Axis: Cold as Glove

James Dean died before he had the chance to make lousy movies. Same with Jimi Hendrix and music. Had Hendrix lived on, he probably would have done great things; then again, he might have ended up singing the theme song from Mannequin (with Dean playing Phil Rubenstein’s part in the film, no doubt).

Instead, we remember our heroes in their glory. We remember the flawless execution, the poise, the sheer beauty and grace. Dean and Hendrix never got old, awkward, unsure of themselves.

I prefer to remember the 2010 Padres in their glory, when they possessed the finest attributes of our heroes’ youth. The team I saw Tuesday night (likely for the last time in person this year; playoff tickets arrived on Monday, but those just seem cruel right now — I may not even open the envelope) bore no resemblance to the team I watched for five months.

Analysis? Sure: Everything went wrong, and it sucked.

The current Padres are the ones the world expected to see in April and May. It was good of them to delay their arrival until the end of August, but at some point, the inevitable will happen — that’s what makes it inevitable.

The hitters are swinging over the top of sliders. The pitchers are tired and leaving balls up in the zone. The fielders are kicking and throwing things all over the place. It would be easy to say the team is panicking, but I don’t think that’s it. These guys just look gassed.

Still, Bud Black coaxed his young, inexpensive troupe of players to a remarkable season. If only it had ended after 125 games… or if the Padres had gotten to call the National League Central home… or if this were 2008, when 84 wins paced the NL West…

Fantasies are fun. Sometimes they last months at a time… or take the form of creepy fiberglass figures.

Concession speech? Epitaph? Maybe a grocery list; we’re running short on a few items over here:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Baseball

On the bright side, the Padres will finish the 2010 campaign with somewhere between the second and seventh most wins in a single season in franchise history. And hey, even Kim Cattrall managed to recover from Mannequin, although it’s worth noting she didn’t appear in the sequel… replaced by Kristy Swanson, who once “starred” in a TV movie called The Black Hole, which could serve as a metaphor for many things…

Results, Odds, Matchups

Hi there, and welcome to your morning exercise in futility. Please enjoy:

  • Atl 3, Fla 2 – In 1988, a friend and I drove across the Florida panhandle. We took I-10 all the way to the end in Jacksonville, then hung a left and cruised up the Atlantic coast, eventually veering off to Cooperstown, where I bought baseball cards of Sandy Alomar Jr., Mark Grace, Mike Greenwell, and one other guy I forget. Irrelevant? Perhaps, but then, so are the Marlins. Thanks for nothing, guys.
  • SF 4, Ari 2 – I’ve been to Arizona many times. It’s like Florida, only drier and with drive-through liquor stores.

Current playoff odds (again no update from Baseball Prospectus, presumably out of respect for the fallen Padres):

Tm   W-L  BPro Cool
SF  89-68      90.6
Atl 89-69      90.4
SD  87-70      19.1

Movement over the course of the past several days:

    9/26 9/27 9/28 9/29
SF  64.7 81.1
Atl 68.0 54.1
SD  72.9 64.4

    9/26 9/27 9/28 9/29
SF  64.7 83.0 83.5 90.6
Atl 68.0 59.8 76.9 90.4
SD  66.2 57.0 39.6 19.1

Wednesday’s matchups (try not to laugh):

  • Fla @ Atl, Andrew Miller vs Derek Lowe, 1:35 p.m. PT
  • ChN @ SD, Randy Wells vs Chris Young, 7:05 p.m. PT
  • Ari @ SF, Ian Kennedy vs Tim Lincecum, 7:15 p.m. PT

Go Padres, go Marlins, go Diamondbacks, go away.

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24 Responses »

  1. Frickety friggin frick frick.

    It’s often unfair to criticize a manager’s tactical decisions. We already know what didn’t pan out and we tend to overrate the chances of another option’s success. But why let Latos hit in the 5th last night?

    Let’s roll off 5 straight wins.

  2. Serious mismanagement by Pepe Negro in game 2 v. Cubs; he went back to the same trick that got the fans concerned whenever there’s a need for short leashes.

    Latos, who has been scuffling the past 3 games, made a mental error that led to an extra out for the Cubs. Another error by Tejada led to the Cubs scoring 2 runs. Somehow, Hundley tied the game, and Ice-in-pants got a single. Up came Latos’ spot to hit and he wasn’t lifted for a PH, having been nicked by plenty of infield hits and giving a good 5 IP. After 5 innings, the game was tied.

