Brutal Is As Brutal Does

The Padres are boring. That’s the word on the street… a street apparently filled with people who don’t like baseball.

Just give me a game to watch and the rest will take care of itself. There is no pressure with this team, no expectation of success. Every win is a surprise, a gift.

Sometimes I believe this. Usually right before things get ugly.

* * *

Jake Peavy was effective but not dominant on Monday night. Gave up three runs, although all could have been avoided with better defense behind him.

In the fourth, Chase Headley misplayed a drive off the bat of Chris Snyder into a single and an error. Headley couldn’t decide whether to catch the ball or play it on a hop, so he did neither and let it skip past him instead, allowing Gerardo Parra to score Arizona’s first run. After Eric Byrnes then flied to right for what should have been the final out, Josh Whitesell singled home Snyder to make the score 2-0.

In the sixth, Kevin Kouzmanoff muffed a grounder to his right. Kouz mistimed his dive and the ball kicked off his glove for what was ruled a single that brought home Parra. It was a tough play, but one that should have ended the inning.

Kouz redeemed himself by driving in four of the Padres’ six runs and making Arizona pay for repeatedly putting Adrian Gonzalez on base. Kouz got some help. His second two-RBI hit, a double in the seventh, was a fly to left-center that Byrnes tracked down and then failed to catch when he forgot to extend his arm toward the ball.

Greg Burke worked a scoreless eighth. Two fly balls to center — one well struck — and a swinging strikeout of Snyder to end it.

Mike Adams, activated from the disabled list before the game, warmed up during the bottom of the eighth. He would have made his 2009 debut in the ninth had the Pads extended their 6-3 lead.

But they didn’t, so Heath Bell came on instead. Again. Bell had thrown a total of 52 pitches over the previous two days and his command was off — kept elevating the fastball — but he battled and pitched smart.

After putting two men on base and falling behind, 2-0, to Mark Reynolds, Bell evened the count with curve balls. He then got Reynolds to chase a high 95-mph fastball for the second out. Felipe Lopez followed with an easy grounder to second base that ended the contest.

* * *

I listened to the Beavers game on the radio. Kyle Blanks collected three singles — two didn’t leave the infield, the other was a broken-bat blooper. They look like line drives in the box score.

* * *

As expected, the Washington Nationals selected SDSU right-hander Stephen Strasburg with the first pick overall in the 2009 draft. I’ve written about Strasburg at Baseball Daily Digest and Baseball Prospectus, so now I’ll just say congratulations and best of luck. Between Strasburg and USD’s Brian Matusz, who went fourth overall to the Baltimore Orioles in 2008, we’ve gotten spoiled with some great pitching talent here in San Diego over the past few years.

The Padres took “my guy,” Georgia high-school outfielder Donavan Tate, with their first pick (third overall). He has committed to playing football at the University of North Carolina, which could make him a tough sign, but I love Tate’s upside and the fact that the Padres don’t appear to fear negotiating with him and agent Scott Boras.

Tate is mentioned as a potential five-tool player, although some people question his bat. In terms of comparable talents, I won’t mention specific names that I’ve heard because that is second-hand information and it creates unreasonable expectations. (If you’re curious, Myron offers a few comps at Another Padres Blog.) The range falls between guys that enjoyed modest success at the big-league level and perennial All-Stars.

As Craig at 619 Sports notes, there is real risk with this pick, and the Padres don’t have a great track record when it comes to developing high-school position players. That said, assuming they sign Tate, I’m glad they are at least willing to try. At best, the Padres add a difference maker. At worst, they fail with someone who has a ceiling higher than, say, back-end starter or one-dimensional corner guy. It’s good to see them ditch the comfy grey sweats for a pinstripe suit.

Beyond Tate, the Padres popped a couple more high-risk/high-reward types in the early rounds. They tabbed Texas high-school outfielder Everett Williams (see also Another Padres Blog for more on Williams) in the second and Florida high-school right-hander Keyvius Sampson in the fourth. These kids were mentioned as possible first- or sandwich-round talents. Presumably they slipped for a reason, but I haven’t spoken to anyone who expected either to be available when the Padres made their picks. Nice of the club not to pass up those talents.

