Youngsters and Salary Dumps

We’ve been tracking a few key young players since the All-Star break using Modified Box Scores (explanation). Let’s see how these kids are doing as measured by more conventional metrics. Bear in mind that we’re talking about 31 games, a tiny sample. First, the Padres as a team:

Padres Offense, First and Second Half
First half 3344 .233 .311 .370 3.80
Second half 1182 .268 .340 .427 4.10

And select youngsters:

Padres Individual Hitters, First and Second Half
Blanks 99 .289 .404 .578
Venable 97 .295 .361 .523
Headley 118 .328 .407 .462
Cabrera 134 .287 .374 .478
Gwynn 118 .252 .310 .299

I included Tony Gwynn Jr. here so you can see what “regressing to the mean” looks like. It took a while because of his hot start, but Gwynn’s OPS+ for the season has fallen below 100. Since the U-T’s Chris Jenkins worked himself into a lather over Junior after the latter’s first 21 games with the Padres, Gwynn is hitting .261/.320/.320, which is basically David Eckstein in a bad year or, going back a little further, Darren Lewis.

Meanwhile, we know how hot Kyle Blanks and Will Venable have been, but without much fanfare, Chase Headley steadily has settled into a comfort zone. And Everth Cabrera still isn’t playing like a Rule V draftee.

Anecdote time: In one of the St. Louis games (Friday or Saturday), Cabrera slid into first trying to beat out a grounder for a base hit. Ordinarily I hate that play, but sometimes it’s appropriate, such as when trying to avoid a tag, which is exactly what Cabrera was doing. He slid to the outside of the bag and almost snuck past Albert Pujols. It is only one play, and it may not count for a lot, but it suggested an understanding of the game beyond what we might expect from a kid fresh out of the South Atlantic League.

I’m kind of smitten with Cabrera. Does it show?

That reminds me, Cabrera has performed much better this year batting lower in the order:

Everth Cabrera, Top and Bottom of Lineup
Batting 1st 107 .185 .286 .272
Batting 8th 74 .344 .425 .516

I can think of at least two reasons this should not deter Bud Black from leading him off:

  1. Small sample
  2. Cabrera’s future lies at the top of the order; he might as well get comfortable there now, when the games don’t count for much

Returning to the Padres’ recent offensive onslaught, I should note that it coincides with the installation of Randy Ready as hitting coach. Well, sort of; Ready didn’t arrive on the scene until August. This month, the team is hitting .296/.367/.449, although the usual small sample caveats apply. Also, I say that the surge coincides with Ready’s arrival because all we know is that two events occurred at the same time. We don’t know why or if there is any causal relationship.

That said, here’s something I’ve wondered about for some time: What, if any, effect does a change in hitting coaches have on young players? We saw a similar second-half surge in 2006, when Merv Rettenmund replaced Dave Magadan. In the case of Adrian Gonzalez, he continued to improve even beyond the initial boost; in the cases of Josh Barfield and Khalil Greene, not so much.

This is anecdotal evidence, though, and not a proper study. I’m not sure how you even go about answering such a question. Beyond the sample size issues (how confident are we about a player’s true level of ability after so few plate appearances?), there is the matter of isolating the “change in hitting coach” variable versus, say, an increase in playing time, natural development, and a variety of other factors.

In other words, Barfield’s improvement in the second half of 2006 might have been related to Rettenmund’s arrival as hitting coach. Then again, he might have blossomed under Magadan as well. We will never know.

* * *

Should it bother me that Luis Rodriguez ranks third on the team with 30 walks?

* * *

I’ve been thinking about this year’s trades, er, salary dumps. Okay, Cla Meredith for Oscar Salazar was a straight swap of spare parts, but every other move has been made with the intent of trimming the payroll. Interestingly, the Padres haven’t taken a performance hit in the process:

Khalil Greene for Mark Worrell and Luke Gregerson (December 4, 2008)

Greene (StL): 164 PA, .211/.290/.366, 73 OPS+
Gregerson (SD): 52.1 IP, 3.61 ERA, 105 ERA+

This also opened the door for Cabrera.

