Retrosnort: In the Merry Merry Month of May

Inspired by the Padres’ 7-0 victory over the Dodgers at Chavez Ravine on Sunday, reader LynchMob offers the following suggestion:

Hey, GY, dust off some of the “May” stories from a couple of years ago when the Padres were unbeatable in May … let’s do that again!

To refresh your memory, the Padres owned the month of May from 2005 to 2007:

Year  W-L   Pct
2005 22-6  .786
2006 19-10 .655
2007 18-9  .667
Tot  59-25 .702

Those were good times. Let’s see what we said back then…

From May 22, 2005:

The Padres saw their latest winning streak end at eight, as Brian Lawrence’s struggles away from Petco continued. The Friars had numerous chances to put the hurt on Seattle starter Gil Meche, who struggled with his command much of the night, but didn’t get it done.

The recent hot streak has masked the fact that San Diego is getting almost no production out of the corner infield spots. Neither Phil Nevin (.248/.281/.406) nor Sean Burroughs (.271/.342/.301) is contributing much at the plate. Nevin’s 38 strikeouts against 9 walks is particularly troubling, as are Burroughs’ two extra base hits in 133 at-bats (Robert Fick has as many XBH in just 11 AB).

Of the 180 players in the big leagues who currently qualify (3.1 PA per game team has played), only four – Victor Martinez, Aaron Boone, Jason Kendall, Cristian Guzman – have a lower slugging percentage than Burroughs. Of the bottom 15 qualifiers in slugging percentage, only Burroughs and Tony Womack (.281/.329/.320) aren’t dragged down by a sub-.240 batting average. With Dave Roberts now in the leadoff slot, it would be good to see Burroughs stop hitting like Womack and start driving the ball into the gaps every once in a while.

From May 28, 2005:

Finally I was able to find a screen with the game on just as the Pads were finishing their half of the ninth. I’m thinking to myself, Now this would be a good time to use Brian Falkenborg. You know, save the key guys in the bullpen a little. Yeah, Jake Peavy spun the complete game on Thursday, but still.

So I’m watching as the Giants come to bat, and I look at the Padres pitcher. Who is that? Holy smokes, it’s Lawrence. And what does he do in the ninth? He finishes the game, very quietly and efficiently. Back-to-back complete games. Unreal.

Lawrence throws a gem. On the road! The bullpen gets another day of rest. How well does this set up the pitching staff for the final two games of the series. Oh, and the Dodgers beat the Diamondbacks, so the Pads are now 1 1/2 games up on the second-place Snakes.

And that, my friends, is as sweet as any tune Tony Bennett ever sang.

I missed Bennett on that trip to Vegas but did catch him a few years later.

Jumping ahead a season, from May 23, 2006:

Yes, the Padres lost again Monday night, but in the process, right-hander Jake Peavy established a new franchise record for strikeouts in a game by fanning 16 Atlanta Braves. Yes, we’d all rather have the win, but no dice, so let’s take a look at Peavy’s record-setting night instead.

This was the second most dominant game I’ve ever seen by a pitcher (behind only Kerry Wood’s 20-strikeout performance in 1998). Atlanta hitters made contact — fair or foul — with fewer than 30% of Peavy’s offerings, and only one ball left the infield. Unfortunately, that one ball was a two-run homer off the bat of Ryan Langerhans that cost the Padres the game.

The only other pitches put in play all night against Peavy were a grounder to short by Chipper Jones in the first, a grounder to third by Jeff Francouer in the second that went for a single, a grounder to short by Todd Pratt in the second, grounders back to Peavy by Marcus Giles (for a single) and by Jones in the third, a grounder to short by Brian Jordan in the fourth, and a grounder to third by Edgar Renteria in the sixth.

Peavy struck out at least two batters in every inning. He fanned the final 5 batters he faced, and 11 of the last 13.

From May 29, 2006:

Greetings from the family farm on Kaua’i. I have been a bit under the weather since arriving, but there is no better place to escape the bustle of everyday life than here among the pineapples, geckos, and chickens.

Unfortunately, one of the other things I’ve managed to escape is any coverage whatsoever of the Padres. I don’t know how you out-of-market folks can stand it.

The Pads beat the Cardinals, 10-8, on Sunday and the only highlight ESPN chose to show was a home run by Albert Pujols. Since when does a homer by a guy on the losing team trump a victory? Well, I guess that’s why this is the steroid era. More glory in home runs than in winning.

