Fourth and Inches

The more I watch Ryan Ludwick, the more convinced I become that he does not belong in the National League West. During Sunday’s loss to the Reds, even as Dick Enberg and Mark Grant praised his effort on Jonny Gomes’ fourth-inning drive into the right-center field gap that glanced off Ludwick’s glove for a double, I couldn’t help but think that Will Venable catches that ball with ease.

Ludwick seems like a good guy, but his “I’ll get there when I get there” approach to playing right field doesn’t work at Petco Park, which requires someone with a center fielder’s range or close to it. If anyone else (okay, not Matt Stairs) is out there, Gomes’ ball is caught; the Reds then have a runner on first and two out, and Clayton Richard doesn’t intentionally walk Brandon Phillips to get to Chris Heisey, who then doesn’t shoot a three-run double down the left-field line.

It’s easy to get down on Ludwick when he’s struggling. He was brought here for his offense, and he’s not providing much. That’s disappointing, but I can live with it. However, Ludwick’s inability to cover ground at Petco Park hurts a team that relies so much on its pitchers putting the ball in play and letting the fielders do the rest. He simply isn’t “doing the rest.”

In the bottom half of the inning, Miguel Tejada led off with a drive to right that Heisey cut off nicely, holding Tejada (who was still nursing a groin injury sustained during a bunt attempt in Saturday night’s game) to a single. If that ball gets past Heisey, or Tejada is at full strength, it’s a double. Making the rather large assumption that events continue to unfold as they did in reality, maybe he scores on Adrian Gonzalez’s subsequent single.

Even still, the Padres had runners at first and second with one out when Yorvit Torrealba stepped to the plate. After taking Homer Bailey’s first pitch for a ball, Torrealba lofted a fly ball down the right-field line — a wedge shot that droppd foul by a foot or less. If it stays fair, Torrealba has himself a two-run double that ties the game. (If Ludwick does his job in the top half, the Padres have a 4-1 lead.) Instead, the ball fell harmlessly for strike one. After working the count full, Torrealba then hit a sharp ground ball directly at Reds shortstop Orlando Cabrera, who turned it into an easy 6-4-3 double play to end the frame.

It seems ridiculous to complain about two individual events in a 12-2 drubbing, and in a sense it is, but if Ludwick catches Gomes’ fly ball and Torrealba’s drive lands fair, then the Padres are protecting a lead and Bud Black doesn’t go to the part of his bullpen that can’t get big-league hitters out. This is less a lamentation of events that occurred on a Sunday afternoon in San Diego and more a reflection on the capriciousness of, well, everything.

If Ludwick… if Torrealba… if, if, if.

It is John Frusciante’s bittersweet major seventh chord that lingers before Anthony Kiedis delivers the line, “I don’t ever want to feel like I did that day.” There is a melancholy, but it is over a condition rather than a moment. The chord remains unresolved like the question of “what if…” You will drive yourself crazy with such thoughts. Better to just hit the next note and get on with life.

The Padres didn’t get the sweep, but they took the series. If they take the next five series, everyone gets shiny rings and a fancy parade. Works for me.

On a lighter note, Mike Baxter got his first big-league hit. I was at the spring training game a few years ago where Baxter fouled a ball through the screen at Maryvale and busted then-GM Kevin Towers’ lip. It’s an odd reason to follow a guy, but you don’t forget something like that and so I’ve been keeping an eye on Baxter ever since.

And, hey, if that ball doesn’t go through the screen…

Results, Odds, Matchups

  • SF 4, Col 2 – Matt Cain takes a no-hitter into the eighth, Colorado drops two out of three at home against the Giants. Since their 10-game winning streak earlier this month, the Rockies are 4-8, with three of those victories coming against the Dodgers.
  • Was 4, Atl 2 – The Braves lose to a guy that had been 0-7 this year. Atlanta is 10-14 in September.

Two quick notes on the playoff odds:

  1. Odds are derived by simulating the remainder of the season 1 million times. Presumably Baseball Prospectus and Cool Standings use slightly different simulation algorithms, which results in slightly different odds.
  2. Someone was asking how three teams could have a better than 50% chance of reaching the playoffs. It seems a little weird, but two teams are guaranteed to make it. If we assign each of those slots 100% probability, we get 2 x 100 = 200. With three teams in the race, their totals must add up to 200. This could be distributed as 90/90/20, 80/80/40, or as it was just a few days ago 68/66/65 (plus 1 for the Rockies).

