Third Door on the Left/Patchwork Pitching Staff Blues

You are in the wrong place. You want hope — third door on the left, just past apathy and before foolishness.

SDSU right-hander Stephen Strasburg
Take a good look at what you cannot have.

It is written that the Padres will be terrible this year, and what is written must be true. Cancel the games, record them as losses, save us the trouble of going through the motions.

Nobody gets hurt. Nobody suffers through six months of torture in the form of baseball.

I keep staring at the names on this year’s pitching staff. It’s like I’m at a crime scene: Who are these people, and what are they doing here?

You will have time to do other things in life. Take comfort in knowing that your team’s fate is assured. It has been decreed that the Padres will lose 90 games or more, and so it shall be. Predictions are prophecies. Experts speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

I look at Jake Peavy and Chris Young. No problem. Heath Bell and Cla Meredith? Not great, but not bad.

Besides, loss is cleansing. The absence of winning reminds us how magnificent its presence is. Good lesson, that.

Now we just need to work out the details (we also need a giant foam hand with 30 fingers on it, but that’s another story). Is it 88 losses? Or 94? Or maybe 102?

After those four, I’m not seeing big leaguers. How hard will this staff push the theory that Petco Park is a safe harbor for downtrodden arms?

While I’m thinking of it, a belated congrats to the USSR for winning the gold in hockey at Lake Placid in 1980. And we’re all thankful for the legacy left behind by the Dewey administration.

They come from Cleveland, Portland, San Antonio, Albuquerque, Monterrey, New York, San Francisco, and D.C. They have names like Mujica, Duaner, and Eulogio (which sounds like “eulogy” but which derives from the Greek for “reasoning well”).

Cancel the games. Calculate the amount of money you would have spent watching them and give that to the owners, who will distribute it among players.

No, they won’t actually play. Why risk unexpected outcomes, not to mention injuries? These people are paid a lot of money — best not to let them set foot on the field and hurt themselves.

They are the outcast, the unwanted, the hungry searching for a chance to prove something to someone, looking to cast doubt on the doubters, be greater than they are, leave a glowing impression, be the improbable, the unexpected, the surprise of no hope.

Still, we dream about the new ownership group. Eleven have been revealed, and of course, the twelfth is Ellen Tigh.

Jeff Moorad, who once represented Matt Bush, leads the charge. Moorad has proclaimed that his “goal is to build a consistently winning organization that has a chance to compete for a World Series year in and year out,” which sounds suspiciously like the “consistently competitive” mantra that endeared the old regime to fans.


Speaking of Bush, he was released by Toronto toward the end of spring training “for failing to comply with the guidelines the Blue Jays set out when they agreed to invite him to camp.” Quick geography quiz: Which of the following is furthest east?

  1. El Cajon
  2. Toronto
  3. Unemployment
  4. Jail
  5. Mmm, beer
  6. None of the above, you dolt; the Earth is a sphere, directionality an artificial construct

Now, back to our story…

Then again, some folks think Sandy Alderson is a Cylon. It could be an elaborate scheme, a ruse, subterfuge, bamboozlement, shiftiness, skullduggery, pettifoggery, connivery, mountebankery, thimblerigging… This is one fine thesaurus; I could go all day.

Walter Silva? Luke Gregerson? Edwin Moreno? The next inning they pitch in the big leagues will be their first. Silva is 32 years old. Gregerson is 25; Moreno, 28.

The point is, the Cylons may already have won. Someone should have advised the new guard that San Diegans don’t fall for straight talk. Don’t tell us about a “consistently winning organization.” Your hope is not our hope.

If you want to stress test the ballpark, running these guys out there is a great strategy. If you want to win games, not so much.

Spin an elaborate yarn that will capture our imagination. Distract us with shiny objects. I won’t do all the work for you, but here are some things you could promise:

  • The sun and the moon and the stars — Cliche, but classic. We could win a lot of games with celestial bodies on our side.
  • Free beer for everyone — True, it will give us less reason to complain, but think of the children.
  • A World Series winner every year — Victory is assured, just like in that Twilight Zone episode where Sebastian Cabot plays Satan (I always thought there was something fiendish about Mr. French).
  • Big name signings — “We offered Manny Ramirez $80 million, the Republic of Malta, and a recurring role on Two and a Half Men to play for us on Thursdays. He chose to sign elsewhere. Who knew he wasn’t a Charlie Sheen fan?”
  • More offense — Move the fences directly behind the infield. Save money on outfielders, expand seating, profit!

What the hell am I talking about anyway? You were looking for hope and all I’ve given you is nonsense. In my defense, hope and nonsense are not entirely incompatible. Ask any political or religious leader.

If this is a legitimate big-league staff, then Kevin Towers is better than I thought he was. He’s seeing things that aren’t visible to the unaided eye — like Neptune in the night sky.

