Will I Lose My Sight if I Watch, or Just My Lunch?

Apparently the Padres still have games to play. What a relief…

Adrian Hits the Skids

I was thinking about whether Adrian Gonzalez’s recent slide might be a result of his being tired and whether he should take a day or two off. Then I realized that I don’t care how he performs this year as long as he’s good to go for 2010.

My priorities for Adrian are to keep him happy and healthy. If that means letting him play every day, fine. If that means hanging onto Edgar a little longer, so be it (just don’t stick him at second base when Mat Latos is pitching; the kid should have someone behind him that can make plays).

Adrian goes through a funk every summer, but nothing like what he’s run into this year. In ’07, he got off to a strong start, then went cold for about six weeks, and then finished about the way he began (dates are arbitrary, kinda like streaks):

Adrian Gonzalez, 2007
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
4/3/07 – 6/17/07 305 .297 .364 .542 14 29 61
6/18/07 – 8/1/07 160 .208 .269 .326 2 13 35
8/2/07 – 10/1/07 255 .310 .376 .563 14 23 44

Last year, Adrian started off even stronger, went into a more prolonged funk, and then went nuts to end the season:

Adrian Gonzalez, 2008
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
3/31/08 – 6/25/08 347 .294 .366 .552 21 32 67
6/26/08 – 9/10/08 281 .247 .342 .395 8 33 58
9/11/08 – 9/28/08 72 .333 .417 .746 7 9 17

It’s almost like the hotter Adrian starts, the worse he slumps:

Adrian Gonzalez, 2009
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
4/6/09 – 6/2/09 222 .292 .410 .670 22 36 41
6/3/09 – 7/19/09 171 .187 .363 .299 2 36 28
7/20/09 – ??

Adrian’s SLG over the past 40 games is identical to those of Bruce Benedict or Julio Cruz for their careers. That’s not good.

Adrian’s current struggles started on June 3, the day Scott Hairston landed on the disabled list. A coincidence? My earlier suggestion notwithstanding, yeah, probably.

Gwynn Hits the Ground

In response to my poking fun at the U-T’s Chris Jenkins for ignoring sample size when waxing poetic about Tony Gwynn Jr.’s hot start with the Padres, I’ve had people ask me why I hate Gwynn. The answer is, I don’t hate him.

Gwynn seems like a good kid, and for his sake as well as that of the Padres, I hope he turns into something. It’s just that given the evidence of what Gwynn has done so far and how ballplayers typically develop, I don’t like his chances.

That’s no more or less personal than my feelings on gravity. When I say that what goes up must come down, it’s not because I hate the thing that went up, it’s because that’s just the way reality works.

Gwynn is 26 years old. Here’s a look at his credentials:

Tony Gwynn Jr., Bit by Bit
Statistics are courtesy of Baseball-Reference.
minors, 2003-2009 2673 .275 .349 .345
majors, 2006-2008 263 .248 .300 .298
majors, first 21 games 2009 81 .333 .432 .464
majors, since then 2009 124 .272 .323 .333

Can you spot the outlier? Anything is possible, but those numbers do not tell the story of a successful big-league outfielder.

Maybe Gwynn will be the exception. That would be fun.

Hairston Hits the Road

Speaking of Hairston, he was shipped to the A’s for three pitchers. I’m sorry to see him go. I’ll not soon forget Hairston’s performance down the stretch in ’07 (including one near-heroic moment in Game 163) and I hope he does well in Oakland.

Hairston’s stint with the Padres turned out to be quite productive. In 669 plate appearances, he hit .270/.330/.520 (130 OPS+) with 35 homers. In the Ducksnorts 2009 Baseball Annual I called him a poor man’s Gary Roenicke, but Hairston actually hit more like a better Alfonso Soriano.

Hairston also owns a career line of .285/.346/.535 at Petco Park, which is hard to do. Adrian, for example, has hit .264/.358/.443 there.

That being said, I understand why the Padres moved Hairston. As anyone who has watched the Pads and their 80 ERA+ this year can attest, they desperately need pitching.

Am I super excited about the arms they got in return? Not really, although Sean Gallagher sounds somewhat intriguing. Then again, the Padres gave up almost nothing (Leo Rosales) to get Hairston, and I’m guessing that the three arms they picked up from the A’s will combine to produce more than Rosales will.

This strikes me as a trade that should help both clubs. The Padres have plenty of good outfielders and not enough good pitchers. Dealing from strength to address a weakness usually makes sense.

As for the A’s, they get a decent starting center fielder (and potentially fantastic fourth outfielder) who is in the prime of his career for the price of guys who weren’t in the immediate plans. What’s not to like?

My colleague at Hardball Times (and former boss at MVN) Evan Brunell doesn’t think the Padres did well. He may be right, but his reasons are wrong:

To win in this extreme pitcher’s park, you need young, core offensive players who grow up used to the park and can get past its failings. This is what players such as Chase Headley, Kyle Blanks and Will Venable are going through. But instead of stacking offensive depth in the (likely) event that some of these hitters can’t make the adjustment, they’re stacking depth in the one area they’ll never be found wanting.

