Hey, I Can See the Off-Season from Here

I’ve been busy. Part of the reason is that I’ll be contributing to two forthcoming books: The Hardball Times Baseball Annual 2010 (due out in November) and John Burnson’s Graphical Player 2010 (due out in December). I can’t go into a lot of detail just yet because — well, I’m not done writing — but be sure to purchase those two fine tomes when you have a chance.

Meanwhile, I’m still watching the games and I do have some thoughts. They are more fragments than sentences, so today we’ll do the dreaded (eh, mon!) bullet points:

  • I don’t know what disturbs me more: that Adrian Gonzalez laid down a sacrifice bunt in Tuesday’s game or that in the process, he did something that Tony Gwynn Jr. twice failed to do a day earlier.
  • I could say more about Gwynn’s performance, but I said I’d leave him alone for now, and so I shall. I’m biting my tongue so hard that it’s bleeding. C’mon, man, suck it up; weak grounders to second can be fun.
  • Returning to Adrian for a moment, he could do something pretty crazy this year. As of this writing, he has 38 homers; the next three guys behind him have 39 (Kouzmanoff, 17; Chase Headley, 11; Will Venable, 11).
  • I offered my thoughts on Everth Cabrera over at Hardball Times a couple of weeks ago. He promptly went into a slump. I take full responsibility because I have control over such things. That and the weather. Sorry it’s been so friggin’ hot lately, especially for all y’all in the east county. Santucky represent.
  • Speaking of Kouz, there’s been talk that he deserves consideration for the Gold Glove award. Yes and no. If Rafael Palmeiro can win the thing while playing DH, then everyone deserves consideration. As for Kouz, his case rests on the fact that he has committed just three errors this season. Don’t get me wrong, that is some kind of freakish, but as Myron notes, a shiny fielding percentage doesn’t make Kouz a great third baseman. For my money, Kouz is a slightly above-average defender at third (which is better than he was when he got here; among other things, his throws don’t tail nearly as much as they once did) who has good hands and who comes in on the ball very well, but who doesn’t have a lot of lateral range. Also, he doesn’t hit enough to win the Gold Glove, but that’s another story.
  • I should say something about Kyle Blanks, whose season ended prematurely due to a foot injury. First off, how many guys can hit a ball over the 434-foot sign in dead center at whatever the ballpark in Miami is called despite not being able to plant on that back foot? That is just sick. Second… well, let me commandeer some words from a post that was supposed to happen a couple of weeks ago but that never quite materialized:

    Blanks got off to a strong start at Triple-A Portland, then struggled around the same time he started seeing action in left field. He came up to the big club in mid-June and, after a slow start, punished baseballs. Blanks sometimes has trouble making contact, but when you put up a 137 OPS+, all is forgiven; besides, he’ll work his way through that — he’s already making adjustments against pitchers, and the more he sees, the better he’ll get.

    Blanks also looks surprisingly comfortable at both corner outfield spots. Assuming the foot injury doesn’t have long-term implications, Blanks should continue to progress at the big-league level and be a serious force within the next few years.

    (Unrelated, but fun: Jason at IIATMS recently visited San Diego and had lunch with Blanks.)

  • If Eliezer Alfonzo is back in 2010, so help me. Dude makes Ruben Rivera’s swing look controlled.
  • Daniel likes what Kevin Correia has done for the Padres this year. So do I, in a Kevin Jarvis 2001 kind of way. I like that this team will have much better options for the pitching staff headed into next season. Some of these guys may take their lumps, because that is what happens to young players, but at least the talent is there.
  • Heath Bell blew a couple saves. Closers do that sometimes, you know.
  • I like the idea of giving Edward Mujica a few starts. He may not end up in the rotation next year, but flexibility is good. Mujica’s home run rate is high (as it was in Cleveland), but he is young, has good stuff, and throws strikes. Most teams can use a guy like that.
  • Whenever I see Luis Perdomo’s name, I think “perdido,” which means “lost” in Spanish. Before Perdomo appeared in a September 13 victory over Colorado, the Padres had been 2-28 in games in which he pitched. Prior to that game, he hadn’t been in a winning game since May 16 — and then, only because it lasted 16 innings. The Padres are now 4-30 in Perdomo’s appearances, as opposed to 64-52 when he doesn’t pitch. <logic=”faulty”>Imagine how good this team would be without him.</logic>
  • I’ve enjoyed watching Wade LeBlanc throw strikes. Bad things happen — like Eric Byrnes smacking a ball off the second deck facade of the Western Metal Building — when LeBlanc misses, but when the young southpaw works ahead in the count, he can bust out the nasty change-up and do damage. Some people gave up on LeBlanc based on his earlier trials, but with all the power arms now in the system, I kind of like him as an option at the back end of next year’s rotation to give opposing hitters a different look. He has little margin for error, but so have other successful pitchers. A lack of overwhelming velocity hasn’t kept, say, Doug Davis from having a career.
  • In The Hardball Times Season Preview 2009, I predicted that the Padres would win 75 games this year. I need them to go 7-5 the rest of the way to make me look smarter than I am. Hey, they’re 26-20 in August in September; it just might happen.

I’m out of bullets. That’s okay; I’m pretty sure it’s dead already.

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9 Responses »

  1. Thanks for coming back, Geoff. Missed ya.

    The only point I noticed you missed is that Blanks hit that crazy Miami home run and swung a lot easier than Ruben Rivera ever did.

    I know it means nothing, but I hold a secret hope that Adrian will hit 40 this year. That will hopefully help eclipse the knowledge that Phil Nevin was the last Padre to reach that plateau, and all reminiscence of his latter-day implosion.