    In the 6th inning, without having the bullpen ready to step in at the first sign of trouble, Latos gave up a hit and then a HR on the first pitch to Soriano. Game over. Latos still pitched and pitched. Pepe should have been ready with the bullpen. Heck, that’s the strength of the team; why not use it, especially with Latos having pitched many innings and having been less effective in the last few starts?

    The bullpen ended up giving up a HR but the Padres could have been in better position to make a comeback given how adequately Marmol pitched in the 9th in game 1 & 2.

    At this point, I’d sit Latos the rest of the season with perhaps a possibility of pitching 3 innings in relief. Why not start Luebke, LeBlanc, or Correia? Together they can certainly win a game at Petco. Heck, Mujica can string together a good 4 innings of work.

    And sit Ludwick down. The man is useless both at the plate and in the field. Let Cunningham/Denorfia do or die. I’ve seen enough of subpar defense with subpar offense. If the Padres are going to go with the subpar offense (only Gonzalez, Venable, and Tejada have hit this month), at least make sure the defense is better than above average.

    To get to the postseason, the Padres are going to have to win the next 5 games; let’s start by putting the best run-prevention unit out there, scoring be darned.

  3. Yes, Didi, unfortunately I have to agree with you on all your points. Ludwick seemed like a great pickup at the time, but he has been really poor on this team. I want to see Cunningham, Durango and Denorfia (barring the return of Venable) in the outfield. I do not want to see TG Jr or Ludwick at the plate again this season. When Ludwick comes up, that’s when rallies die.

    That being said, I am not ready to throw in the towel yet! We have 3 against the Giants to end the season, let’s take these two from the Cubs and those three from the Giants and head for October. We still control our fate! We just need to play clean baseball and put the players into the lineup that are performing and remove those that are not, regardless of veterancy, age, stature, etc…

    GO PADS!

  4. Thanks for the reminder of what the team used to be back in Jul and Aug, a scrappy bunch of over-achievers that played the game right, pitching and defense, stealing bases. Close games, under the radar. That was fun.

    Now please return to your cubicles, heavy equipment, squad cars, classrooms. The show is over.

    Fork, meet the SD Padres.

  5. Padres still have hope, but they aren’t playing at the level that got them to where they are today.

    I look at yesterday’s game (9/28) and even when they were down 4-2 in the 7th it was 1st and 2nd, no outs. I was screaming for Hundley to bunt even though he had the homer earlier. With their recent struggles, I think they need to go back to manufacturing runs and not rely on the big hit to get them by. It seems like lots of hitters are trying too hard to drive the ball and just striking out. With 2nd and 3rd, 1 out, the pressure should go to the pitcher more than the batter, but whenever a Padre was batting it appeared as if they were always the ones under pressure.

    I hope Black can pull them together to finish strong vs the Cubs and setup a chance to win in San Fran.

  6. Agree with above comments. Ludwick is useless at the plate and doesn’t have enough range for Petco outfield. Gwynn has hit nothing but fly balls all year. Black should have learned his lesson after he let Richard bat on Sunday in the fifth and then turn around and got hammered in the sixth. Latos is gassed and can’t go more than five innings; if he starts again, the bullpen must be ready at all times. Also, Stairs, although at least hitting, is a liability in the outfield. My outfield: Denorfia RF, Durango CF, Cunningham LF.

    Disagree with thought that Pads will win five. Probably lucky to win two.

  7. Don’t get so discouraged, guys. There’s still both the division and the wild card, and at this point, either one is fine, just so we don’t have a playoff game. The Braves have 4 games left, 3 with the Phils. Surely, the Phils won’t let us down.

  8. I’m all for “put the players into the lineup that are performing” … but do the Padres have 8 of them?

    I like Didi’s proposal … put in the performing hitters … then put in the best gloves … I guess that’s just another way to say “not Ludwick” …

  9. So frustrating… All the doubters are being proven right.

  10. Hmmm… could another game 163 be in the plan for the Padres?

    Start winning tonight, Padres!

  11. It ain’t over till it’s over but the last week has exposed exactly how lucky the Padres have been up to this point. Monday night’s game was lost because the guys who were up at bat in crucial situations were guys who don’t seem to understand that when you play in a run-scarce environment, a walk is actually BETTER than a hit because a batted ball can be caught, while ball four cannot. Plus that walk takes another four pitches out of the pitcher and makes the next batter’s job easier. These flaws have been around all season, but because the pitching was so phenomenal, they didn’t bite before. Now the pitchers are getting tired but the offense isn’t able to step it up a notch to help out. If we hadn’t gotten lucky with Tejada finding the fountain of youth somewhere around La Jolla, this week wouldn’t count at all.