But hey, I still love the big fly. I understand from comments in the IGDs that Mark Bellhorn’s homer on Sunday went 438 feet, the longest in Petco Park history. Also, one of Josh Bard’s homers went upper tank in the Western Metal Supply Co. building. Upper tank? Whoa.

And now, a brief interlude… The title of this here article, “In the Merry Merry Month of May,” comes from an old familiar song called “While Strolling Through the Park” (and alternately known as “The Fountain in the Park”). It was written by a fellow named Ed Haley (sources say the song was written in 1884, although those same sources say Haley was born in 1885… not sure how that works). Thanks to the Library of Congress, sheet music is available.

Haley also is credited with arranging the version of “Man of Constant Sorrow” that appears in the Coen brothers’ O Brother, Where Art Thou? What does this have to do with anything? Well, you could say that Padres fans were men (and women) of constant sorrow in April… you know, if you were desperate to make a connection of dubious merit. Or you could just forget I mentioned it and get back to the merry mery month of May…

Right, then. From May 29, 2007:

On offense, Kevin Kouzmanoff (.321/.391/.625), Adrian Gonzalez (.292/.373/.551), and Mike Cameron (.258/.317/.484) are leading the charge. At the other end of the spectrum, Jose Cruz Jr. (.211/.282/.303), Josh Bard (.185/.312/.200), and Khalil Greene (.159/.193/.305) are scuffling big-time this month. The Giles brothers haven’t contributed much either.

It’s sweet to win twice as many as you’re losing when only three players are contributing at the plate.

As you might expect, the pitching has been off the charts. Overall, the staff has a 2.24 ERA in May. Among all big-league teams, the next best team ERA for the month belongs to the Dodgers (3.83).

The San Diego bullpen has allowed 17 earned runs over 67 1/3 innings for a 2.27 ERA. Take the struggling Cla Meredith out of that equation, and those numbers are 8 earned runs over 57 1/3 innings for a 1.26 ERA.

From May 31, 2007:

It’s not often that a 9-0 victory takes a backseat to a draft signing. Then again, it’s not often that the Padres sign a guy like Matt Latos.

In case you missed it, the Pads and Latos agreed to terms late Wednesday evening. Jim Callis at BA has the bonus at $1.25 million, well off what Latos reportedly had been seeking.

Needless to say, I am beyond fired up about this signing. Latos, who is scheduled to begin his pro career at Eugene, Oregon (road trip!), immediately becomes the best pitcher in the system.

We did talk about the game, too:

Chris Young dominated the team that originally drafted him (2000, third round), spinning seven scoreless innings. Even better, he used just 86 pitches in the process. Only once this season has Young thrown fewer pitches in a game (84 over two innings on April 15 at Los Angeles).

In fact, Wednesday marked the second straight start that Young worked seven innings while keeping his pitch count below 100. That’s a nice combination. If it weren’t for Jake Peavy (4-0, 0.79 ERA, .164/.218/.207), Young would get serious consideration for Pitcher of the Month in May (4-1, 1.13 ERA, .173/.250/.252).

Mike Cameron collected three hits, raising his May numbers to a spiffy .273/.345/.495. Khalil Greene added two knocks, including an eighth-inning grand slam that effectively ended the game.

Heck, even Justin Hampson got to pitch an inning. I don’t know how he and Kevin Cameron are able to stay so sharp despite almost never getting the call. A day after Cameron made his first appearance in 2 1/2 weeks, Hampson threw 17 pitches to end a 10-day drought.

Hey, we’ve got 12 pitchers on the staff. Might as well use ‘em…

What did we used to call Hampson? Was it “White Flag”? Or maybe that was Geoff Blum. It all seems so long ago and far away…

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12 Responses »

  1. I find it crazy that we used to have guys like Justin Hampson and Kevin Cameron in the bullpen and thought they were good.

  2. Ah … thanks!

    Padres are undefeated in May 2011!

    Let’s *GO*!!!

    ps. Is Dustin Moseley for real? The spring training reports did not foretell of this … did they? Or do his K/IP (16/38.2 = .42, where I like .8+) and K/W (16/9 = 1.8, where I like 2.5+) foretell below-averagedness?

