Wednesday, April 29, 2009
Overall, we were 2-5 since I last wrote. Offensively, we hit .258/.321/.395 as a team, which isn't too bad, but we reached the critical four run threshold just three times (going 2-1 in those games). For the season we're 10th out of 16 in the NL in runs scored and have a 103 OPS+ (100 is the baseline and anything above 100 is above average). Both of those marks are fine, but we think we can do better.
Our pitching had a tough week. As a team we posted a 6.36 ERA pushing the season total from a 3.83 to a 4.74 overall. That isn't going to cut it in the long run. We did keep our opponents under four runs three times (2-1 in those games), but we didn't do a good enough job in the other games to give our offense much of a chance.
Our bullpen has been quite strong, despite a few lapses, with Bell, Meredith, Gregerson, Moreno, and Mujica combining for a 3.10 ERA so far. Bell, obviously, has been outstanding, and if the rest of the young guys can continue to settle in, we like the depth there.
We made a couple of roster moves this week, designating both RHR Eulogio DeLaCruz and RHR Mike Ekstrom for assignment in order to make room for LHR Arturo Lopez and RHS Chad Gaudin. Though we haven't had a lefty in our pen so far this season, that wasn't the sole reason for bringing up Arturo. He had a great spring this year and continued that performance into the first few weeks for Portland striking out 15 in 14.1 innings of work. We signed Gaudin in order to build him up as a starter after the Cubs released him at the end of spring training hoping that he might be ready by early May. He made two appearances in Portland without yielding a run and when we needed him earlier than anticipated, he did the same for the Major League club last night in Colorado.
Overall, injuries have become an issue for us early in the season. We currently have seven guys on the DL (already 129 DL days as a team and we're not even out of April), all of whom have either been on the team or were expected to be on the team except for Mike Adams. We knew we were taking risks with a couple of the guys due to injury history, but we've also run into some bad luck especially in our rotation. Fortunately, Cha Seung Baek started a rehab assignment last night in single A, and Mike Adams is feeling good and appears to be ahead of schedule.
Portland (11-9) - Kyle Blanks continues to pace the Beavers with a .319/.430/.528 batting line and just hit his fourth homer of the season last night. Between stints on the ML club, Drew Macias has hit .321/.446/.453 in AAA while also registering more walks than strikeouts. After yielding a run in his first appearance of the season, Greg Burke has thrown up nothing but zeros en route to a 0.90 ERA. Even better, Joe Thatcher is still sporting a perfect 0.00 ERA after 8.2 innings.
San Antonio (8-10) - Mitch Canham, Craig Cooper, and Eric Sogard still lead the offensive charge for the Missions, while Cooper's 26 hits are good for the Texas League lead. Luis Durango also is leading the Texas League in his category of choice - stolen bases. On the mound Stephen Faris has a 1.99 ERA while also pitching the 2nd most innings in the league, and Evan Scribner, the reliever acquired last season for Tony Clark, has a 1.04 ERA, striking out 11 hitters in 8.2 innings.
Lake Elsinore (10-9) - In his first stint with a full-season club last year in Ft. Wayne, 1B Felix Carrasco banged 16 homers, though he also struck out 162 times in 450 plate appearances. This year, however, Felix has maintained his power numbers while cutting his k rate by an outstanding 33%. All told he's hitting .286/.416/.444 for the Storm. A supplemental pick in last year's draft, Logan Forsythe continues his hot start as he's reached base in all 17 games he's played while compiling a .323/.455/.484 line. The rotation is still the big story in Elsinore as the five starters (Hefner, Kluber, Luebke, McBryde, and Pelzer) have ERA's ranging from 2.35 to 3.86 and have combined to strike out 106 batters in 89.1 innings compared to just 23 walks - all this in the hitter-friendly Cal League. In the bullpen, Bryan Oland has been stellar racking up six saves and striking out 14 batters in 11 innings.
Fort Wayne (14-4) - Yes, they finally lost a game, but Ft Wayne continues to play well. After a handful of games in extended spring training, we activated OF Jaff Decker this week and he is hitting .250/.429/.563 through his first five games. Reliever Brad Brach has five saves already but more impressively has allowed just one baserunner in his eight innings on the mound.
