Lousy, Yet Affordable

Another day, another loss. We had tickets for Monday night, but I didn’t get off work until 7 p.m. and the knee was killing me, so instead we watched on TV over Greek salad and Sam’s spaghetti with spinach and blue cheese.

Why does Kevin Correia’s windup put him in such horrible fielding position? He lands on the first base side of the mound, with the front of his body perpendicular to home plate. I thought only guys who throw hard did that.

Scott Hairston gives the Padres a short-lived lead in the fifth with a line-drive three-run homer to left. Why does he ever see a fastball for a strike?

In the sixth, Henry Blanco nails Dexter Fowler trying to swipe second. It’s a strong, low throw, although I’m not sure Fowler was out.

Bullpen torches the place in the seventh. Edwin Moreno preps everything and Cla Meredith lights the fuse. Serves up a grand slam to Chris Iannetta.

Meredith entered the game with one out and the bases loaded, which as I noted in the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual is not when you want to use him. Here’s an updated look at his numbers in those situations through May 10, 2009:

When Not to Use Cla Meredith, 2007-2009
*Includes third base only, first and third, second and third, and bases loaded.
Runner at third* 111 .446 .477 .565
High-leverage 203 .354 .399 .519
Overall 693 .297 .345 .391

As you can see, Meredith becomes a very different pitcher in pressure situations.

Here is the sequence to Iannetta, who stepped to the plate with a .182 batting average:

  1. Fastball, 86 mph; inside, 1-0
  2. Fastball, 85 mph; inner half, grounded foul third base side, 1-1
  3. Fastball, 86 mph; outside, 2-1
  4. Fastball, 86 mph; outer half, thigh high, grounded foul third base side, 2-2
  5. Fastball, 86 mph; down the middle, thigh high, grand slam to left

The fifth pitch is similar to the second and the fourth pitches except that instead of running back in on Iannetta’s hands, it hangs out over the plate, where he can make solid contact.

* * *

Why do the worst drivers have the nicest cars?

* * *

Meredith’s meltdown was predictable. Manager Bud Black deployed him in a manner that minimized his chances for success.

Is this Black’s fault? Well, his starter, Correia, failed to survive the fourth inning, so Black had to run through a string of relievers before the game even reached the seventh. He couldn’t bring Heath Bell into the game that early. He could, but closers haven’t been used that way since the days of Goose Gossage and Bruce Sutter.

What other options did Black have? Luke Gregerson? Arturo Lopez? Luis Perdomo? Duaner Sanchez?

That is so funny it hurts.

Black has to work with what he’s been given, which points to the larger question: How can you enter a season with four legitimate big-league pitchers and hope to survive, let alone contend? MGL at Inside the Book wants to see Black fired (h/t Friar Forecast) but fails to answer this question: What manager could succeed with the current Padres pitching staff?

Go ahead, name one.

* * *

Turned 40 on Tuesday, and the Padres won. We brought tuna salad sandwiches, chips, and cookies to the game. Sat in our new season seats for the first time. Section 303. Best we’ve had at Petco. Thank you, fair weather fans.

This was the worst-attended regular-season game since the Padres moved downtown. Nice of them to clear out all the riff-raff for my special day.

Felt like ’93. Or the WBC.

Josh Geer pitched the game of his life. Dude was brilliant except for a leadoff homer to Iannetta in the eighth. What is up with that guy? Brad Hawpe or Todd Helton, okay. Maybe Garrett Atkins. But Iannetta?

Hairston, starting in left field for an injured Chase Headley, almost broke the game open in the first. Screaming line drive toward left-center that 6’3″ shortstop Troy Tulowitzki jumped for and snared.

Hairston looked lost in his other at-bats. He gets into the habit of sitting on fastballs and then taking horrendous hacks at breaking balls down and away. He’s back in that mode now.

In the fifth, Giles was thrown out trying to take third on a hit-and-run grounder. The good ol’ 6-3-6 double play. Nice idea, but you can’t pause at second to think about it before committing. Go or don’t go. He ended up driving the game winner, a double to right-center in the 10th, so all is forgiven.

* * *

Are the Sliversun Pickups the new Smashing Pumpkins? Do I care?

* * *

Okay, so maybe the offense sucks a little. No runs in seven innings against Jon Garland on Wednesday?

The offense has gone AWOL. So have the fans. The Padres averaged fewer than 16,000 per night for their most recent four-game homestand, May 4-7 against division rivals.