  3. Kind of unrelated, and while I cannot complain with Jed’s pitching pick ups (yet!) I was disappointed with did not take a similar gambit as the Mets did for CY. Yes, I get the injury risk, but for a million bucks given the other signings we had, it seemed like either he pitches well or not at all. So if he gives us 5-10 starts, maybe 20, decent chance they are good ones, replacing the bottom of the rotation.

    The only snag in this logic is that the current bottom of the rotation is Latos, and I doubt anyone pushes Latos out over Stauffer, so the Stauffer vs. CY is not that different, but still, seems like it would have been a low risk, solid upside move.

    Maybe $1m is too much for this ownership…

  4. OT … here’s a comment from a friend of mine who is a Giants’ fan up in the Bay Area … re: the injury to Sandoval …

    I’m sure they’re also investigating any/all SS availability. Tejada’s bat is so slow right now, the description of “swinging underwater” has rarely been more apt. They have to be very worried that he just fell off the age cliff.

    … and I remember we were pretty worried about that cliff when we got him last year!

  5. @Jay Stokes

    It wasn’t the 1.1M base salary that kept CY from returning. It was the 3.4M worth of incentives. Moorad doesn’t do incentives. In CY’s case Jed could have argued that it would “probably” be a 2M contract given the way the bonuses are structured.

    Latos may need to go back on the DL or be sent down if he can’t recombobulate himself. That would give Luebke a shot. We can’t justifiably critique the team for extending Latos last year, but we’re paying the price now.

    Moseley feels like this year’s LeBlanc. Nobody wants to see his ERA converge with his xFIP, but less than 4 K/9 won’t cut it for long.

  6. May started off great in many ways.

    Padres finish taking a road series against LA.

    bin Laden, dead. Whatever debates people might have in appropriate forums over the US relationship with the Middle East and Islam, his death removes a spokesman and inspiration for tyranny.

    Kent and Vyxsin eliminated from the Amazing Race.

    Hawpe has an 831 OPS over the last 7 days. His playing time was reduced over that span, but still, maybe there’s a heartbeat.

  7. If Moseley’s ERA does converge with his xFIP (currently 3.85) I actually would still be happy with that as that’s way more than I expected out of him. Plus, with half of his games in Petco I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him outperform his xFIP. I think that the key to his continued success is if he can keep getting players to hit so many ground balls. I’m not in San Diego so I don’t read too much of the local media but has their been any discussion of Moseley adding a Cutter this year? It looks like BIS might just be classifying things that were sliders and change-ups last year as cutters this year but there’s got to be some sort of explanation for the career high groundball percentage. Unless it’s just a statistical fluke.

  8. @ Drakos

    The problem with converging xFIP and ERA is that for the lines to merge, his ERA will need to explode.

    Every year there’s somebody who has a low K and high GB rate, and almost none of them retain a low ERA through the season despite the grounders. Maybe Moseley will avoid that problem.

  9. The way back machine was a fun ride, read said names I hadn’t heard in a while, but I think May will be good for the Padres this year. That stretch of 20 games in 20 days was brutal, but I think the bats are starting to come out of there funk a little bit.

    Mosely has been great, but I agree with the LeBlanc comparison, and would even take it one step further. The Padres have turned a number of average pitchers into half season studs with Petco (LeBlanc, Josh Geer, Josh Banks, Ismael Valdez, Kevin Correia, etc), though the tendency is for the player to slip considerably. Is it the cool weather early in the season, or maybe hitters not quite in game shape after spring training? Maybe its just a trend across all of baseball, but I don’t follow other teams close enough to notice? Whatever it is, hopefully the bats get hot so we can get some wins out of all those quality efforts, before the pitching starts trending towards average.

  10. wow, Venable is hitting more linedrives but he’s also hitting groundballs like nobody’s business and not getting anything but outs from those.

    this new batting stance is taking its time to work. i sure hope he’ll start hitting soon.

    oh, Hawpe sucks still.

  11. Checking on fangraphs and the bottom 5 of first basemen in terms of wOBA has 3 from NL West with the Dodgers and Padres at bottom two with .205 wOBA.
    However, the Padres’ first baseman bottom that position further by accumulating -2.22 WPA so far with the Twins the next closest at -1.57 WPA.
    The position also carries a -1.34 WPA/LI for the Padres’ first sackers.


  12. @ Didi: But at least he’s a butcher with the glove, too! ;-)