Like I stated at the beginning, this wasn't our best week. Nevertheless, we're 11-9 to start the season with a schedule that has included a bi-coastal three city road trip and opponents like the Dodgers, Giants, Mets, Phillies, and the surprising Pirates. It doesn't get much easier this week as we get four more with the Dodgers starting tomorrow and no off-days in site. Fortunately, after that we get to play 13 of our next 19 games at Petco, so if we can stay away from more DL time it could be a nice stretch.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
When we signed Chris over the winter, we thought he had a legitimate chance to contribute to the big league club, especially because we believed that he had been better than his numbers indicated in 2007 and 2008. Chris then came to camp and had a solid spring training, but we had signed David Eckstein in the interim and Everth Cabrera showed us what he was all about. Feeling that Chris might have a better opportunity elsewhere, we allowed him to pursue a chance to join the Mariners rather than staying on with us in AAA.
With Cabrera missing the next two months, Chris is back and will now assume a role closer to what we originally intended.
Monday, April 20, 2009
What a week of games for the Pads, resulting in a 4-2 record through New York and Philadelphia. To summarize the week one way: our four wins came from Peavy, Meredith, Meredith, and Mujica. Here's a quick and dirty recap:
Monday - Jump out on top 5-1, lose the lead giving up four runs with two outs in the 5th, but take the lead 6-5 on a balk and hang on to win.
Thursday - Down 3-0 after the first with Peavy on the mound but claw back to win 6-5.
Friday - Down 5-0 after the first and 7-1 after the 4th with Young on the mound. Put up two in the 5th, two in the 6th, and four in the 8th to win 8-7.
Saturday - Tied 3-3 after seven, take the lead 4-3 in the top of the 8th, lose the lead in the bottom of the inning, and then get four in the 9th off a dominant closer.
Sunday - Take a 4-2 lead into the 8th, give up one on a pinch hit homer to take a 4-3 lead into the 9th, and then lose on a walkoff homer.
Are you joking me?
Offensively, we scored 34 runs in six games (Kouz's 9th inning homer accounting for the sweetest three), but more importantly, we scored a lot of those after falling behind in games against some very tough pitching... including a guy who had notched 47 consecutive saves. After hitting .285/.349/.467 for the week, our offense has a .777 OPS, which is above the NL average of .755. In fact, Hairston, Adrian Gonzalez, Hundley, Gerut, Eckstein, Rodriguez, and Headley all currently have an OPS above the league average. That'll work.
On the pitching front, it wasn't pretty but we battled. Our cumulative ranks are still solid - a 106 ERA+, a 3.83 team ERA and 3.12 for the pen (good for 3rd in the NL). Furthermore, our walks went down a little this week as expected despite facing some stacked lineups.
One more good thing - Chase Headley's throw to home with the game on the line to nail Greg Dobbs. Nice.
I can't complain about a 4-2 week through New York and Philly, especially considering how dogged our guys were. The only real bad part was a team 5.37 ERA; however, our underlying stats - 54 hits in 52 innings and 20 walks - weren't that bad. The big bad number... we gave up 11 homers. Hopefully the coming week with one game in Philly, two in San Francisco and three in Petco will treat us better.
Forget about all of the above numbers, because that was one of the most exciting weeks a team will ever have. The week was filled with emotion - opening New York's new stadium, Harry Kalas passing and the ceremonies at Citizen's Bank, Lidge receiving the Rolaids award, sellout crowds everywhere - and yet our guys maintained a tremendous focus. What a week.
It was just as good a week in the minor leagues, as we've driven our cumulative minor league record to 26-16 (that equates to a 100-win season over 162 games).
Portland (7-4) - Kyle Blanks has taken his hot spring into the regular season, hitting .350/.480/.575 through the first 11 games. Not to be outdone, Will Venable (.341/.420/.591) and Chad Huffman (.294/.415/.559) have helped to pace the Beavers. On the pitching side, the team has a 3.13 ERA, good for 3rd in the hitter-friendly PCL. Chad Gaudin made his first start in the Padres organization, pitching 3 2/3 shutout innings as he was limited on a pitch count.
