

    This season is the result of poor FO management from the pre-Alderson group and poor planning from the Alderson group. Does Buddy make mistakes yes but so does Baker, Pinella, larussa and Torrie…

  7. #4@Frank Barning:

    Does questionable positioning in a game beg the question of “pitching coaches don’t make good managers”?

    What makes you think those other guys would make better skippers?

  8. #4@Frank Barning

    The infield was playing at double play depth. Winn running on the pitch is probably why E-Gon even looked home at all. Iguchi was going to have a really questionable chance beating Winn to second.

    I like Bud Black just fine. He makes mistakes from time to time but keep in mind he is in his second year as a manager. He’s still learning on the job and I question the level of talent he has been given to work with.

  9. Well, pathetic as it was, Egon should have at least thrown the ball somewhere, second or home. Hesitating cost any chance at all.

    Thought position guys rehearsed where they go if the ball comes their way before a play. But he is not a SS, so whatever.

    As for Trevor, it is what it is. We are stuck with the guy so what can you do.

    Harry will earn his stripes by keeping this team together through July/Aug if it continues to suck.

    Ok, we have played 500 or ro against the low teams of the NL, lets see how it goes with the NLs best. Probably not all that great I’m bettin, but you never know.

  10. I found the Hoffman situation to be the first two batters jumping on a new hoffman tendency (which is something Hoffy has to correct), and him leaving a pitch way up for Lewis to clank off the wall. The game ending pitch where EGon froze was not his fault, Hoffy put the ball where it should’ve been to produce a double play.

    EGon, you just froze, and you need to take your damn lumps. Having said that, benching Khalil whose been struggling was a good idea, it just appears EGon can only spell 2B and 3B.

    I’m not as upset about this loss as I would be had this happened a few weeks ago – we still have won two series in a row, we’ve been playing better baseball. We got a bunch of good knocks on Lincecum (which has been hard to do even if they ddin’t go anywhere), we’ve won two extra innings affairs when we had not been able to win any in a while, and AGon is red hot.

    Bad game but still there’s quite a few positives

  11. Hoffman is not done, but putting him out in save/high-leverage situations is killing the team and killing me. In the 18 inning game last Sunday, he gave up 2 runs and would have gotten the loss if the offense did not pick him up in the bottom of the inning to prolong the game. Talk about a momentum killer! After scraping out that 18-inning win and then series wins against Washington and San Fran, things were going so well. A 5.68 ERA does not inspire confidence 1/3 of the way through the season.

  12. Barrett needs a share of the blame here folks. Hoffy never shook him off, so it’s not all Barrett.

    But a change up to start the at bat to a PH is smart. Four straight fastballs following the change with a guy who throws a very hittable fastball is not. Hoffy never overpowered guys; he plays on anticpation. A guy who has only faced him once before, who is coming off the bench in the tenth?

    If Trevor threw an overpowering heater, maybe. But you never give a PH four straight fastballs unless your pitcher is that “here it is, hit it!” type.

  13. BTW, because I know some people are gonna go look: ignore Gameday. 1) If he threw a slider, it didn’t slide. 2) Hoffy changeups don’t go 84 mph. 3) Hoffy doesn’t have a cutter by most definitions of the pitch.

  14. One-half of an inning of defense for Khalil shouldn’t have affected his day off. I hate hearing that excuse from the manager, “We wanted to give him a full day’s rest”. Now that I’ve had more time to think about it, it was also poor strategy to have the infield in double-play depth with a 3-2 count. There was about a 99.9 % chance that Winn was running, which makes it nearly impossible to turn the DP. A quick, experienced SS like Greene probably turns two there but it’s still a tough play. Black didn’t throw the fat 85 mph fastball right over the middle of the plate to Lewis but he should get some blame for the poor strategy.

    As for Hoffman, someone mentioned on the IGD yesterday that Black should recognize when he doesn’t have it and get him out of the game. It’s probably harder to do from the bench in the heat of the battle than it is when you’re watching on TV but I don’t disagree. If a pitcher throws 93 mph, he can miss with location once in awhile. If Hoffman is missing with location, he’s going to get ripped. I know Black doesn’t want to pull his Hall-of-Fame closer in the middle of the inning but if he’s not getting his change-up over and not accurate with his fastball, he’s just throwing batting practice at that point.

    With all that said, things are looking a lot brighter than they did a few weeks ago when we were talking about a fire sale, right?

  15. #15@JMAR: Things unraveled so quickly, that you couldn’t of got someone warmed up in time, unless you had an extra pitcher hot to begin with.

    I still believe you have to attempt a play in that situation, the same way that you run out ground balls. You have to give the other guy a chance to make a mistake.

  16. #16@Field39: Good point. Hoffy had blown the save in less time than it would have taken to get another reliever ready to come in.

