Ledge? What Ledge?

Getting swept by the Dodgers over the weekend sucked almost as much as the fact that Petco Park has become a de facto second home for the team from Los Angeles. It’s a wonder that MLB doesn’t require them to bat last when they come to town.

On a brighter note, isn’t the National League West turning out to be fun? Except for the Diamondbacks, who appear to have boarded the wrong bus, each team has shown the ability to stick it to the others. That’s pretty cool. Maybe not as cool as having a team that can run away with the division or even draw its own crowd, but still pretty cool.

One of the problems so far in May is that the Padres offense has disappeared:

Mon  G  BA   OBP  SLG  R/G
Apr 23 .248 .325 .387 4.61
May 15 .217 .314 .304 3.13

Scott Hairston (.250/.380/.500 in 50 PA) and David Eckstein (.313/.411/.396 in 57 PA) are the only guys doing anything. Hairston is hurt, and do you really want Eckstein carrying the offense?

Still, the Padres are 8-7 this month because for as brilliant as the pitching was in April, it has gotten even better:

Mon    IP  ERA   BA  OBP  SLG
Apr 207.0 3.00 .232 .303 .360
May 139.1 2.13 .190 .268 .283

Such improvement is not only improbable, it’s unsustainable. That’s not a knock on the pitching staff, which is much better than anyone had a right to expect (remember that 85 ERA+ last year?), just an acknowledgment that their current 140 ERA+ is ridiculous. I don’t know what the all-time single-season team record is for ERA+, but here are the top five performances of the past 20 years:

Year Team ERA+ Wins
2002  Atl  133  101
1997  Atl  131  101
1999  Atl  129  104
1998  Atl  128  106
2003   LA  128   85

Unless you believe that Jon Garland, Mat Latos, Clayton Richard, and Wade LeBlanc are better than Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and my Aunt Ruth, there’s no way the Padres can keep this going. At some point they need help from the hitters. Otherwise, they may well end up like the 2003 Dodgers, who managed a 79 OPS+ and whose offense was basically [Brian] Jordan, [Shawn] Green, and nothing between. Replace Jordan and Green with Hairston and Adrian Gonzalez, and you’ve got a less snappy version of the same thing.

To the lightning round:

  • I’ve preached patience but I’m starting to have concerns about Kyle Blanks. He is 3-for-34 with 17 strikeouts this month and hitting .157/.283/.324 on the season. Worse, he is missing hittable pitches. I still don’t know that he’s got much to learn at Triple-A, but there’s something to be said for letting a young player work out his troubles away from the spotlight.
  • I recently said of Tony Gwynn Jr. that “I love what [he] is doing so far. I still have serious reservations based on his larger body of work, but he is proving to be a tough out.” I should have kept my mouth shut. He is hitting .130/.200/.174 in May and .194/.306/.269 on the season. That’s a far cry from our preseason guess of .264/.335/.353 (and even farther from my less optimistic personal guess of .253/.317/.313). In 820 career plate appearances, Gwynn now owns a line of .254/.330/.320. That’s roughly what Eckstein did last year at age 34.
  • Reader LynchMob asked me to help Padres fans off the ledge after the weekend sweep. I don’t know about that, but here are a couple of questions to consider:
    • Did anyone expect the Padres to have a .605 winning percentage 38 games into the season?
    • Did anyone expect the Padres to survive 2010 without a single three-game losing streak?

    Beyond the fact that the hitters aren’t doing anything, I don’t see a problem. I mean, that is a problem, but it’s nothing new. To be perfectly frank, I don’t see a ledge so there’s nothing I can do to help. Hope that helps.

Latos and Jonathan Sanchez square off again Tuesday night. Should be a good one.

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14 Responses »

  1. While it always stinks to get swept by the Dodgers, we were in every game. I think our pitching should keep us in most games throughout the year, and with Young and Stauffer out, we have 2 guys that can help us when they get back.

    The offense is certainly a concern, more so than at the beginning of the year. We are getting little production from the outfield, and now that Scott Hairston is out, that has gone to zero. We obviously can’t send both Blanks and Gwynn to AAA, but what are the possibilities of signing someone like Dye? To me, it seems the biggest obstacle is finding a spot for him on the 40 man roster.

    Gonzo has been good, but not great, and with Headley cooling off and Cabrera just getting back into the mix, we desperately need another bat.

    Great columns as always!
    Take care,


  2. The interesting thing about Gwynn Jr. is that his walk rate is still pretty a good–a healthy 12.7%, which is up from 10.6% last year.

    His BABIP is low (.230) so it seems like he’s getting unlucky, but then you look at his batted ball stats, and he’s hitting way more fly balls (40.8% vs. 29.7% last year) and fewer line drives (18.3% vs. 24.1% last year), and because he doesn’t have the power to make those fly balls extra base hits or home runs, he’s seeing most of the balls he puts into play turn into outs.