San Antonio (4-6) - Mike Baxter (.375/.457/.600), Craig Cooper (.395/.465/.605), Eric Sogard (.333/.478/.556), and Mitch Canham (.393/.485/.500) are off to blistering starts for the Missions. What might be more impressive is that the foursome has drawn 25 walks and struck out just 16 times. Cesar Carrillo yielded just one run in six innings to lower his ERA to 3.27, and he's now generated 22 groundball outs compared with just six flyball outs. Brandon Gomes has been dominant in the pen, yielding just three hits while striking out 13 in seven innings of work.
Lake Elsinore (5-6) - Recovering from an 0-5 start, Elsinore has taken five of its last six (it was way too corny to say they "stormed" back). Logan Forsythe continues to lead the way offensively with a .303/.425/.424 line, but Lance Zawadzki helped inject some life after being activated from the DL and going 5 for 8 with three walks and three stolen bases. The pitching has been oustanding so far with a 3.00 team ERA, and this week the starters - Kluber, Hefner, Luebke, McBryde, and Pelzer - were downright ridiculous. Highlighted by Cory Kluber's two starts (13 innings, just four hits, one run, no walks, and 13 strikeouts), the starters posted a combined 1.53 ERA: 35.1 ip, 21 h, 4 er, 2 bb, and 44 k's. That's not a typo... two walks and 44 strikeouts.
Fort Wayne (10-0) - The TinCaps seem to have adjusted well to their new name and new stadium. James Darnell leads the Midwest League with a .541 obp and his overall line is .304/.541/.609. Additionally, Matt Clark, Allan Dykstra, and Blake Tekotte all got it going to some degree this week. The real story in Ft Wayne, though, has been the pitching. Of the 13 pitchers on the staff, seven of them still have an ERA of 0.00, and the team as a whole is sporting a 1.30. Of the starters, Anthony Bass and Stiven Osuna have yet to give up a run in 22 combined innings of work. The bullpen as a unit: 0.89 ERA, 41.2 ip, 20 h, 8 bb, and 50 k's.
Overall, the first two weeks have been great for the organization. The coming week will be a real battle for the Major League club, as the next three days are about as rough a schedule as I can remember: night game in Philadelphia on Monday as part of a wrap-around series, cross-country flight in the middle of the night, night game in San Francisco on Tuesday, and to top it off... day game in San Francisco on Wednesday. That off day on Thursday will be well deserved.
The best part is that we get to come home, albeit for only three days, over the weekend.
Friday, April 17, 2009
Question 1 from seemingly everybody: Why on earth are you carrying 13 pitchers?
13 pitchers is a lot, no doubt, and we're not viewing it as a long-term solution. Until we start pinch-hitting pitchers for pitchers, however, it's fine. There are three principle reasons for carrying 13 pitchers for the time being: 1) we have a whole host of new relievers that we didn't have during much of spring training, so we're trying to learn as much about each of them as possible, 2) some of these relievers don't have roster flexibility (in other words "out of options"), and 3) we have some starters from whom we're not going to expect six innings every time out there so we must expect to fill in some innings. As a cherry on top, the schedule calls for us to play 16 games in the first 17 days on the season, which is rigorous coming right out of spring training. It's an unusual roster construction, but it works for now. Building on question #1...
Question 2 from Friarworks: Why has Frankie DeLaCruz only pitched one inning in ten games and isn't that bad for his development?
Bud has had a tough balancing act to start the season. Not only are we carrying a number of new pitchers as mentioned above, but also seven of our first ten games have been decided by three runs or fewer. Of the three that were decided by four or five runs, one of them was a one-run game until the 7th after which Perdomo got the opportunity to pitch the 8th (the final inning), and the other was 4-2 until the bottom of the 8th when we scored three to go up 7-2 and Moreno got the 9th. The fact is that Bud is trying to break in DeLaCruz, Gregerson, Moreno, Perdomo, and even Mujica to some degree, and DeLaCruz so far has gotten the short end of the stick. Actually, even Cla Meredith only had two appearances before yesterday's game.