Bottom line: The Padres will stink in 2009. So it has been decreed, and so it shall be. My completely unbiased advice, without any ulterior motives whatsoever, is to avoid attending games as much as possible.

Because, you know, I could put my stuff in your empty seat.

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33 Responses »

  1. I actually think the team will suck for the first few months, trade Giles, Kouz and Eckstein for pitching and start to turn things around by August and start to show promise by September.

  2. The Pads’ relief corps should form a Mariachi band called “Los Del Random Cinco Toros!”

  3. Thanks Geoff; a good read.

  4. If reducing your posts to one per week means that they will all be this good, then I guess I’m on board.

    One loss down, 102 to go.

  5. #3@Pat, #4@Lance Richardson: Thanks, guys. This is going to be a long season, but we’re going to have fun whether we like it or not. ;-)

    #5@LynchMob: Thanks for the heads-up!

  6. Nevermind the pitching. How is this team ever going to score enough runs? This offense is composed of two hitters with skills and a bunch of guys that can’t get on base. Opposing pitchers never have to break a sweat against these hackers.

  7. I really like this piece. Well done.

  8. It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good. We moved our season tickets from 116 to 110 this season at no additional charge. We revel in being closer to the carnage. We will complain about ball and strike calls on all Kevin Kouzmanoff at-bats.

    Yesterday, big crowd. Next week, no lines for beer–or anything else for that matter. We will have personalized baseball, including two opposing teams and 5,000 of our closest friends. There will be seats on both sides of me to put my giveaways. I will ask for two and just might get them. And premium beer is 50 cents cheaper. Awesome.

    So our puritanical forefathers taught us there is no joy without suffering. We will have our improved seats for years to come because we’re, you know, fans. This year we wear the hair shirt. Next year, polyester?

  9. #7@Trav: A mistake that’s been made by many observers before you. The hitting will be better than the pitching, just like it was last year and almost every year since Petco opened.

    #9@Josh: Penitential reference. Solid.

  10. If you are feeling the padre spirit, despite their projections, here are some freshly designed wallpapers that my buddy created.

  11. There’s two or three potential all-stars out there!

  12. I’m not too worried about the offense or the bullpen — every year relievers that no one has ever heard of have good years — but the pitching behind Peavy and Young could be horrendous. As an optimist I’m hoping that Hill can be decent and that maybe one of young pitchers can step up and have a good season.

    #1@Steve C: Don’t forget about trading Peavy. I understand why a lot of people think that the Brewers are the front-runners for Jake — it’s not good when your Opening Day starter is Jeff Suppan. They also started Bill Hall at 3B today as well. Peavy and Kouzmanoff for their top 3 prospects?

  13. One final thing about yesterday’s game. There were two articles about Peavy and his lack of run support and how he needs to be perfect every start because of this offense, blah, blah, blah:

    One by Corey Brock:
    The other by Tim Sullivan:

    I hate to point this out but Peavy was sh***y yesterday. Four runs in 7 innings in Petco simply isn’t a good start. The Padres as a team last year gave up only 4.2 runs per game and that includes everyone including some of the stiffs that they threw out there last year. Now if Peavy lost 1-0 I could understand some bitching but the fact is that if you give up 4 runs in Petco you are almost always going to get the loss.

  14. #1@Steve C: Hm, an interesting take. I can see Antonelli filling in for Eckstein and having a nice bounceback, rookie campaign; I can see Headley moving to 3B and being better than Kouz; I’m having a hard time seeing how losing 2/3 of the starting OF will be replaced well enough to allow things to be turned around though. Still, it could happen and it’s one of the reasons I love this game, because of it’s unpredictability.

  15. #7@Trav: Gerut, Giles and Gonzalez all had excellent seasons last year. It wouldn’t be surprising if the first two regressed, but it would be surprising if they weren’t still above average. Headley had a very nice year for a rookie and there’s certainly hope he’ll be as good or better this year. Eckstein may be done, but he’s always been good at getting on base (albeit somewhat BA dependent). Kouz will probably always have trouble getting on, but he’s also got some pop in his bat. That’s not a bad 1 through 6.

    As TW was alluding to, Petco does tend to mask this and make the pitching appear better than it is. If you check out the home road splits for the Padres offensively since moving into Petco, you’ll see they’re not as bad as you may think. It’s also pretty likely, imo, they’ll be an average to above average offense this season. The pitching staff, otoh, is truly scary.

  16. #9@Josh: Nice Josh! I’m not going to be able to invest in season tickets this year, but I’m counting on scoring a deal next season. It’s amazing what is available and for incredible discounts. Enjoy the extra space!

  17. OT: For those feeling a bit nostalgic, I’ve got an article up at THT about my first (AL-only) Roto team from 1984:

    Enjoy! :-)

  18. #15@Pat: Venable, Macias, Hairston, possibly Blanks.