Looking for more draft coverage? DePo talks about many of the Padres picks; be sure to read the comments for additional information. Also, the Baseball Prospectus Draft Roundtable (Day 1, Day 2) contains good insights from Kevin Goldstein, Bryan Smith, and Kiley McDaniel.

Paul DePodesta claims there has been no change in draft philosophy (Myron has examined this issue as well at Friar Forecast). Having no knowledge of what happens behind closed doors, I can’t speak to intent or mindset. What I can do is observe the results and note that this looks nothing like what I’d expected from a Padres draft.

That’s a back-handed compliment if ever there was one, but if you look a little closer, you’ll notice an encouraging progression:

  • 2004: Unmitigated disaster. Matt Bush may be the worst #1 pick in MLB history, and the only real hope is 42nd-rounder Kyle Blanks.
  • 2005: Not bad. If first-round pick Cesar Carrillo had stayed healthy, this could have been a very nice draft. Current Padres taken include Headley (second round), Nick Hundley (second), Josh Geer (third), and Will Venable (seventh). Mike Baxter (fourth) could help down the road.
  • 2006: Similar to ’05. Matt Antonelli (first) hasn’t developed as quickly as hoped but has seen action with the big club. Same with second-round pick Wade LeBlanc. Behind them, Chad Huffman (second), Cedric Hunter (third), Craig Cooper (seventh), Mat Latos (11th), and Jeremy McBryde (26th) all show promise. Heck, Latos might be the best prospect in the system.
  • 2007: More of the same. First-rounder Nick Schmidt is looking good after coming back from injuries that delayed the start of his pro career (although I still wish they’d taken Michael Main — his poor start in the Cal League this year notwithstanding — with that pick). Kellen Kulbacki (first), Drew Cumberland (first), Eric Sogard (second), Jeremy Hefner (fifth), and Wynn Pelzer (ninth) could make an impact. Lesser lights include Mitch Canham (first), Cory Luebke (first), and Corey Kluber (fourth). Blemishes include wasting early picks on one-tool outfielders Danny Payne and Brad Chalk, and failing to sign Tommy Toledo (third) and Christian Colon (10th).
  • 2008: Looking good. I wasn’t thrilled with Allan Dykstra as the first pick (full disclosure: “my guy,” Anthony Hewitt, has been awful), but the Padres did well after that. Jaff Decker (first), Logan Forsythe (first), James Darnell (second), Sawyer Carroll (third), and Anthony Bass (fifth) look legit, and there are more intriguing names (Beamer Weems, eighth; Matt Clark, 12th; Chris Wilkes, 23rd) further down the list.

This year appears to be an extension of 2008′s more aggressive approach, and I applaud it. Many of us have been waiting for this for a long time.

Thank you.

* * *

Caught some of Tuesday night’s game. My leg and the Padres’ baserunning were bugging me, so I tuned out midway through the contest. Tony Gwynn Jr. killed a rally in the first by getting thrown out at third on a ball that didn’t quite get away from Dodgers catcher Russell Martin. The Padres still managed to score two runs thanks to a two-out single by Kouzmanoff, but they had a chance to knock Chad Billingsley out early and let him off the hook.

Hundley got thrown out by Martin on a similar play in the fourth. I appreciate the aggresiveness, but I’d appreciate good judgment even more.

Chris Young served up four homers, including two to Andre Ethier, who should never see a strike from Young. In 34 career plate appearances, Ethier is hitting .414/.500/1.103 againt Young, with six home runs. So yeah, don’t go there.

Young has allowed four home runs in a game twice this year, both within the span of a month. After serving up just one homer over his first seven starts, he’s coughed up 11 over his past seven starts, spanning a total of 36 1/3 innings. Small sample or not, that’s Ken Dixon ’87 territory and a dangerous way to live.

