Pity About the Padres Offense

The Padres made Jake Westbrook work hard on Saturday in St. Louis. The veteran right-hander used 89 pitches and didn’t survive the fifth inning. Five walks helped. Three of those five walks came around to score.

Trailing, 2-0, the Padres converted two walks, a wild pitch (looked like a passed ball to me, but whatever), a ground out, a single, and a sacrifice bunt into two runs. After Albert Pujols homered to lead off the third and put St. Louis back on top, the visitors scored the game’s final nine runs. As reader The_Slasher14 quipped after a six-run fifth:

Nine runs so far and counting. Imagine how many we’d have if we still had Adrian in the lineup.

Adrian? Who is that?

Not that Brad Hawpe inspired a great deal of confidence at first base. After he struck out (and looked bad doing it) to end the third, I appealed to Twitter:

Hawpe’s last AB was ugly. Is it too early to worry that he might be the new Jim Edmonds?

People had opinions, none positive:

We’ll be lucky if he’s even THAT good. — @RumorsandRants

Saw him in Arizona and it looked like his uppercut swing was more pronounced than ever. A bit worrisome. — @JHamrahi

I don’t think so. His bat looks slow, and he looks to be picking the ball up late. Almost as though he’s not seeing it. — @sportsmatters

No, be afraid, very afraid. — zstratt

I heard rumblings about his bat speed throughout spring training, and he didn’t look comfortable at the plate on Saturday. I look at Hawpe’s statistical record and think he could be this year’s Aubrey Huff, but maybe I am fooling myself. Statistics are wonderful, but there is a disconnect between what they tell me and what Hawpe’s approach on Saturday told me.

This is where I remind myself that two games isn’t a large enough sample for… well, anything. And I keep thoughts of Edmonds out of my mind for now.

On the bright side, the Cardinals feared Hawpe enough to intentionally walk him with the bases loaded in the fifth. They did it to face Ryan Ludwick, a guy who had some pretty good years in St. Louis. Ludwick then walked to force home what would be the winning run.

The fifth inning was fascinating for many reasons. First, it featured a no. 3 hitter, Orlando Hudson, laying down a sacrifice bunt.

Do you know the last time the Padres had their no. 3 hitter lay down a sacrifice that early in a game? I didn’t, so I looked it up. Turns out, it’s not all that long ago. On October 2, 2010, Miguel Tejada did it in the first inning against the Giants.

The Padres have had their no. 3 hitter sacrifice 20 times in the last 20 years. I’ll give you the entire list because it’s goofy and you probably won’t see it again:

  • Darrin Jackson
  • Bill Bean
  • Tony Gwynn (x2)
  • Steve Finley
  • Phil Nevin
  • Kory DeHaan
  • Ryan Klesko (x2)
  • Damian Jackson
  • Mark Loretta
  • Ben Johnson
  • Eric Young
  • Adrian Gonzalez (x3)
  • Manny Alexander
  • Kevin Kouzmanoff
  • Scott Hairston
  • Miguel Tejada
  • Orlando Hudson

Oh, that Adrian. The one who has more sacrifice bunts while batting third for the Padres than any other player since 1991. For additional grins, here are the all-time career leaders for sacrifice bunts by Padres no. 3 hitters:

  1. Tony Gwynn, 24
  2. Bobby Tolan, 6
  3. Garry Templeton, 5
  4. Kevin McReynolds, 4
    Paul Dade, 4
    Gene Richards, 4
    Merv Rettenmund, 4
    Ollie Brown, 4
    Johnny Grubb, 4

Not the most useful list you’ll see, but there it is.

Anyway, Hudson laid down a bunt. Intentional walk to load the bases, unintentional walk to force home a run…

Later that same inning (the fifth, in case you’d forgotten), history repeated itself. With the Padres now up, 7-3, Cards reliever Jason Motte intentionally walked Nick Hundley to load the bases for pitcher Clayton Richard, who walked on four pitches, forcing in another run.

The thing about Hudson’s sacrifice — I’m having trouble letting this go even though the outcome was favorable — is that Westbrook fell behind in the count, 2-0, with Hudson showing bunt. Hudson then hacked at a borderline pitch. After swinging and missing, he went back to bunting.