  17. Egon had no play after he looked home. Sure, he should have thrown the ball to make it look like he cared, but the game was over. I’d rather have his bat in the line-up, while KG cools his heels and ponders on proper batting technique. As for Trevor – nothing. Nothing is going to happen to him this season. Who is going to sh*t-can Trevor time? Nobody, not Bud, KT, Sandy wants to face the sh*t-storm that will follow. We knew he was done at the end of last year, which was the opportunity to make the change. Trev will retire within his own time-frame…which should be now. Get used to watching batters tee up on his change-up, which is the same as his fastball, which is the same as his….

  18. #9@KRS1: “The infield was playing at double play depth. Winn running on the pitch is probably why E-Gon even looked home at all. Iguchi was going to have a really questionable chance beating Winn to second. ”

    But the point Aurilia made was that 3-2 Winn was going to be running so SS should have been moved in to cut the run at the plate. The IF should not have been at double play depth, according to Aurilia, and this makes sense to me. Someone, if not Black, then a bench coach or infield coach, should have brought them in. ymmv and I guess it’s all still second guessing.

  19. Anyone else excited about Baek starting tonite? He looked pretty sharp on Friday night and I’m curious to see if he uses his breaking pitches as effectively in a full start as he did in a relief appearance.

  20. If you’re a “Trevor is DONE” guy, which I am, then what I think helps is if/when you clarify what that means … for me, it means I don’t expect him to be successful >80% of the time any more … ie. he’s “done” being a 90% success-rate closer … but it also means that since the Padres don’t have anyone on their current staff that I can can be a 90% success-rate closer, then Trevor is our guy and it’s up to Bud to pick and choose his spots for Trevor. And it’s not that Bud picked bad/wrong yesterday, it’s just that yesterday was one of Trevor’s 20%+ times he wasn’t going to be successful.

    Trevor still is not on this list … BP’s STAT OF THE DAY

    Bottom 5 2008 NL Relievers, by WXRL

    Player, Team, WXRL

    Jason Isringhausen, SLN, -2.5
    Manuel Corpas, COL, -1.8
    Aaron Heilman, NYN, -1.1
    David Weathers, CIN, -0.9
    Dave Borkowski, HOU, -0.7

  21. #20@Phantom: Baek throws a bunch of different pitches, just like Josh Banks. It looked like he had pretty good command of everything in his relief outing the other night. That would be amazing if he can beat Zambrano and the Cubs.

  22. #20@Phantom: I’m already more excited about Baek and Banks than I was about Germano when he was on his run last year. Unlike Germano, these guys can strike people out at a decent rate and Banks has always had great K:BB ratios.

  23. #23@Anthony: When you hear about guys that were acquired after being DFA’d, you figure they either throw really hard with little command (Sean Henn) or throw 86-88 mph with good control (Germano). I figured that was the case with Banks, Baek, and even in the case of Bryan Corey, but each throw in the low 90′s with excellent command of the strike zone. I guess we’ll know a little more about Baek after tonight.

  24. #24@JMAR: Agreed. I was a little gun-shy on Baek when we got him because everyone kept saying that the numbers weren’t indicative of his true talent (an argument that always scares me). In Baek’s case, though, he seemed to completely out-maneuver the batters he faced on Friday night. How much of that is the Giants line-up and the fact that it was just a brief relief outing remains to be seen. Regardless, he seemed to have hitters completely off-balance and is a guy that would probably get a lot of balls in play on half-swings.

  25. It’s safe to say that so far Randy Wolf has been an asset. Doesn’t mean the pop gun Padres win when he goes out and pitches well.

    http://www3.signonsandiego.com/weblogs/padres/2008/jun/02/wolf-maddux-victim/

    Sunday marked the seventh time this season Wolf has taken the loss or received no-decision in a game in which he allowed two or fewer runs over six innings.

    Wolf has allowed two or fewer runs over at least six innings in seven of his 12 starts.

  26. #26@JP: Without a doubt, Wolf has been one of the best pickups of the off-season (in all of baseball). A smart, low-priced acquisition who has pitched pretty damn well for us.

    I’m amazed at how good our starting pitching has been and yet our record is still where it is. The bullpen implosion that occurred in April really stunned the team, I think.

  27. Great analysis Geoff. Exact reality.

  28. #27@Phantom: Bullpen has been subpar yes but to this point, but I expect it to improve and it actually already has. The Padres offense has been as been the true disappointment.

  29. #30@LynchMob: Yes ! Another move on the road to recovery.

  30. For the Padres outfield to have 4 guys with OPS % less than .750 is inexcusable.

    We are giving away games that are winnable in a division were the 1st place team may only win 85 games. It’s frustrating.