* * *

I didn’t watch Wednesday night’s victory — needed a break from all the excitement of this Padres team — but a couple items in the box score caught my eye. First, Kevin Correia worked six strong innings (on short rest, thanks to Chad Gaudin’s unscheduled relief appearance in the 18-inning game). Last week I pointed out that Correia tends to wilt in the middle innings, but this is his second straight start where it didn’t happen, so maybe he made an adjustment. Then again, it could be a fluke. We don’t know yet.

Second, Adrian drew only one walk, ending his streak of two or more in a game at eight. As best as I can tell, this is the longest such streak since at least 1954, the first year for which these records are readily available. Adrian’s batting line during that stretch was surreal:

Adrian Gonzalez, Power Walker
20 5 4 1 0 2 3 18 2 .200 .579 .550

Here’s wishing Scott Hairston a speedy recovery.

* * *

I should say something about the Raul Ibanez incident. On the one hand, I can understand why Ibanez would feel upset at being accused of using steroids. On the other, nobody accused him of using steroids.

The blogger at the epicenter, Jerod Morris, speculated that PEDs might be one — among many — possible reason for Ibanez’s hot start. This is hardly the first time a writer has made such speculations about a player (Tom Tango points to Murray Chass’ treatment of Mike Piazza as one example).

Such is the legacy of the steroid era, when many players used PEDs and everyone else turned a blind eye. The subsequent images of Rafael Palmeiro wagging his finger, Mark McGwire refusing to speak, and Jason Giambi making vague apologies linger in our minds. The actions of certain individuals within a group damaged the credibility of all individuals within that group, including the innocent, which leads to my next point.

In his response to Morris’ article (or more accurately, the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s misrepresentation of Morris’ article), Ibanez railed against bloggers:

There should be more credibility than some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother’s basement. It demeans everything you’ve done with one stroke of the pen.

First off, why does Ibanez — in the current climate of mistrust engendered by steroid use and the attempt to cover it up — seem to think that anyone is above suspicion? I recently wrote about Ibanez’s early-season success at Baseball Prospectus. I didn’t mention steroids because, frankly, that angle didn’t interest me, but I’m missing the part where asking the question (or acknowledging that some folks might wonder about such things) and attempting to examine it is wrong.

Second, Ibanez’s cliched characterization of bloggers is tired and ironic beyond description. He doesn’t want to be lumped in by association with his colleagues who may have cheated, and yet he has no problem calling out all bloggers because of his personal beef with one of them. You could change “some 42-year-old blogger typing in his mother’s basement” to “some bulked-up slugger taking steroids” and reach a similar conclusion about a different set of people… I mean, if sweeping generalizations are your thing.

One good thing to come from all this is it gets people talking. Here is some of what they are saying:

Tango’s article includes an embedded video that features Morris, Inquirer reporter John Gonzalez, and FOX Sports reporter Ken Rosenthal. It’s cringe inducing in spots but worth watching. For one thing, if you didn’t have names associated with the faces, you might be surprised at which panelist is the blogger and which are the professional reporters. Grace and poise aren’t bestowed only on those with a title.

Beyond the superficiality of appearances, there is the deeper issue of trust. A blogger (Morris) noticed the somewhat unlikely output of an aging player (Ibanez) and wondered about the cause. He then investigated and reported findings. A reporter (Gonzalez) subsequently picked up on one part of the story without looking at the whole picture. (As someone who has been misrepresented by a reporter in ways that boggle the imagination, I can say this doesn’t surprise me in the least.) Ibanez then caught wind of Gonzalez’s interpretation of Morris’ original piece and reacted to the former, taking a swipe at Morris and other “basement dwellers” in the process.

To the larger issue, in the video, Rosenthal expresses concern about upholding certain standards. His condescension notwithstanding, he raises some valid points, in light of which I ask the following question: Why is there no outrage at the Philadelphia Inquirer for running a story that misrepresented Morris’ findings and thereby failed to uphold such standards?

I don’t have an answer, but it’s worth considering.

* * *

The ankle that’s been bothering Jake Peavy finally landed him on the disabled list. He’s expected to be out at least a month, possibly longer.