Is it bad form to complain after an 11-3 victory? Yes, I think so. Still, let the record show that having Hudson bunt in that situation was a stupid thing to do even though it worked.

There, I feel better.

As for Richard, who struggled this spring, he pitched well after a rough first inning. His only other blemish came when he served up a bomb to Pujols in the third with nobody on, which is the best time to do that.

Richard also was charged with an error in the fourth when first base umpire Mark Carlson mistakenly ruled that Richard’s foot came off the bag while covering on a grounder. It had no bearing on the game, but just know that the error charged to Richard in reality belongs to Carlson, who by rule cannot be charged with an error.

It’s like the Armando Galarraga/Jim Joyce thing only nobody gives a crap.

What else? Hundley hammered a triple to right in the fourth. I love when he uses the whole field. Defenses play Hundley as a pull hitter, and by driving the ball the other way, he disrupts the opposition’s plan… always a good thing.

Hundley struck out swinging in the ninth on a breaking ball down and away. Cameron Maybin got himself out on some pitches out of the zone as well.

Those guys will do that. It’s part of who they are. The hope is that they’ll add value in spite of their flaws and we’ll be happy to overlook the negative aspects of their game. On Saturday, Hundley knocked his triple and Maybin knocked an RBI double in the fifth… there’s your added value.

Phil Nevin used to swing at bad pitches. Who cares? When Gary Bennett does it, that’s a problem. When Nevin does it, better luck next time.

You remember Bennett, right? Sorry, did I just undo years of therapy?

This will make you feel better: Chase Headley hit a two-run blast to left-center in garbage time. I didn’t think it was leaving the yard, but Petco Park has taught me to doubt most fly balls.

We’ve discussed Headley’s severe home/road splits in the past. For as much as I enjoyed his home run in St. Louis, I’m hoping he can make that happen every now and then here in San Diego. It’s not like Adrian is around to bunt guys over anymore.

One nice thing about a big lead is that the Padres were able to use the dregs of their bullpen and save the Big Three for Sunday’s finale. Ernesto Frieri worked the seventh, Cory Luebke the eighth, and Pat Neshek the ninth. All were efficient and effective.

Luebke looked comfortable working in relief. On the one hand, I’m glad to see that. On the other, I hope he doesn’t get too comfortable there because we’ll need him in the rotation at some point. I still think he’ll make 20 starts this year.

Speaking of comfortable, Neshek looked anything but. It’s okay; that’s his thing. As I noted:

Getting my first look at Pat Neshek. That is the most awkward attempt at anything I have seen in a while. FOX has his FB at 86-89 mph.

Neshek’s delivery is well beyond funky. He makes Cla Meredith look downright normal. I don’t know how batters pick the ball up out of Neshek’s hand. If this guy stays healthy, he could be a serious feather in Jed Hoyer’s cap.

On a random note, Mrs. Ducksnorts had the line of the afternoon. Chris Denorfia batted for Luebke in the ninth, prompting Mrs. D. to say:

Didn’t Denorfia used to play for us? Oh wait, those are our uniforms.

Yeah, I don’t like ‘em either. On the other hand, the Padres are 2-0 while dressing up like Yankees. If they keep that going, I’m sure I’ll learn to live with it.

* * *

As a reminder, we’re doing that shinding thing today down at Hazard Center. Be there as we watch the Padres seek to complete the sweep. Dustin Moseley goes against Jamie Garcia. First pitch is at 11:15 a.m. PT.

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17 Responses »

  1. As long as Bud Black remains manager of the San Diego Padres, my blog name will remain relevant.

  2. In the fifth inning, the Padres raised their WE from 54.8% to 97.9%, while Orlando Hudson and his sacrifice bunt contributed a .000 WPA and actually lowered the team’s WE 0.1%.

    Still, I’m sure you can guess who/what was the lead in Sullivan’s article this morning.

  3. I was chatting with The Common Man and Bill of TPA and their opinion seemed to be that Neshek was available because he had questioned the Twins medical staff for how they had dealt with his injury issues over the previous two seasons.

    They also mentioned that if his velocity returned to 89ish (which it sounds like it has) he would be approaching the form he showed in 2007.

    Neshek is shaping up to be that feather in Hoyer’s cap.