Uh, no. The hitting will always look like a weakness in Petco Park unless you adjust for how it plays. Granted, this year the offense has stunk, but there are some talented young hitters either already here or on the way. With the exception of Mat Latos, whose timetable has been accelerated beydond anyone’s imagination, the same cannot be said of the pitching.

As for the claim that the Padres are “stacking depth in the one area they’ll never be found wanting,” unless I misunderstand the word “never,” I’m pretty sure that’s not true. I believe the proper term for this year’s staff is “epic fail.”

So, yeah, the Padres have been found wanting in that area. Just a tad.

Blast from the Past

  • Interview: Troy Johnson — In which we chat with the host of the short-lived but much-loved Outta Left Field television program. A small sample:

    Dream segment would have to include Fred Kendall, Eric Owens, Bip Roberts, Craig Lefferts, a resuscitated Ray Kroc, the one dude who we took out of a beer league and put on first base. We’d sit around and talk about North Korean politics, Fugazi’s last album, and how great the San Diego bench players have been this year. I’ve always been a fan of the team’s scrappers — the Chris Gomezes of our little world. Of course, Jerry would be there calling a homer a strikeout, Gwynn would belly laugh in the general vicinity, Dave Campbell would say something grumpy, and Garvey would pose like a bodybuilding politician. And hopefully Luis DeLeon would pop by, because he was a trailblazer in bling.

Jonathan Sanchez Beats Miss Piggy

Just before the All-Star break, the Padres were no-hit by Jonathan Sanchez in San Francisco. I missed the game because, in a display of compassion unparalleled by any inanimate object known to me, my television broke a day earlier.

That didn’t keep me from coming up with two snappy lines:

  • Getting no-hit by Jonathan Sanchez is like losing a beauty pageant to Miss Piggy.
  • No-hitting the Padres is like beating Miss Piggy in a beauty pageant.

Really. I’m dropping Miss Piggy references.

Anyway, while Sanchez was doing his thing, we watched Scott Walker: 30 Century Man on the computer. If you’re into trippy music, you might enjoy the film. It’s kind of in the vein of Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould or Mayor of the Sunset Strip. I won’t say it was high art, but then, neither is Jonathan Sanchez no-hitting the Padres.

I’d planned to end this segment by expressing my hope for a Jandek movie. Now I see that someone has ruined my joke by actually making one.

Thanks. Thanks a lot.

Everyone Hits Geer

It’s great to see Tim Stauffer back with the big club. After he got hit hard in 2007 and missed all of last season due to injury, I’d sort of figured his career was over. I’m glad to see that’s not the case… not yet, anyway.

I first became a Stauffer fan when he came clean about a pre-existing shoulder condition between the time the Padres took him with the #4 pick overall in 2003 and when he signed. Stauffer’s honesty and integrity cost him a good chunk of change; it would be nice to see such behavior rewarded.

He also plays a key role in one of my favorite baseball books, Jim Collins’ The Last Best League. Here’s hoping Stauffer can make the most of his second opportunity.

Speaking of pitchers drafted by the Padres, Latos is up with the big club after starting the year in Low-A ball, which seems insane but maybe isn’t. I saw his debut in person on Sunday and talked about it at Unfiltered.

Also, my column this week at Hardball Times will discuss the issue of how aggressively teams should promote propsects. Without rewriting that article here, my general thoughts on Latos run as follows:

  • Bill James has noted (Baseball Abstract 1987, p. 203) that for some players, “the minor leagues were just a nuisance from which they learned nothing and in which they lost 20-40% of their productive life as ballplayers.”
  • The Padres pushed Oliver Perez hard several years ago (too hard, in my opinion), and despite some initial success, it hasn’t worked out so well for him.
  • The Royals took another Padres farmhand a few years later — Joakim Soria — and pushed him even harder. The Royals and Soria can’t be anything but pleased with the results.
  • Latos is not Perez; neither is he Soria. Every snowflake is different.
  • The current staff is putrid — not as in, “they’re not going to win many games this year,” but as in, “there isn’t really much here that will be of use to anyone next year, so maybe we should try finding some solutions now rather than wait until winter.”
  • You and I don’t know Latos well enough to say whether he is ready. I imagine (and hope) that the Padres, who have worked closely with the young man, have a better grasp of his capabilities.
  • Starting the arbitration clock early is a concern. At the same time, so is the possiblity that Latos is one of those players for whom the minor leagues are a “nuisance,” in which case wringing one’s hands over arbitration seems rather petty.
  • There’s something to be said for having Latos work with Darren Balsley, the best pitching coach in the system, sooner rather than later.
  • I wouldn’t mind seeing the Padres give Latos — and I wish I’d thought of this myself — the Earl Weaver treatment.