Therefore, it's the job of our pitching coach and bullpen coach to make sure that each guy continues to stay fresh while also maintaining their availability. Bud is certainly aware of the days off in between appearances, and I'm sure he's been trying to find a good spot to get DeLaCruz in there. To have a guy get one inning in ten games is certainly not ideal, but I'd rather that than have too many opportunities where we're behind in games or our starters are getting knocked out in the 2nd.
Question 3 from WebSoulSurfer: Why would you designate Travis Denker for assignment? Weren't there other, better candidates than a 23-year old infielder with hitting skills?
This is a great question, because there isn't a science behind a lot of roster moves. In general we'll have a debate among a group of our Major League scouts as well as front office personnel to decide on the move when we have to make an irrevocable decision like this one.
We agree with WebSoulSurfer that Travis is a very good prospect. We were happy to claim him on waivers from the Giants during the winter, and we're disappointed to lose him. I expect that he'll be a good big leaguer either as a 2B/3B bat or even as an everyday player. In this particular case, though, Travis had a couple of things working against him: 1) the most value he can bring would be at 2B and both Matt Antonelli and Eric Sogard are excellent prospects in their own right playing that position in AAA and AA respectively, and 2) as stated in both previous answers, our pitching is unsettled. Basically, we've wanted to keep as much pitching depth as possible until we have a better sense for the look and shape of our ML pitching staff (remember, too, that this decision had to be made a week ago after just four games).
I mention all of that, but as the group discusses the merits of each player under considerition, the decision often comes down to one thing: which player does the group believe has the best chance of making it through waivers? In this case, the group determined it was Travis, and unfortunately we lost him.
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Heck, we're 6-2. That's good.
Offensively, we won every game in which we scored four runs or more, and overall we posted a .238/.330/.419 batting line. Too many fly balls led to the low average, but we drew our share of walks and had some timely extra base hits to boost both the obp and slugging. Individually, there are a handful of guys off to hot starts (Gerut, Hairston, Hundley, Blanco).
On the pitching front we've posted a 2.88 ERA as a team, good for 3rd in the NL. The bullpen, however, has a 1.17 ERA... just three earned runs in 23 innings and those runs all came in one inning. So, our bullpen guys have made 22 appearances, and exactly one of those appearances led to a run. That's ridiculous.
Fortunately, not a lot to report. There are a few guys who will definitely contribute more offensively as the season continues, but as with any lineup we'll likely have some guys swinging it well and others not so well in any given week. As a pitching staff, especially in the pen, we've walked too many hitters. We've walked 30 in 72 innings as a staff, but our rookies (Moreno, Gregerson, DeLaCruz, and Silva) have walked 14 in just 20.2 innings. A lot of that has to do with big league nerves, which should dissipate to some degree. Also, in rebuilding this pen during spring training, we opted for more power arms and knew that we would have to live with some walks.
This past week followed a simplistic model of successful Padres teams from the past few years in Petco: be at or near the top of the league in pitching and in the middle of the pack in offense. We've arrived at those results a little differently, but we're there nonetheless. Peavy, Young, and Bell - our vets - all pitched extremely well and have set the tone for the rest of the guys.
Eight games is just exactly that: eight games. However, 6-2 is certainly better than the alternative.
Our minor league teams are currently 10-9 overall with Fort Wayne (4-0) leading the way.
In Portland (3-2), Emil Brown (.996 ops), Chad Huffman (1.086), and Will Venable (1.087) all had great starts, and the pitching staff has a 2.45 ERA through five games.
San Antonio (3-2) has posted a .314/.412/.497 batting line as a team. Mike Baxter (1.084 ops) and Mitch Canham (1.275) and a few others have excelled, but Eric Sogard (1.472) has been downright silly.
Lake Elsinore (0-5) is off to a rough start, though they've had some tough luck and faced some rough matchups. The first three nights of the season were against three first round picks (Scherzer, Roemer, and Parker), so that won't continue. Logan Forsythe (.912 ops) had the best week offensively and struck out just one time.