Kevin Towers has mentioned three possible replacements for Peavy in the rotation: Walter Silva (no, thanks), Wade LeBlanc (eh, okay), and Mat Latos (yes, please). Bringing up Latos, who has fewer than 200 professional innings under his belt, comes with risk (Oliver Perez sends his regards). That said, the Padres should know better than anyone whether Latos can handle the jump. If they think he can, then why not?

On the bright side, maybe now Peavy won’t be going anywhere. Great; neither are the Padres.

* * *

Ugly game Friday night in Anaheim. The good news is that Chad Gaudin found the strike zone. The bad news is that… well, he found the strike zone.

Gaudin gave up some fluky bloop hits but he also surrendered two home runs. When the final line shows eight runs on 11 hits over 3+ innings, it’s hard to play the fluke card.

Nice to see the Padres battle back from an early 4-1 defecit to tie the game. Not so nice to see the Angels promptly score five in their half of the fourth to put it out of reach.

Things could have been worse. With runners at the corners, nobody out, and a 2-1 count on Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu got caught trying to swipe second. Then, after Vlad Guerrero drove in Anaheim’s ninth run, Juan Rivera flied to Brian Giles in medium right. Hunter broke home from third but stopped. Giles’ throw sailed over Adrian at first, and Guerrero took off for second. Blanco gunned him down to end the inning on the good ol’ 9-2-4 double play.

Luis Rodriguez came off the disabled list and looked rusty. Worked some good counts but couldn’t catch up to anyone’s fastball and struck out three times. He also made an ill-advised throw home in the fourth that skipped past Blanco and Gaudin for an error.

Gwynn collected a single and two walks. He continues to impress (and surprise) with his approach at the plate. The same cannot be said of his baserunning and defense. Then again, for all my whining about the trade that brought Gwynn to San Diego, Jody Gerut is hitting .136/.240/.136 in a limited role with the Brewers, so what do I know?

Edwin Moreno, recently returned from Triple-A Portland, relieved Gaudin in the sense that gasoline relieves fire. He allowed one inherited run to score, along with two more of his own.

Cla Meredith got into the game. He seems to have become the mopup man, which isn’t a bad role for him given how poorly he fares in crucial situations. Hey, someone has to soak up those innings; it might as well be a guy who can get outs.

Headley grounded into two more double plays. He’s doing that with a greater frequency this year than Jim Rice did over the course of his career. Of course, Rice had a slightly higher ISO than Headley’s .117, which is more in Ralph Garr/Dan Gladden territory. Among left fielders, this year Headley is just behind Carl Crawford and ahead of Denard Span in the ISO department.

When I saw Headley at Elsinore in ’06, he had a refined approach at the plate. He had a plan. I pegged him as a Jeff Cirillo/Bill Mueller type who would hit for a high average, draw walks, and knock the occasional homer

Now he’s up there hacking. Headley has sacrificed the average and the plate discipline for… I don’t know what. At an age (25) when he should be establishing himself as a big leaguer, Headley looks lost. He’s hitting like David Dellucci and playing bad defense in left field. That’s not a winning combination.

Here’s hoping something clicks for Headley soon. Yesterday would be nice.

* * *

I missed Kouzmanoff’s meaningless two-run homer in the seventh. Switched to Thursday night’s Conan O’Brien (TiVo, I love you) after the sixth. Neko Case was the musical guest. She was brilliant. Ditto Norm MacDonald.

There was a fun bit where Conan and Slash went to people’s houses to test out guitars advertised on Craigslist. They didn’t buy any, but Conan picked up a jacket for himself and a girl’s bicycle for Slash, so it wasn’t a total loss.

* * *

Reader LynchMob informs us that friend of Ducksnorts Dirk Hayhurst is back in the big leagues. The Blue Jays recently recalled him and are using him out of the bullpen. Congrats to Dirk, and best of luck!

