Positive Negative Man

In my experience, things usually are neither as bad nor as good as they seem to be. When the Padres lost 99 games in 2008, many people abandoned hope. I wasn’t one of them and predicted 75 wins in 2009, which is precisely what we got. (In the interest of full disclosure, I’d predicted 87 wins in ’08, which was… a little less precise.)

I’m on record as doubting that the Padres will reach the playoffs this year. The talent isn’t there yet, and I try not to make a habit of lying about such things. If you cannot look at a situation honestly, what is the point?

Still, with a few notable exceptions, e.g., the apparent movement away from Latin America, I like where this organization is headed. Although it may take a while to get there (the whole ownership transition thing didn’t help), the Padres are moving in the right direction. I’m prepared for another 70-75 win season (which shouldn’t be bad enough to cost anyone their job [h/t Jacob in the comments] given the pieces that are in place), but I’m also prepared to enjoy watching the kids do their thing and, with luck, develop the skills necessary to be a part of the next contending team in San Diego.

I can’t remember if I’ve said this out loud or only in my head (harder to tell the difference as I get older), but this team reminds me a bit of those Cleveland Indians squads from the early-’90s: first-time manager, talented young players that haven’t quite made their mark. The comparison works best if you don’t think about it too hard.

Back in the here and now, when I look at the quality of teams in the NL West, I don’t see the Padres battling for much more than fourth place. At the same time, I see seven of eight projected regulars either currently in or still approaching their primes. Not all of them will fulfill their potential, but some will, and that’s a start. (Don’t tell anyone, but now that he’s back at his natural position, I have a non-quantifiably positive feeling about Chase Headley; my tentative projection for him this year is .279/.356/.451, but we’ll discuss that in more detail later, when we compile the IVIEs.)

The pitching staff is young as well (Heath Bell is 32, Mike Adams is 31, Chris Young and new addition Jon Garland are 30; everyone else on the 40-man is in their twenties), and we’ve noted that Bud Black seems to be a good fit for such a staff. Again, being young and talented is not the same as being productive and valuable, but some of these guys could end up making a difference in the future, when it matters. In 2010, I’m hoping we’ll learn which ones.

This is going to be fun. Not the losing so much, but the theater of watching young men struggle to achieve mastery of their chosen profession and to become something greater than they are.

Hope is good. Keep it stashed in your back pocket, don’t let it sweep you away. If you’re not careful, you might end up enjoying yourself.

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11 Responses »

  1. Good post GY; however, I disagree that the Padres will battle it out with the D-Backs for fourth place. With the few key additions the Padres made (Shrek and Garland), I really think this team has a chance to break .500 this year. This team won 75 games last season with an atrocious rotation for most of the year; sure, CY may get hurt again and the clock may strike midnight and turn Correia back into a pumpkin but at least this year the Padres will not be replacing them with Walter Silva and Chad Gaudin. I think the Padres will end up battling it out with the Rockies or Dodgers (I don’t see both teams making it over .500) for third place in the division.

  2. Color me optimistic, but I see a good chance that the Padres run out 5-8 starters with ERAs between 3.70 and 4.30 this season (Young, Correia, Richard, Latos, Garland, Stauffer, Gallagher, LeBlanc), as well as perhaps putting together the best bullpen in all of baseball (Bell, Adams, Thatcher, Webb, Russell, Gregerson, Mujica, Burke). If Blanks and Headley hit well enough around A-Gon, that pitching consistency will have the team competing for the Wild Card.

  3. I share Steve C.’s optimistic take. I imagine the usual surges and slumps, but by September, I could see this team at or even above .500. The pitching staff seems much more deep in talent than last year’s. This team finished last year playing very well and that squad is pretty much still intact with a few helpful additions.

    Headley is definitely a player to watch. I got to think this is a make or break year, with the club saying, we opened third base for you, it is now time to step up or we make other plans.

  4. @Ryan: I hope you are right; I have all those starters in the 4.30 – 4.70 range.

    @Michael: Agreed on Headley, including the make or break part. Darnell and Forsythe will put pressure on him sooner rather than later.