On the one hand, as Craig Elsten notes, it’s cool to hang out at the ballpark and enjoy the games with actual fans (as opposed to being surrounded by people who show up and pretend to love the Padres only when they’re winning). On the other, it’s sad to see Petco at about 30% capacity.

* * *

Manny Ramirez has been suspended 50 games for violating MLB’s substance abuse policy. I enjoy schadenfreude as much as the next guy, but that sucks. Kind of like the fact that Ken Caminiti admitted to using steroids during his MVP season for the Padres in ’96. It takes a little something out of me as a fan that is difficult to replace.

Am I happy that the Dodgers will do battle with Juan Pierre in left instead of Ramirez for a couple months? Well, duh. But it still sucks for baseball and its fans.

What gets me is that even now, with all the testing in place, nobody is above suspicion. What am I supposed to do? Assume that everyone is cheating? That is a deeply cynical view that has far-reaching implications in terms of how I view humanity. Stop caring? Well, nihilism isn’t my bag either.

I should just watch Little League games. Some of those kids are probably clean.

* * *

Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World” on the radio. One of my songs from the band days.

The Padres won in 10 innings on Thursday afternoon. Meredith improved to 4-0. He didn’t win a single game in 2008. The Padres haven’t won a 9-inning contest since April 28.

* * *

Watched Stephen Strasburg no-hit Air Force on Friday night in the final regular-season home game of his collegiate career. Two walks, 17 strikeouts, one hard-hit ball — liner off the bat of first baseman Addison Gentry in the fourth carried to the left-field warning track.

So much hype surrounding Strasburg, but that comes with talent. I’ll be addressing the hype thing in this week’s post at Baseball Prospectus. (By the way, my weekly BDD column is moving to Baseball Prospectus — adjust your reality accordingly.)

The short version is that it has become difficult to write about Strasburg. He might as well have a blue ox named Babe.

Meanwhile, the Padres are putting me in an awkward position. I keep defending their offense, and then they keep struggling to score runs.

First they had no pitching, now they have no hitting. What is the opposite of synergy? Government? Through May 10:

April 753 4.95 4.36 5.23
May 606 4.21 2.60 4.50

Actually, the Padres still don’t have much pitching. It’s just that they lowered the bar so far in April that anything looks good in comparison.

* * *

Is Hillcrest the new La Jolla?

* * *

The Padres lost again on Saturday. Bullpen coughed up another late lead. Sun rose and set. Gravity remains in effect.

Giles just missed a homer in the eighth. Turned on an inside fastball from Geoff Geary, hooked it foul down the right-field line. Headley drove home the go-ahead run later that inning with a double to right-center off Houston closer LaTroy Hawkins.

Luke Gregerson then gave a clinic on how not to protect a lead. Up 4-3, he walked the first two batters in the home half. (Technically, Gregerson departed on a 2-0 count to the second; Meredith came on to finish the job.) Both scored, with the latter being the game winner.

Small sample or not, this bullpen is brutal. It’s worse than last year’s, which didn’t seem possible. It might rank up there with ’74, ’97, and ’03 in terms of futility. Aside from Heath Bell, who is superfluous on a team that doesn’t win games, there are no reliable relievers in sight.

* * *

Speaking of brutal, how about Sunday? Three runs in the first and then it got ugly. By the time we left for Indian buffet, the score was 8-2 with nobody out in the fourth.

Geer worked behind in the count all morning. When your fastball runs mid-80s, you can’t get away with that.

Help on the horizon? Maybe not so much. Cha Seung Baek felt pain in his elbow during what was supposed to be his final rehab appearance at Portland on Saturday.

* * *

Luis Rodriguez leads the Padres with 19 walks. That’s two more than Adrian Gonzalez — in 42 fewer plate appearances.

* * *

At least the Padres don’t have the worst pitching in baseball. That would be the Yankees, who dropped $243 million on C.C. Sabathia and A.J. Burnett. Ladies and gentlemen, your bottom five teams in ERA+ through May 10:

  • Nationals: 83
  • Padres: 82
  • Phillies: 82
  • Indians: 82
  • Yankees: 81

So the Padres are lousy, yet affordable. Hey, did I just come up with a new marketing slogan?

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19 Responses »

  1. I like the marketing slogan. That Mets record is starting to look attainable. We now have the worst run differential in baseball, and this despite a very solid first two weeks of the season.

    I doubt the horrible trajectory over the last few weeks will last all season, but man this is brutal to watch.

    The two guys I hoped would get hot and get moved, KK and Giles, are not playing along.