* * *

Wasn’t aware of Saturday’s earlier start, so by the time I tuned in, the Padres were already down, 4-1. Saw Geer serve up a couple of homers (he allowed a total of four in the game) and Headley get credit for a double on a ball he hit right at Abreu, who clanked it (the scorer came to his senses the next day and changed it to an error). At some point Joe Thatcher came in and gave up Hunter’s third homer of the night, which coincided with my loss of interest in the contest.

Hey, at least I got to see Kouzmanoff’s home run this time. Without that, the final score would have been 9-0 instead of 9-1.


* * *

Pitching is a problem, especially the rotation. The Padres haven’t been able to keep opponents in the yard in June. Both Young and Geer have allowed four home runs in a game this month. They are not the only culprits, though; gopheritis is running rampant throughout the staff:

Tick, Tick, Boom
Apr 22 .276 .353 .422 .146 0.97 4.95
May 28 .230 .311 .374 .144 0.82 3.83
Jun 12 .302 .376 .529 .227 1.75 5.97

With Peavy, the Padres had one of the worst starting rotations in baseball, positing a 5.09 ERA over the season’s first 62 games. Only the Nationals, Phillies, Indians, and Orioles have higher ERAs from their starters. None of those teams has the advantage of playing half its games in what is by far the most pitcher-friendly environment in MLB.

Without Peavy… Well, I’d rather not think about it.

* * *

In his second start of the week on Sunday afternoon, Young couldn’t find the plate. With two out in the second, he walked four straight batters (the first coming to Jeff Mathis — he of the .195/.276/.313 career line) and then gave up a two-RBI single that put the Angels up, 4-0. Mercifully, umpire Marty Foster banged Maicer Izturis at third on the play despite the fact that Izturis arrived ahead of Kouzmanoff’s tag.

Adrian beat out an infield single in the fourth. Hit a cue shot to third base, but the Angels had the shift on so Chone Figgins was playing near the second base bag.

Such fun.

The Padres lost, 6-0. For the three-game series in Anaheim, they were outscored, 26-6, and it wasn’t even that close. The starting pitchers had a miserable weekend:

A Spanking! A Spanking!
11 23 20 20 7 6 6 16.36

Okay, maybe that is a little boring… not to mention embarrassing. On the bright side, five years after the Padres passed on him in the draft, we finally got to see Jered Weaver. He’s pretty good.

* * *

It’s tough to give up on a season in the middle of June, but Corey makes too much sense when he suggests that the Padres may have seen the last of .500 baseball in ’09. There just isn’t enough firepower in the lineup to overcome a pitching staff that looked shaky even before Peavy’s injury.

Silver linings? Well, I still like the draft.

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11 Responses »

  1. From my Weekend Minor League Players of the Day post:

    I don’t want the Padres to bring Latos up – the Padres aren’t going to make the playoffs this year, I don’t think there’s a benefit (other than public relations) to having Latos make a big league debut this season, he has only made four starts above Low-A. People talk about Peavy coming up from AA (where Latos is now) when he was 21 – like Latos is now. However, Peavy pitched more than 100 innings in High-A and more than 100 innings in AA (over 2 seasons) where Latos has 22.2 innings in AA. One more thing to look at with regards to Latos’ readiness:

    Peavy’s minor league IP totals by year:

    1999: 84.2
    2000: 133.0
    2001: 133.1
    2002: 80.1 (plus 97.2 in MLB)

    Latos’ minor league IP totals:

    2007: 56.1
    2008: 56.0
    2009: 48.0 (so far)

    Latos is probably the Padres top prospect but if the Padres bring him up, he’ll likely finish the season with 150+ IP. That is too big of an innings jump for a guy who is this talented.

  2. I agree that Chase Headley has taken a significant step back this season. I never saw him as a high average hitter (he strikes out too much), but he had a certain poise at the plate last year that no longer seems to exist.
    This year he just looks lost.
    I hope he hasn’t been taking batting tips from Kouzmanoff.

  3. #1@Peter Friberg: Good point about workload. That is something Black and Balsley would need to monitor closely should Latos get the call.