    And as for the title, well… it’s bittersweet to end a year like this. Bitter because it’s hard to let go of baseball, even though it’s the right thing to do. Sweet because, unless the season lasts another month or two, the Padres won’t see the north side of .500 until (we hope) next April.

    It’s at this point that I’ll admit that a week ago, I counted up games remaining, and found that if the Pads went a Rockies-esque 18-3 to end the season, they could finish at .500. There went that dream, like so much smoke. On to better things.

  2. Always great to read your analysis. When will Chase Headley show a decent amount of power? Or will he ever? 900 PA’s into his MLB career and not much power at all. An overall career slugging % of .400 and 20 home runs in 2 years is disappointing. Many fans and friends in Padres land counter this disappointment by saying that he will eventually come around but I am not so sure. Any opinion? What more or less is the “totally lose patience” cut off as far as at plate appearances?

  3. I’m totally stoked at the way the Pads have played the past couple of months. In a recap from last night’s game I read they have won 12 of their past 16 series. That’s excellent, and they’re doing it with some fresh, young talent, which is very exciting!

    On Headley, I’d guess/predict he’ll never develop power in Petco, which is to say any power he does develop will be masked by the park he plays most of his games in. He’s not going to be Adrian Gonzalez and hit 30-40 HR with fantastic opposite field power.

    That being said, he is only 25 and in just his first full season this year and should improve over the next few years. He is hitting 2B at a good clip. I’d say he’s more likely to be a guy who hits a high number of 2B without great HR power. A gap hitter, if you will.

    If he can add about 20 points to his BA, hit betweeen 30-40 2B and between 10-20 HR, I’d be very, very happy. Given he’s hit between 30-40 2B and 10-20 HR already, I’m pretty happy right now. I guess my final answer is, I don’t expect much of an increase in power from him, but I would hope that he hits for higher average as he matures and gains big league experience.

    Oh yeah, and I’d be really, really pumped if he could draw a few more BB. It could happen.

  4. #2@TexPadre, #3@Pat: I could see Headley topping out in the 20-25 HR range, but yeah, he’s more of a doubles guy. If he tightens up his strike zone a bit, I’m envisioning a Kevin Millar/Lyle Overbay type of hitter, which is pretty valuable at third base.

  5. Headley: He used to get the Bill Mueller comp, which is decent but far from a perfect fit. Headley strikes out way more, but their walk rates are about the same.

    Corey Koskie is my current fave comp. He was consistently in the 115-120 OPS+ range in the AL, against a league average of 100; Chase looks to be headed for the 110 range against a league average of 94.

    There’s been plenty of talk about deciding between Headley and Kouzmanoff, and I’m of the opinion that you move Kouz this winter. The Hardball Times puts Headley second among NL left fielders in both RZR and OOZ plays, but….everybody else thinks he stinks in LF, and there’s a selection bias when you’re being ranked against Soriano, Lee, Ibanez, Anderson, et al. Kouz winning the Gold Glove would be patently unfair, but if it helps us net a better return….I’ll get over it.

  6. Overbay was actually the guy I was thinking of as a comp as well. I wouldn’t be surprised, if he stays in Petco, to see him hit between 20-25 in a career year. On average I think he’ll be lower than that, but that sounds about right as to where he might “top out” in Petco.

    Hm, if I weren’t an old USD English major, I would have just said, “I agree.” :-)

  7. Hey, did you guys know the Padres’ offense has been ok this year? A 95 OPS+, even. I was shocked to see that. Nick Hundley is up to 99, and Everth Cabrera is at 97. If those guys can sustain that sort of production, that’s a nice development for future Padres teams. And yeah, Headley has been looking good, and his 105 OPS+ plays well at third base. Now about that 84 ERA+…

    As an ardent defender of Trevor Hoffman (and obviously as a Padre fan), it’s great to see his success with the Brewers this year. He’s got 49 IP and a 229 ERA+, with 35 saves in 38 opportunities.

  8. #7@Ben B.: Yeah, Ben, I’ve been tracking that offensive OPS+ all year long and it finally got up to league average in August. I was curious because I still remember talking about the offense, pitching and Petco effects before the season with some folks here at DS. I thought the offense would be average or a litlle better, though it is masked by Petco, which is why using OPS+ would be helpful for taking park factor into account, but the pitching would be horrendous.

    Headley and Kouz were so brutal early on, not to mention Giles and various other positions struggling, that it took them over half the season to get to average, but they finally did. And the pitching has been horrendous (with some bright spots, admittedly :-) .

    I’m really looking forward to next year and seeing an OF of Blanks, Gwynn (I know, Geoff, not so much looking forward to Gwynn, but we’ll see what plays out :-) and Venable. Heck, maybe we’ll see Headley, Venable and Blanks in RF. Who knows?

    But those young guys are exciting and Cabrera is more than exciting! How many 22 year old SS make the jump from A ball to the bigs and put up league average offense, steal a bunch of bags at a high success rate and play solid to plus D? Not many!!!

  9. Speaking of exciting young players, Jaff Decker led the Midwest League in OPS by about 30 points! At 19!! The only other two players over .900 were 23 and 21!!! Man, I hope I get to see him play at Elsinore next year!

    I was also looking at pitching prospects, for obvious reasons, and was pleased to see what appear to be good young arms at Low A, High A and AA. Other than Leblanc, who we already know about, there is not much which looks to be ready to help next season, but there were a whole bunch of guys in the lower minors with excellent K rates and several of them had good K/BB rates to go along with the high K rate.

    Hopefully this signals a recognition on the organizations part that soft tossing guys with command are not the only sort of pitcher out there worth developing. More guys like Matt Latos who have power and an ability to strike out the side are important to big league success!