    He needs to start making better contact and hitting more line drives, otherwise his BABIP isn’t going to turn around, and he won’t turn around either.

  3. I’m not opposed to letting Blanks continue to work on his swing at the MLB level… but he’s only got ’til June 1st! He probably needs to start rebuilding his confidence in Portland.

    Aside from the AG hr there were only a couple other balls hit really HARD last night. Chris Denorfia’s single in the 8th was a rocket. I don’t know what that means. I just hate seeing such meekly hit balls throughout the night.

  4. re: Blanks, Tony Gwynn was talking about his long swing and how Blanks needs to shorten his swing to go through the hitting zone faster. That seems to be in line with the replay shown for his swings last night. Time to hit off the tee, Kyle.

    Hey, if Greg Vaughn got fixed by talking hitting with Tony, Kyle can certainly try a pointer or two. OTOH, there’s no fixing Junior, and now that Scott is on the DL, Junior might be playing more… sigh. Hey, maybe, Denorfia gets to play more than I think he would.

    About last night’s game, that baserunning Headley did to get the extra base off the throw after singling Eck to 3rd was great. Venable getting picked off wasn’t.

    Looking forward to the battle of adjustments tonight. Woohoo!

  5. Tom Garfinkel was on the radio Monday and said that the ratio of non-LA (so, SD mostly?) to LA fans, based on zip code information from ticket sales, was 70%/30%. He said they had group promotions every day during the series in order to stack the deck with Padres fans.

    I went Sunday, and it sure seemed like it worked. It was Little League day; he said they had 10,000 from that alone. The Encinitas Little League was one of about 10 or so, and I felt like I was at the Encinitas Street Fair, or a gigantic PTA meeting–it’s weird seeing so many people you know at a place like Petco.

    He also said that it probably seemed like it was 50% (or more) Dodger fans, because they had more opportunities to cheer loudly.

    Looking forward to when we play ‘em in LA. Could be different, especially if we can figure out how these “bat” things work.

  6. @Josh – You don’t want Dye. His horrid defense will more than cancel out any offense he’d be able to provide, and we can’t hide him in the DH spot.

  7. Definitely stinks to get swept by the hated dodgers, but agree about the absence of a ledge. Am absolutely befuddled and amazed by the performance of our SP. Am still convinced it won’t last. Hopefully we will get some improvement in offense to provide some offset if/when their performance does regress.

  8. On another forum, I offered the idea Blanks should start in AAA and that it was far from a foregone conclusion he was can’t miss to be a stud this season. His sample last season was so small and so brief he never even made it through the league once. To me, with the club going nowhere, it made sense to let him learn the OF, and avoid starting his service clock, at Portland. I was dismissed as a crackpot, as I usually am on that forum. :-) Still seems like a reasonable strategy to me at this point, although with Hairston out, our hands may be tied.

  9. If we added another bat to the team I would be happy. that’s all. just one more quality bat.

  10. Finally lost one to the Giants. The Padres outscored them 27-16 for a 7-1 record so far (and won’t see them again until August). Against other opponents, the Padres record is merely 16-15.
    The rest of May will see which team the Padres are, the one with dominant pitching or the one with so-so .500 offense.

    The thing is, when June comes around, and the Padres are still playing about .500 against non-Giants opponents, should there really be a push to get another hitter? I’m of the thought that the Padres should stay put (and stay away from terrible Dye) and perhaps send Blanks down, bring up other AAA OF who’s hitting. Add from within the organization for at least a month to see if the offense improves enough to make up for the pitching that’s due for regression.

    It sure has been fun to be in first place but when that position is attained so far by the sole domination of one team, the Padres should not be hasty in thinking of pushing for the playoff this year by adding a rental player.

  11. @Josh: Thanks, glad you enjoyed. As for Dye, with his poor defense and general lack of mobility, I don’t think he’s a good fit for Petco Park at all. I’m not against adding a bat, but Dye doesn’t strike me as the answer.

    @Zach: I started calling Gwynn “4-3″ last year because it seemed like he was always hitting grounders to second. This year I’m calling him “F7″ because it seems like he’s always hitting weak fly balls to left field.

    @Didi: Good call on Headley’s baserunning.

    @Pat: I thought Blanks was a good bet to disappoint due to such lofty expectations, but in my wildest dreams, I didn’t imagine him being this bad. By getting off to a strong start, the Padres have placed themselves in an awkward position. It is difficult to justify emphasizing development when you’re in first place.

  12. GY … thanks for the reminder … there is no ledge … there is no ledge … after all, what a funny concept to get freaked out by a 3-game losing streak that results in still being in 1st place!!!

  13. Great nugget on our record against non-Giants opponents Didi!

  14. @11: I always thought Brian Giles was 4-3…