  4. BTW— Let’s hope Hawpe is Edmonds redux.

    Edmonds figured it out later in the season. Let’s just hope we don’t cut him before his slow bat finds some mistakes.

  5. I think it’s a tad early to freak about Hawpe. For one, he’s only 31, which is usually way too young for a talented hitter like him to fall apart physically.

    Besides, there’s always Rizzo…

  6. As far as the uniforms go, they’re not too bad… I wasn’t a big fan of “Sand” anyway. I think they look more Tampa Bay-esque than the Yankees and given the payroll constraints they’ve had (and overall success), maybe that’s a good thing!

  7. wow, we are giving Neshek a nickname already?
    for this season, he’ll be Jed’s Feather. now go live up to it, Pat!

    didn’t see the game and i missed my favorite play, the squeeze, by Clayton to score Maybin. let’s hope that would be employed once a month.

  8. I can see criticizing having the #3 batter sac bunt when he is a legit #3 hitter (like Adrian), but isn’t it more acceptable when your #3 hitter is really a #2 hitter (like Orlando)?

  9. Some of those sac bunts may have been bunts for hits that failed. Agon and Klesko both tried that more than once.

    Bunting almost any hitter against a pitcher who had already walked 3, with 2 men on and no outs, down by one and on the road, is a bad idea. Lucky for us Westbrook kept missing.

  10. Just because O-Dog was hitting third and A-Gon used to hit third doesn’t mean O-Dog is A-Gon. Tie game, fifth inning, two on with nobody out, a bunt is not at all unreasonable. These are the Padres, people., They win by preventing runs, not scoring them. If you can manufacture a run there, you hope Richard gets through two more innings and bring in the firemen. If it happened in Petco, it would be VERY logical. And that wasn’t Coors Field in St. Louis.

    Get used to it, because that’s the way Bud Black manages, and off of last year, I’d say he’s earned the right to do things his way.

  11. @The_Slasher

    The best way to keep from scoring runs is to give up outs against a struggling pitcher.

    A team that struggles to score (although our offensive have been consistently overstated) needs to seize every chance it can to put up crooked numbers. That bunt lowered our chances of scoring even one run, let alone taking the lead. Westbrook bailed us out. That’s Dumb Luck, as Paul DePodesta would say, not Deserved Success.

    There are times — rare, but real — when a sac bunt is the right move. That wasn’t one of them.

  12. If they had known the Cardinals were going to follow up the sac bunt by intentionally walking Hawpe, I think it was actually a good play. The sac bunt-intentional walk sequence increased the win probability by .011 and run expectancy by .1. But I doubt it was done for the purpose of drawing the intentional walk.

    That is terrifying that Manny Alexander hit third at least once. Please say that he came in on a double switch or something.

  13. @myself

    “offensive PROBLEMS have been consistently overstated.”


    It’s a good point, and it may be that Black expected an IBB to follow the sacrifice. But Hudson’s projected OBP for that at-bat after the count was 2-0 (and against Westbrook, who’d already shown control problems) must have been very high. The most interesting comparisons to me would be the run-scoring chances of

    1. bases-loaded/no outs (Hudson walk, single, HBP, error)

    2. men on first and second with one run in/no outs (Hudson 1b or a big error)

    3. bases loaded/one out (what happened)

  14. I read somewhere that Black didn’t call for the sac-bunt… It was Hudson’s doing.

  15. If it was Hudson’s doing, it almost certainly wasn’t meant to be a sac bunt. Players don’t sacrifice on their own. They do it when ordered to.

  16. Why the heck would Kory DeHaan ever have been batting 3rd!

  17. @Ryan: I’m not a big fan of having anyone other than the pitcher lay down a sacrifice in the fifth inning.

    @Ben B.: Alexander replaced Todd Walker in a game at St. Louis on 9/25/06.

    @TW: Yeah, I have as much a problem with the pitch sequence as anything. Why would you ever hack at a borderline 2-0 pitch and then bunt a 2-1 offering? Westbrook was having trouble throwing strikes. Don’t help the guy out in that situation.

    @Peter, @TS14: According to Hudson, he called for his own sacrifice bunt.

    @dts317: DeHaan pinch-ran for Tony Gwynn in the fifth inning of a 5/19/00 game against the Braves.