    Oh well.

  2. Baseball Prospectus?!? Exciting (and well-deserved) stuff, Geoff. Congratulations. Now you’d better make sure they have an event at Petco soon.

  3. The Silversun Pickups are the new Smashing Pumpkins…..and an excellent live show.

    With no bridge from the SPs to Heath Bell…..he is superfluous. Trade.

    Lousy yet affordable…..I’ll go on July 3rd. The return of Manny could be fun.

  4. A commenter at MadFriars.com found this from SI

    The prime example may be the San Diego Padres’ Brian Giles, whose abysmal .158/.241/.208 batting line may, if anything, understate how bad he’s been. At 38, Giles has seemingly lost the ability to drive or loft the ball, and enemy pitchers have noticed, throwing him far more fastballs than they have in the past, as if daring him to catch up to them. This is an ugly thing to see, but between the seeming death of his bat and the statuesque defense you’d expect of a player his age in the wide outfields of the National League West, we could be seeing the ash end of a career that merits more serious Hall of Fame consideration than there’s any chance it will receive.

    OUCH :-(

  5. It’s not just that the Padres have lost 16 of their last 20 games. It’s that even the wins have been a struggle. Each win was decided by a single run, and three of them went into extra innings. This is a team lacking talent on both sides of the ball, and everyone knows it. Bud Black might not be the manager most likely to maximize his team’s talent, but it’s impossible to know what he can do with a collection like this. There’s no reason to have a scapegoat, since everyone went into the season with low expectations.

  6. I predicted a minimum of 95 losses, and I’ll stick with that. Nonetheless, I love baseball, and love the Padres. This won’t be the worst Padre squad I’ve rooted for, by a stretch. I”ll be renewing my four season tix next year, regardless of the team’s futility.

  7. The Padres gambled when they picked up Giles’ option; they thought he may get off to a solid start and then move him some time in May or June (at least according to KT on a 1090 interview) and that way they would no have to let him walk out the door for free. It looks like they lost that bet and are going to have to pay for it all season.

    My question is that if they are going to have to pay Giles $10 mil this year regardless of play why not have him come off the bench and let Hairston and Venable play every day? I hate to say it but this season looks a bit like a lost cause at this point (unless the Padres somehow find a Bullpen, 2 major league starters and Kouz and Gerut somehow find their swing) so why not see if either guy is capable of being an every day OF and maybe fill a hole for next year’s team?

  8. Couple of points:

    1. I’m not convinced the Cla Meredith situational stats mean much of anything. He gets clobbered, but even for his whole career, we’re talking 142 PA with a runner on third and 278 PA in high leverage situations. Plus there’s some overlap between the two. The span you cover has an even smaller sample size. That’s the problem with situational stats. Most occur so infrequently each season that even a trend from year to year doesn’t really prove anything. And for a reliever, I expect this is even more applicable.

    2. I don’t see why pitchers shouldn’t throw fastball strikes to Scott Hairston. Most pitchers throw a majority of fastballs. You have to throw strikes to be successful in the big leagues. Hitters are probably better at hitting fastballs than any other pitch. It seems to me that Hairston is just one of many players whose strength is hitting the fastball in the zone. But you can’t avoid it entirely, because then he’ll hang on something off-speed, and start clobbering those, with a lot more walks thrown in.

    I sense some, if not all of what I responded to was meant to be facetious, but I thought I’d weigh in with my two cents anyway.

  9. I’m sitting watching the first game of the Cubs series. It comes to my attention, watching the Padres implode, that their ineptitude leaves the only San Diegan even remotely competitive is Adam Lambert on American Idol. (Sigh)

  10. #1@jay: Yeah, the scary thing is, our Pythag is *worse* than our actual record… I wonder if a team has ever followed a 9-3 stretch with a 4-17 stretch. Makes it hard to figure out the true level of this bunch.

    #2@Lance Richardson: Thank you, sir. And good man for standing by the team!

    #9@Judson Green: I was being mostly facetious on the Hairston comment, although he really has gotten into “swing at anything that moves off the plate” mode. (Phil Nevin sends his regards.)

    As for Meredith, the two splits do overlap, which means that two different views of the data reveal the same problem. None of this is necessarily predictive, but the situations with a runner on third represent about 16% of his total plate appearances. Regardless of sample size, he has gotten absolutely torched by 1 out of every 6 batters he’s faced, at the worst possible times. It’s possible that he’s the victim of extremely bad luck. It’s also possible that he’s not.