To the current odds…

Tm   W-L  BPro Cool
SF  88-68 81.1 83.0
SD  87-68 64.4 57.0
Atl 87-69 54.1 59.8
Col 83-72  0.4  0.3

Here’s a look at movement over the course of the past several days:

    9/24 9/25 9/26 9/27
SF  63.6 76.0 64.7 81.1
SD  56.7 66.8 72.9 64.4
Atl 74.8 55.7 68.0 54.1
Col  4.9  1.4  1.5  0.4

    9/24 9/25 9/26 9/27
SF  70.0 79.2 64.7 83.0
Atl 77.4 60.1 68.0 59.8
SD  49.2 59.6 66.2 57.0
Col  3.4  1.1  1.1  0.3

And finally, Monday’s matchups:

  • Fla @ Atl, Alex Sanabia vs Tommy Hanson, 4:10 p.m. PT
  • LA @ Col, Ted Lilly vs Ubaldo Jimenez, 5:40 p.m. PT
  • ChN @ SD, Carlos Zambrano vs Tim Stauffer, 7:05 p.m. PT
  • SF off

Go Padres, go Marlins, go Dodgers (?)!

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11 Responses »

  1. I want to go on record questioning the wisdom of letting Clayton Richard bat in the bottom of the 5th … seems like the Padres wasted an AB …

    In September, we’ve got a long bench and a long bully … USE ‘EM, I say!

    I’d have yanked CR after he gave up the bases-loaded double … short leash after a long outing … and during a stretch when the Padres still are not scoring a lot of runs …

  2. From what I can tell, Ludwick’s good defensive career numbers are mostly based on his arm, not his range. Put him in LF, with Venable/Denorfia in center and Cunningham in right. Cunningham doesn’t have a great arm, but catching balls is more important than throwing them. Bring in Gwynn with a late lead, hopefully arranging the lineup so he’s not going to “swing” the bat.

  3. Ludwick’s range has always been his weakness as an outfielder and moving Venable away from right field for him was a misguided move by the team. This team’s best outfield is Ludwick in left, Gwynn in center, and Venable in right, and we’ll probably never see it.

  4. The Rockies are toast. Losing 2/3 at home to the Giants effectively sealed their fate. It’s now a 3-team race between the Padres, Giants, and Braves for the last two playoff spots.

    In regards to Ludwick, I think it’s pretty clear that assuming they bring him back next year, which I think they should, he should go to left field.

  5. I certainly hope that the FO was fully aware of Ludwick’s limitations when they traded for him. It would be a shame if they failed to scout him properly.

  6. Hey, I was in Marysville that day also … sitting about 15 rows behind KT … he took a brutal smash to the mouth … and barely flinched. What was really odd was that I saw him at Peoria the next day and he looked fine. And now he’s a D-back … let’s just hit the next note and move on …

  7. Interesting that Cool Standings gives Atlanta the percentage edge over San Diego. I assume that’s because Atlanta’s remaining games are at home. I wonder why Baseball Prospectus’ sim didn’t account for that.

    I think we can bury the Rockies at this point. They’re not going to catch any of the three teams ahead of them for one of the two playoff spots. Bank it.

    We need 3 of 4 against the Cubs. Tall order, sports fans – tall order. Cubs have played .600+ ball since Piniella retired.

  8. While Ludwick was in St. Louis, he was always referred to as an above-average defender, even playing some center field. With the Padres, he has been lifted for defense often, understandably so. I was at the game in St. Louis last Thursday and thought Ludwick had a good chance at catching Pujols’ double.

    Is Ludwick playing injured, which is hampering both his offense and defense, or is he just not able to cover the large spaces in the West?

    LaRussa was criticized for not playing Ludwick everyday. Are his stats down because he is facing pitchers he may have sat against? I expected better from him in San Diego.

  9. Hmm, smells like consensus.

    Black allowed Scott Hairston to stay active with a shoulder injury that Bud later called “more serious” than anyone outside the clubhouse knew. That makes me wonder whether he’ll move Ludwick to LF without pressure from above.

  10. Ludwick was out most of June with a leg injury. He may not be 100%, which is all the more reason to put him in left. I have to argue about the Padres “best” outfield. I’d replace Ludwick with Cunningham, long term. He looks like he’ll be a high average hitter with speed on the basepaths and gap power.

  11. Ludwick has been a disappointment for the Padres. His ISO is .115, so much for that bat, and he’s grounded into 9 double plays, pretty much a rally killer. Fangraphs shows his ‘contribution’ to the Padres at -1.5 batting and -1.9 fielding. If he must be in the lineup, moving him to LF is a must. I’m all for giving Cunningham/Denorfia the bulk of the playing time. Unfortunately, with the pennant chase, that’s just not going to happen.