Jody Gerut for Tony Gwynn Jr. (May 21, 2009)

Gerut (Mil): 68 PA, .177/.235/.226, 23 OPS+
Gwynn (SD): 305 PA, .279/.350/.357, 97 OPS+

Scott Hairston for Ryan Webb, Craig Italiano, and Sean Gallagher (July 6, 2009)

Hairston (Oak): 133 PA, .262/.293/.459, 100 OPS+
Webb (SD): 7.1 IP, 7.36 ERA, 51 ERA+

This also gave more playing time to Blanks and Venable.

Cla Meredith for Oscar Salazar (July 19, 2009)

Meredith (Bal): 12.1 IP, 5.11 ERA, 91 ERA+
Salazar (SD): 27 PA, .240/.269/.480, 99 OPS+

Jake Peavy for Clayton Richard, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter (July 31, 2009)

Peavy (ChA): minor-league rehab
Richard (SD): 21.0 IP, 4.71 ERA, 80 ERA+

Chad Gaudin for PTBNL or cash (August 7, 2009)

Gaudin (NYA): 3.1 IP, 5.40 ERA, 82 ERA+

Here’s the aggregate of what these players have produced since their respective trades:

From SD: 365 PA, .224/.281/.374; 15.2 IP, 5.17 ERA
To SD: 332 PA, .276/.342/.367; 80.2 IP, 4.24 ERA

I won’t claim that these deals were made to improve the on-field product, but at the same time, you have to look at the evidence. If I’m Kevin Towers and someone calls me to task for dumping salary, I’m pointing to the scoreboard… and hoping nobody notices that Peavy hasn’t pitched yet for his new team.

* * *

Modified Box Scores

Here are your boxes…

Positives: Cabrera, Headley, and Venable all had solid weeks; Hundley came off the DL.
Negatives: Latos got shelled in St. Louis; too much Gwynn, not enough Blanks.

Tue, Aug 11 at Mil
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Headley 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 1 1 3
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Totals 4 4 1 9

The Padres knock 22 hits — second most in franchise history. They’ve had 24 in a game twice (April 19, 1982, against the Giants; August 12, 2003, at the Braves). Adrian Gonzalez leads the charge with a 6-for-6 showing.

There have been 23 individual five-hit nine-inning games in Padres history. Two came this past week in Milwaukee. This marks the third time the Padres have had multiple five-hit games in a season: they had four in 1993 (one by Tim Teufel, three by Tony Gwynn) and two in 1996 (Craig Shipley and Steve Finley).

Adrian Gonzalez is the first and only to collect six hits (Gene Richards, Joe Lefebvre, and Gwynn all have accomplished the feat in extra innings). Here is the complete list of Padres who have knocked at least five hits in a nine-inning game:

  • Leron Lee
  • Mike Ivie
  • Dave Winfield (x2)
  • Gene Richards
  • Kevin McReynolds
  • Tony Gwynn (x6)
  • Benito Santiago
  • Tim Teufel
  • Craig Shipley
  • Steve Finley
  • Wally Joyner
  • Ryan Klesko
  • Brian Giles
  • Mark Loretta
  • Josh Bard
  • Adrian Gonzalez
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff

The six most recent instances have come on the road. Gwynn was the last to do it at home (April 28, 1998, against the Cubs), although Loretta had five hits in a 15-inning contest against Arizona almost exactly seven years later.

Wed, Aug 12 at Mil
  PA OB TB Tot
Headley 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 1 0 2
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Totals 3 3 0 6

Caught the tail end of this one. Yet another blown call, this time by first base umpire Dana DeMuth on a ball hit by Craig Counsell up the middle. Eckstein makes a terrific backhanded stab and throws to first for the final out of the seventh. DeMuth calls Counsell safe and the inning continues, with the Brewers scoring two more runs.