    The entire Padres organization needs to be remade to stock the team with players who: a) play good defense, b) are fast enough to maximize what every base hit offers, and c) KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE OPPOSING PITCHER WORK FOR EVERY OUT. A team that can do this will win games it ought to lose in Petco and will be well-positioned to play well on the road as well. We already have the perfect manager for that kind of team. Look for every move made by the front office over the next six months to be in that direction. Fortunately, our GM comes from an organization which understands (c) completely.

  12. Runners at 1st and 2nd, no outs, down 2 runs, and we do not bunt them over… letting Hundley swing and even though he had hit one out previously, he k’s looking awful… why the “hey” do we not bunt????? Can the dugout really get this team to the second season? Let’s go Pads, 5-0 here on out!

  13. Holy cow, Will Venable!!! The park was jazzed after he jumped to get that long flyout the first time. That second robbery got the place rocking and the players were slapping gloves with Venable as he got back to the dugout, not the least of which was Chris Young waiting right at the steps. Then, he chased after a long foul by the visitor’s bullpen mound and made the catch look easy. Hope his back holds up after the two flying robberies he performed.

    Torrealba with the bunt, wow. Nice surprise for the defense there; getting thrown out at third, not so good. However, with CY coming up to bat, maybe okay had Yorvit run all the way from first without slowing down around second.

    Fukudome made a nice move on CY’s long hard hit. Soriano was generous to give Headley his single.

    All in all, it was the team that resembled the earlier version. I still don’t like Ludwick. Didn’t look too good at the plate and that one long flyout that he had to track backward was worrying.

    Let’s get them again tomorrow afternoon, Padres.

  14. TOB – it’s a good reminder that some people think more bunting is better … but I’m still not one of them … and remember, “letting Hundley swing” is not the only other option; there’s always “the take sign” :-)

  15. @11 That’s like saying the neighborhood bar needs to be stocked like a bar in a beer commercial, with sports-crazy supermodels who find schlubby guys attractive. There just aren’t that many players who have that combination of physical talents. The team has several league-average hitters who play good defense and run the bases well. The team as a whole is above-average at drawing walks, even though they play 81 games in a park that provides incentives for the opposing pitcher to throw strikes. Moving from average to great is a lot harder than moving from bad to average. The offense does need to get better, unquestionably, but an effort to remake the entire organization isn’t practical (due to cost, both salary and trades) or necessary. A 2011 outfield of Cunningham, Venable, and a resurgent Ludwick in LF would be a good start.

    @12 Calls to bunt typically assume that the hitter gets it down, the runners advance, and the advanced runners will later score on a hit. Not all hitters are good bunters, not all bunts work out, and they’re not all followed by hits. Even Gwynn, the team’s best bunter, has failed at times. It can be a good tactic, but the way the Padres have been “hitting,” it’s questionable whether we’re more likely to get even a single out of the next two batters. In that specific case, the next two batters struck out themselves.

    Win today, SF loses, we need 2 of 3 in SF to force a tie. Have to figure the Braves take at least 1 from Philly, which would make it a threesome, but not the fun kind. Still alive, but man, those 8 losses to ARI and 12 to COL loom large now.

  16. TW, thanks for bringing some perspective. I’d like to buy you a beer at my neighborhood bar, which oddly enough is full of sports-crazy supermodels who find schlubby guys attractive. ;-)

  17. I have never seen a team go through a playoff race like this and have a different lineup every night. How in the world is no one talking about this? I’m on the east coast and out of the the local markets so maybe this is a big deal out west. But how can Black expect the same results every night when he has different players every night. I would love to see a stat that has the Padres having the same lineup in consecutive nights. You wonder why the Yankees and Rays have consistent and predictable success? (again I’m on the east coast and this was the best example I could come up with). With those teams, the guys show up to the ballpark and know they are playing. That makes for a great team, not a team that is throwing pieces of the puzzle around all the time.

  18. I feel surprisingly good about our chances, the situation just reminds me a lot of ’96, which is basically the season that made me a lifelong baseball fan. Yes, we need Atlanta to flub it against the Phils, and we need a superstar’s younger brother to chip in with a big hit (what’s Edgar doing these days?), but at least our fate is in our hands, in a ballpark where we’ve played well this year. Anyway, I have a flight to catch to SF; I’ll probably be the only guy in the stands wearing a Padres hat.