Once upon a time, the rapid ascent of Latos would have bothered me a lot. Now I am less certain of what I once thought I knew. Keeping him in the minors might be the safer move, but I’m not sure it’s the better move.

Shifting gears (get it?), a part of me hopes that Josh Geer remains in the rotation long enough to qualify for the ERA title. Geer’s ERA+ currently sits at 62. Since 1901, only two qualifiers have posted a lower ERA+ (Gene Wright, 58 in 1903; Rube Bressler, 56 in 1915). Since the Padres joined MLB, the only pitcher within shouting distance of Geer is Jose Lima, who posted a 63 OPS+ for the Royals in 2005.

With runners on base, Geer has been remarkable. Opponents are hitting .322/.365/.653 against him in those situations. That’s basically Juan Gonzalez ’96 if you’re scoring at home.

Geer also is almost assured of breaking the Padres record for homers allowed in a season. Kevin Jarvis and Bobby J. Jones each allowed 37 in 2001. Geer is at 23 in 92 2/3 innings. Actually, here’s a fun comparison:

  • Adrian: 393 PA, 24 HR, 16.38 PA/HR
  • Geer: 394 PA, 23 HR, 17.13 PA/HR

Okay, maybe “fun” isn’t the right word.

Krasovic Hits the Blogosphere

Former San Diego Union-Tribune Padres beat reporter Tom Krasovic is up and running at Inside the Padres. I forget if I commented on his departure at the time, but the U-T made a huge mistake in letting Krasovic go. He demonstrated a consistent ability and desire to figure out what the organization was trying to accomplish, which isn’t something all baseball writers in this town can claim.

I don’t pretend to understand all the nuances of why newspapers are failing, but it seems to me that getting rid of top talent isn’t helping matters. Anyway, for his sake and ours, it’s good to see Kras “out there” covering the Padres again.

Oh, and we got a new television on Friday, so now I can watch the games again. I’ll just have to be careful what I eat.

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5 Responses »

  1. welcome back.

    and good find on gwynn

  2. In the midst of a terrible season, the return of Ducksnorts is cause for celebration. Huzzah!

    How do so many analysts misread the Padres needs and strengths? Petco DOES NOT turn anybody into a league-average pitcher. Even smart analysts are absolutely bamboozled into thinking that the team’s problem, at both the major and minor league levels, is a lack of hitting. The hitting’s been ugly, but the rotation makes the offense look handsome. We could end the season with 800 innings below a 90 ERA+ mark from the starters. It’s not inconceivable we could end the season with 800 innings below an 80.

  3. Craigslist and blogs. Papers used to make good money on classified ads, no longer. Also their readers’ news consumption time has plummeted as people go online. Once readers go online, the papers are just one of many, many places to go, so the papers lose out vs. the good gig they had before.

    Before, I am guessing local papers got 40% of the advertising money that people in that market absorbed. As people read the actual papers less, I am guessing newspapers’ share of that spend is 15-20% now, but they were staffed up for the 40% revenues.

    Back to baseball. I admire people who are following this team closely. I am deeply discouraged. If all goes really well, we have a competitive team in 2011? Then, what, we get 2-3 years of competitiveness (not necessarily playoffs) and then we fade again?

    I love this sport, but not much fun when your team stinks and has the cards stacked against it (vs. bigger market teams). I don’t get that into fantasy, so, someone remind me why I should keep paying close attention?

  4. I missed the Sanchez no-hitter also. But I did watch the Lincecum game the night before, that looked like a no-hitter for 7 or so innings.

    I can’t decide if Adrian Gonzalez is tired, or is he just an extreme hot & cold streak hitter.

    As for the newspapers….
    About a year ago, the WSJ did a story about how the amount of time spent looking at a newspaper page is drasticly less when it is done online. Browsing, and reading a paragraph or two is much more prevalent online. I think they compared it to watching TV with the remote in your hand. So, even if you leave out other news sources and competition, the amount of time devoted to a particular page is much less when done so online. Short, USA TODAY type stories are unfortunately more appealing to online readers. So much for the “information age”.

  5. Good post, Geoff. Glad to see you are back.

    I have seen this lament on many blogs: “How could they get rid of Krasovic and not Canepa or Sullivan?” or something like that.

    Well, there are probably about a hundred reasons why one person is working at a newspaper and another is not. Or sometimes it’s one concrete one.

    I have intimate knowledge of the newspaper layoffs at The News & Observer here in Raleigh, but I’m not sure if I could explain all the nuances, even if I wrote 1,000 words here.

    Long story, short: On some level, the decision may have been Krasovic’s or not at all his. Upper management at the U-T may have told the sports department: You have to get rid of one of your higher-paid guys. Then they might have offered a nice buyout package to whoever might want to leave voluntarily. Maybe the paper was hoping someone else would take the buyout. There are a lot of gray areas.

    I don’t know the first thing about how the Union-Tribune works or Krasovic. But I know the way I described things above is sort of how things have gone at The N&O and other much larger papers.