  19. Heath Bell’s entry music choice of song was “Blow Me Away” by Breaking Benjamin …

  20. #20@Steve C: Hm, could be. I was sort of surprised to see Floyd signed and Venable sent back to the minors. I guess he needs playing time more than he needs to be the 5th OF.

  21. #16@Pat & #10@Tom Waits: Yes, I’m aware of the statistics that indicate the offense is underrated, but let’s for a minute consider the Padres’ offense from the perspective of an opposing team’s scout. Or let’s pretend you are the starting catcher for the Dodgers. Wouldn’t you call a game that exploits the well known holes in the Padres’ hitters individually and lineup generally. Why would you ever call for an inner-half breaking ball when Gonzalez is at bat? Why would you ever call for a four seam fastball when Kouzmanoff is up? So, in yesterday’s game when Randy Wolf did throw those pitches they were able to string together enough singles to have someone on base when an extra base hit happened. Is that likely to happen regularly enough to win a lot of games?

    The point I’m trying to make is that the anemic offense creates a razor thin margin of error for the pitching staff and defense. I don’t think I could put together the best hypothetical rotation and bullpen that could win 80 games with this offense.

    (No more rhetorical questions. I promise.)

  22. #23@Trav: If the 2009 offense is anemic, the 2009 pitching staff suffers from exsanguination.

    The 2007 offense compiled an OPS+ of 96, a tick below average. Last year it was at 94, and this year we’re likely to see something in the mid-90s again.

    The 2007 pitching staff had an ERA+ of 108, well above average. That team won 89 games, and the pitching staff would not have been that hard to duplicate if we’d had any money to spend this winter or a stronger farm system.

    By contrast, the 2008 pitching staff had an ERA+ of 88. Hence the 99 losses.

  23. #24@Tom Waits: Speaking of a stronger farm system, Rick Porcello is making his major league debut today against the Blue Jays. Meanwhile, Nick Schmidt is on the Padres LowA roster and has pitched a grand total of 7 professional innings since the 2007 Draft. But hey, John Moores saved $2.32m and we got to see a Mexican League pitcher start the 3rd game of the season.

    Seriously, I’m surprised that Fuson is still employed by the team. I’m assuming he’s going to get replaced (new management plus crappy track record) but I haven’t really heard anything about it.

  24. #23@Trav: “let’s for a minute consider the Padres’ offense from the perspective of an opposing team’s scout. Or let’s pretend you are the starting catcher for the Dodgers. Wouldn’t you call a game that exploits the well known holes in the Padres’ hitters individually and lineup generally.”

    OK, let’s consider it. Do you think in the previous seasons we’ve been discussing scouts and opposing players have not tried to do this? What is different about the 2009 season and the seasons from 2004 through 2008?

    Offensively it’s likely we will have above average OF at all 3 positions, above average corner IF (or Kouz will be average with plus power); Eckstein has a chance to be above average in terms of OBP although his utter lack of power will keep him below average overall. There will be two black holes at SS and C, but rare is the team who is average or better at every position in the batting order. Taken altogether this should be an above average to average offensive team, once park factors are taken into account.

    Rather than pointing to abstract ideas of scouts or catchers exploiting “well known holes” in the offense, how about pointing to something concrete which would indicate it will not be at least average? As TW has pointed out, it’s very obvious once you move past the first two spots in the starting rotation and in the bullpen that the pitching staff is going to be well below average. Ergo, it is not the pitching which will suffer from lack of run support, but the offense which will not be able to overcome the runs given up by the pitching staff.

  25. #25@Schlom: Yep, a lot of teams will regret passing on Porcello.

  26. The Farm Boyz are up and running … a good first day …

    A good place to get a summary of all Padre farm system’s games yesterday is …

    Joshua Geer only allowed one run in 6.0 innings pitched
    Stephen Faris only allowed one run in 6.0 innings pitched
    Anthony Bass pitched 6.0 scoreless innings

    Wins by Ft Wayne, San Antonio and Portland!

  27. WC at BP says …

    Kevin Kouzmanoff is dealing with a sore hamstring that might cost him a couple of games over the next week as the Pads’ staff tries to get ahead of it.

  28. Kinda bummed out by all negativity out there. I know this post comes after a great opening week, but I, like many PADS fans, had a a self examination with my approach to this team. Sd fans, like our old team, need to drop old attitudes infulenced by crappy seasons passed. Frankly, before opening day, I made a decision to support this team. At very least, we can do better than last year and we have a young team with something to prove.

    With that said, this team has exceeded my expectations thus far. I hope this will be the team that will project SD in a new direction. So far, they are busting their butts every game, and not evey moment of these games are pretty. Nonetheless, a hard, consistent effort by these players is the bast we can ask of them, and that would satisfy me…win or lose.

    I look forward to watching this team develop and grow. I know we’re only one week in, but boy, it sure feels better now than the long drag of 2008.

    GO PADS…’s to new beginnings!

  29. #32@Dan W.: There you go; that’s the spirit! 8)