  19. @15 It’s been a while since I posted here, but the past couple of days have got me thinking about next season already. As terrible as Ludwick has been, I do think he’s going to make this team next year, simply because the Padres don’t have many other options right now. That being the case, he does need to move to LF. And I am absolutely fine continuing the Venable experiment in CF. Now we just need to find a LH OF to pair with Cunningham, and we should be looking at a decent OF. Now where to find a whole new middle infield…

  20. @Tom Waits: Your 2011 outfield of Cunningham, Venable, and Ludwick leaves out this year’s starting left fielder. Have you forgotten about Kyle Blanks? Or do you see him at first base next year, and Adrian elsewhere?

  21. Man, oh, man, Adrian. What kind of hack was that you took when you were ahead 2-0 with 2 runners on base and no out?
    I’d rather you’d bunted. That was a terrible AB. I know, they won’t pitch to you but you don’t have to help them make outs. Do you really want to go to Chicago that badly? All those errors and mental mistakes. See, this is why you should take a day off every now and then during the season. The same thing happened last year except there was no race for the division.

    Mr. Ludwick the Meek, would you consider getting more hits than just the 4 in your last 38 ABs? Coz, really your glove is just something you put on your left hand on the field. Maybe bring a bat with you instead of a glove so you can practice swinging between pitches.

    Mr. Headley, feel free to choke up the bat, would you? Your K rate is astronomical this month.

    Mr. Gritty, please bring your grit to the PhoneCo. Park and show them that you still have it like it’s 2002.

    Mr. Stairs, should you ever get an AB again, feel free to swing at the pitch instead of watching the third strike like you’ve done so many times. It’s okay to strike out swinging, really, you may get lucky and make contact.

    Mr. Torrealba, please stop trying to steal, you are not good at it. Your career high has been reached, let’s not try to smash it.

    Mr. Gwynn, Jr. please stop trying to hit HR (your hand is still healing), it’s not in your cards this year. Use your strike zone judgment to your advantage. A walk is good; then, you can steal 2nd, just don’t get picked off. Remember, you were so good in the early part of this season at those things.

    Mr. Venable, you were excellent. Please, continue to be with your glove and your bat and your baserunning. Yeah, those outside pitches are hard to lay off. It’s ok.

    To the pitching staff, it’s been a frustrating month, right? You do your part and the offense doesn’t do theirs. I understand if you decide to just quit now. But, you haven’t. Look at how close the team was to winning in these last 4 games. Please, hold on just a bit longer.

    Mr. Black, I know you are an even-tempered guy, but it’s okay if you want to chew out some people for not having good ABs, or not executing bunts, or getting picked off. Just please, even though it’s against your religion, have short leash on some of the pitchers. It’s late in the season, the days are shorter now, twilight comes earlier, the body is tired, the arm a bit more sore. There’s plenty of pitching, use it; don’t worry about hurting feelings. Be prudent, put the team on the best path to winning games. Don’t let Latos pitch more than 4-5 innings even if he’s perfect.


    Go Padres!

  22. @Pat

    I’ve been looking for that bar for 21 years.


    It’s easier to have a set lineup when you have a lot of good hitters who are performing well. Black has stuck with several struggling players. Ludwick, Eckstein, Headley, even (gasp) Gonzalez have come to the ballpark every day for the past month knowing they’re going to play. I’m not saying that some players wouldn’t benefit from the certainty, but it’s not a cure-all. If anything, I’d say Black has been too concerned with keeping certain players in the lineup day-after-day. We’ve discussed Ludwick at length, but given Eckstein’s September swoon (514 OPS), would it have been so bad for Cabrera or Salazar to get a few starts at 2b?

    @Larry Faria

    I wouldn’t let Blanks play LF to start next year. His arm won’t be 100% and we’ll need him to take over for Adrian in 2012 — possibly in July 2011. Put him at 1b in AAA. You can bring him up if circumstances demand it mid-year.

  23. @Didi

    Yesterday evening is one of maybe three times I’ve ever been disappointed in Adrian. He looked like you couldn’t drive a nail into his sphincter with a sledgehammer. It was as bad as Hundley’s check-swing against Marmol in game 1.

  24. I agree with TW. The lack of a set lineup doesn’t bother me. There have been some teams that were very successful using that approach. I seem to remember Torre doing quite a bit of that in 1996 with the Yankees. LF, 3B, 2B, DH, and catcher were all platoons, and the lineup was shuffled around quite a bit. The 1989 Cubs are another example.