  5. It all hinges on the starting pitching. Rather than getting into plain ERA numbers, which not everybody gives the proper Petco adjustment for, I’ll say that:

    so much depends

    a 6’10″

    glazed with Icy

    atop the pitching

  6. WCW FTW. Well played, sir. Wheelbarrows for everyone!

  7. Many questions: How will the “rookies”: Blanks, Venable, and Cabrera do given a full season as big league starters. If they do what they showed in the 2nd half of ’09, then that is good. Can the Pads win without a #1 or maybe even #2 starter? Correia and Garland should be good middle-rotation guys who will chew up a lot of innings and hopefully finish at or above .500. Young and Latos are wild-cards. If Young can even stay healthy for a whole season (unlikely), could he regain his early-2007 form? Or, more likely, he’ll go about 8-10 with a 4.60 ERA. Is Latos ready to step up and be a big leaguer? He has the stuff to be a #1 or #2, but he is young and he’s got a bad temper. I don’t know what to think about him. He could be the ace of the staff in a year or two, or he could flame out and be forgotten by 2012. Then we have Richard, LeBlanc, and Stauffer. At least 2 of these guys, probably all 3 will get some good time with the Pads this year. The one I’m most enthusiastic about is Richard, but LeBlanc showed some good life at the end of 2009. I think Stauffer is done. I don’t see any of these starters getting 15 wins this year, but I could imagine 3 of them getting double-digit wins.

    Relievers: Solid at the back end with Gregerson, Adams, and Bell. Decent in the middle with Mujica and Thatcher. Questionable at the fringes with guys like Burke, Webb, Adams, Poreda and bad with guys like Perdomo.

    Lineup: 1. Cabrera 2. Eckstein 3. Gonzalez 4. Blanks 5. S. Hairston 6. Venable 7. Headley 8. Hundley
    These guys are not going to set any offensive records, but should be able to keep the team in games, but the pitching will have to win the games. I expect a lot of 3-2 and 4-2 wins and rarely an 8-3 drubbing. There is plenty of speed in this lineup, something that the Pads have not had for a long time. I expect more stolen bases, which puts more pressure on opposing pitchers, which helps everything.

    Another wild card is Gonzalez. I expect him to be traded by July unless (and maybe even if) the Pads are contending. The fact is that the Pads are not going to pay him his free agent market value in 2011 and will want to get something in return. Blanks would probably move to first and Gwynn would get even more playing time. Bell might be gone too.

    Bench: Gwynn is going to start a lot of games as the #4 outfielder. Jerry Hairston is a solid back-up infielder. Should be better than Luis Rodriguez. Oscar Salazar showed some early signs of being a great hitter, and then faded. Matt Stairs pinch-hitting late in games? I don’t know enough about Cunningham, who came over in the Kouzmanoff trade, but he might be the #5 outfielder.

    Catcher: We haven’t really seen Hundley for a whole season yet. I like his fire and he’s got a little pop in his bat. He even steals a few bases. He can throw out base runners better than Josh Bard (so can I). It would be good to have a solid veteran back-up like Hank White. I was pulling for Ausmus as he’s been a fav of mine since his days on the Prince William Cannons (Class A – Carolina League) when I was in high school nearby.

    I expect them to win about 78 games which might get them 3rd place in the NL West. I expect the Rockies to win the West, D-Backs (1-2 punch of Webb and Haren will be scary) and Pads to be improved, Giants and Dodgers to be worse. The division should be competitive this year, though if the Rockies get off to a good start (which they have not done recently), they could run away with it.

  8. To throw it out there, Hoyer seemed to reinforce the team’s commitment to the DR facility at Town Hall meeting.

    Also, I can’t wait for the Padres to be the most dominate team in the league by the middle of the decade.

  9. @Geoff B: Solid assessment. I can’t disagree with any of what you say.

    @Ray: Thanks for the info on Hoyer and the DR; I certainly hope so after all the work they put into that facility.

  10. I like the optimism, but I don’t see us competing for a WC spot; still too many questions in the rotation and with the youngsters. 2011 looks promising though. I like what Hoyer has done this offseason. Good, solid, needed, budget-conscious moves.