The key blow comes on a drive off the bat of Prince Fielder. He “doubles” over the head of Headley, who breaks directly across from left toward center field but forgets to go back, where the ball is hit. Headley jumps at the last moment, which proves as hilarious as it is ineffective.

Mike Adams and Heath Bell quell late threats to preserve the 6-5 victory. Bell gets Mike Cameron to pop out to third base on his third full-count fastball with a runner at third to end the game.

Thu, Aug 13 at Mil
  PA OB TB Tot
Headley 1 1 0 2
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Hundley 1 0 0 1
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Totals 4 3 0 7

Hundley makes his first start since June 17. Cesar Carrillo makes his big-league debut, and it isn’t pretty. He serves up three homers. My thoughts after each:

  1. Well, okay, that’s Prince Fielder; he does that.
  2. Mike Rivera? As in the guy that couldn’t even serve as Gary Bennett’s backup in 2003, when the Padres lost 98 games?
  3. I’m following along online; are we sure that’s not Josh Geer out there?

It’s only one start, but his minor-league numbers weren’t good this year either, so I’m not holding out much hope. As always, I would love to be wrong.

Still, there are some positives from this game:

  • After falling behind, 9-0, the Padres send the tying run to the plate (Venable) in the eighth. They end up losing, 12-9, but it’s good to see some fight.
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff goes 5-for-5. He finishes 11-for-13 in the series. I hope other teams noticed.

On the downside, Trevor Hoffman finally solved Gwynn. A little late there, buddy.

Fri, Aug 14 at StL
  PA OB TB Tot
Headley 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 1 0 2
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Totals 3 3 0 6

And then you face a playoff-bound team. Sven Jenkins at Hardball Times predicted Latos would struggle against patient Cardinals hitters, and that is exactly what happened.

Sat, Aug 15 at StL
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 1 0 2
Headley 1 1 0 2
Venable 1 1 0 2
Totals 3 3 0 6

I missed all but a few innings of the series in St. Louis. It depresses me to see a city support its team like that. On the bright side, I walked 3 1/2 miles along Mission Bay without any knee pain.

Sun, Aug 16 at StL
  PA OB TB Tot
Cabrera 1 0 0 1
Headley 1 1 0 2
Blanks 1 1 0 2
Totals 3 2 0 5

The Padres lose on a walkoff homer, but reader Pat passes along this postgame quote from Heath Bell that is just money:

Bell took a ground ball off his right leg earlier in the inning on a comebacker by Mark DeRosa but wouldn’t use that as an excuse.

“Yeah, it was throbbing but I blocked it out pretty good,” Bell said. “I was surprised how big it was when I took my pants off.”

Uh… So, how’s the leg?

Individual Totals
  8/10-8/16 Since ASB
  PA OB TB Tot B% PA OB TB Tot B%
Blanks 3 3 0 6 .500 21 12 6 39 .462
Venable 4 4 1 9 .556 20 11 6 37 .459
Headley 6 6 0 12 .500 26 16 2 44 .409
Cabrera 6 5 0 11 .455 29 15 4 48 .396
Macias 0 0 0 0 - 2 0 0 2 .000
Hundley 1 0 0 1 .000 1 0 0 1 .000
Totals 20 18 1 39 .487 99 54 18 171 .421
  End Eff Pwr Tot End Eff Pwr Tot
Latos 0 0 0 0 4 2 2 8


Weekly Totals
  Week Since ASB
  G PA OB TB End Eff Pwr Tot T/G G Tot T/G
7/16-7/19 4 12 3 1 0 1 0 17 4.25 4 17 4.25
7/20-7/26 7 21 8 4 1 0 0 34 4.86 11 51 4.64
7/27-8/2 7 22 13 7 1 1 0 44 6.29 18 95 5.28
8/3-8/9 7 24 12 5 2 1 1 45 6.43 25 140 5.60
8/10-8/16 6 20 18 1 0 0 0 39 6.50 31 179 5.77