  4. Geoff,
    Loved this on the Ibanez thing, “For one thing, if you didn’t have names associated with the faces, you might be surprised at which panelist is the blogger and which are the professional reporters. Grace and poise aren’t bestowed only on those with a title.”

    That’s exactly what I was thinking, too… doesn’t seem like the right way to handle the situation as Rosenthal. But I guess being obnoxious and condescending appears like the proper protocol. Certainly not going to help going forwards.

    Also agree with Friberg on Latos. Workload’s obviously going to be an issue. I also think performance would be. If you throw two more columns on that chart, Peavy was 21 when he was in AA. His K/9 was 13.9. Even if you combine Latos’ performance at Ft Wayne and San Antonio this year, his K/9 is 9.2 at the same age.

  5. I figured that an improved bullpen would be the answer to this team’s problems but I wasn’t counting on Gaudin and Geer in the rotation two out of every five days and CY pitching as badly as he is. What the hell happened to this guy? He was nearly unhittable two years ago at this time. Kouz and Headley have been disappointing, to say the least. Unless you like watching Adrian Gonzalez draw walks, it’s not much fun watching this team right now.

    Two of the more exciting players on the team (Scott Hairston, Everth Cabrera) are on the DL. When they return, maybe the bore-fest will end. Hairston’s return, whenever that is, will likely force the team to make a move. Tony Gwynn Jr. has probably done enough to hold onto the starting CF/leadoff hitter job for the rest of the season so a decision would have to be made with Giles or Headley. Or maybe Towers can get something back in a trade for Kouz. I’d like to see a lineup that looks more like this down the stretch:

    1. Gwynn, CF
    2. Cabrera, SS
    3. Hairston, LF
    4. Gonzalez, 1B
    5. Headley, 3B
    6. Giles/Macias/Venable, RF
    7. Hundley
    8. Eckstein/Rodriguez

    The Pads haven’t had that kind of speed at the top of the lineup in ages. In regards to the pitching staff, I agree 100% with Peter. There is no need to rush Latos up here. He hasn’t thrown that many innings and has battled various injuries as a pro. Mid-2010 makes much more sense. For now, I’d like to see someone like Ernesto Frieri, a safer pick than Latos but he’s 23 years old with upside. If I read that the team has called up Josh Banks to replace Peavy, I’m going to go into a deep depression. He’s pitched well in AAA but Josh Geer and Justin Germano also do pretty good against AAA hitters. The way I see it, the team has CY, Correia, and three big holes to fill right now. It might be a good time to start taking a longer look at some of the starting pitchers that are close to being major league ready (LeBlanc, Inman, Frieri, Cesar Ramos when he’s healthy).

  6. KG @ BP notices Latos (again) …

    … and there’s some good comments there, one from a guy who was at Latos’ game last night!

  7. Here’s the solution to the teams pitching (and hitting) woes …

    Padres to Hold Open Tryout Thursday, June 18th

    Spread the word! :-)

  8. Speaking of Matusz, he got noticed by KG @ BP …

    Minor League Update
    June 18
    by Kevin Goldstein

    Announcing his presence with authority

    Brian Matusz, LHP, Orioles (Double-A Bowie)
    Wednesday’s stats: 6 IP, 3 H, 1 R (0 R), 1 BB, 10 K
    After finishing his Carolina League run with 20 scoreless innings over his last three start, Matusz kept things going in his Double-A debut. Baltimore’s top pick in last year’s draft, the 22-year-old lefty sat at 90-92 mph while filling the strike zone with three quality secondary offerings. He’s a highly advanced arm who should be in a position to compete for a big league rotation job next spring.

  9. Whatever happened to that screwballing dude, Carlos Guevara?

  10. #4@Chris Dankberg: Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Always good to hear from you.

    #6@LynchMob: Thanks for all the good links. If anyone is interested, Latos is scheduled to start again tonight at 5 p.m. Catch the game on KKYX radio.

    #10@Masticore317: I’m assuming he must have been hurt. Guevara is now with San Antonio and made his 2009 debut Friday night.