Fort Wayne (4-0) has been devastating on the hill with a team 0.97 ERA. Meanwhile, Northwest League MVP Dan Robertson has started with a .455/.571/.727 line and Drew Cumberland is at .412/.444/.588.
I hesitate to include some of these numbers, because quite frankly they don't mean much of anything after just a few games. However, I felt it was important to start talking about some of these players.
The real purpose for this weekly review (we'll still see if I can actually get around to doing it every week) is to create a forum to talk about the week, so please hit me with your questions. Additionally, if there's anything that you'd like to see from this review in the upcoming weeks, please let me know.
Friday, April 10, 2009
Luis has bounced around a bit in the past ten months. Originally signed by Cleveland out of the Dominican Republic, Luis started last season in the Carolina League for the Indians. After making a successful move to AA, Cleveland traded him to St. Louis for RHP Anthony Reyes. Between his two AA stops he threw 33 innings, giving up 30 hits and 13 walks while striking out 39.
The Cardinals decided not to protect Luis on their 40-man roster this winter, and the Giants selected him in the first round of the Rule 5 draft. After a strong start this spring Luis ultimately lost the battle for a spot in the Giants' pen and was the last player designated before Opening Day. Featuring a hard sinker up to 94 mph and a tough slider, Luis reminds me a little of a younger Luis Vizcaino.
To make room on the 25-man roster we have optioned OF Drew Macias to AAA, so we'll be going with 13 pitchers in the immediate term as we evaluate our different bullpen options. To make room on the 40-man roster (since we were already at 40), we have designated infielder Travis Denker for assignment. Because Luis was a Rule 5 selection back in December, we will be under the same Rule 5 restrictions as if we had selected him in that draft - we cannot send him to the minors without him passing through waivers and being offered back to the Cardinals for $25,000.
In looking over the rosters you'll probably notice that Matt Antonelli, Kellen Kulbacki, Matt Latos, and Jaff Decker are all missing. Though all of the above have had to start the year on the DL, we expect them to be back active again relatively soon.
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
First of all, for those of you who voted that we would win 65 or fewer games - I've contacted Google for the list of your ip addresses, and you're all banned from the blog. :-)
Of course, I’m kidding. Fortunately, a similar portion of you expect us to be in contention for the division title this season. Which brings me to the main point: making preseason predictions is an imprecise exercise. There is so much right now that we don’t know – injuries, performance, even roster composition – that will greatly impact the final standings.
For example, using their PECOTA system, Baseball Prospectus predicted that we would win 78 games in 2006. We won 88. In 2007 the system predicted 86 wins. We won 89. In 2008 the system predicted 78 wins. We won 63. Furthermore, recent World Series teams like the '08 Phillies, '08 Rays, '07 Rockies, and '06 Tigers weren't even supposed to make the playoffs! Here’s the thing: Baseball Prospectus, and particularly PECOTA, is about as good as it gets. They are VERY good at what they do. The problem is simply a massive amount of uncertainty. That may be the problem, but that’s also the fun.
Imagine a season in which everything is perfectly predictable, and I can imagine something that isn’t worth following.
On the other hand, imagine a season with a lot of unknowns – young players, new faces, unproven talent – and you have the real MLB season. Those unknowns create the great stories, the disappointments, and the achievements…the good stuff.
So, I won’t blame any of you for being pessimistic, but just remember that nothing is preordained. As for those of you who voted that we would win 95 or more games, I want you to identify yourselves. Optimism is a great characteristic.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Back in the spring of 1997 I was just starting my first season as the advance scout for the Cleveland Indians. Excited to get to the ballpark every day to get some looks at the players I'd be writing about all summer, I didn't let even one day pass without taking copious notes. However, later in the spring Dan O'Dowd, then the Assistant GM of the Indians, told me, "The biggest mistakes we make on player evaluations are in spring training." Suddenly, my neatly designed notebook and game charts didn't elicit so much pride.
The regular season wasn't very old before I realized that Dan was exactly right, as players were doing things I hadn't seen even a glimpse of just a few weeks prior. The fact is that the game is fundamentally different in spring training than it is when the regular season opens. Here is a list, albeit not exhaustive, of the reasons that spring training performance is unreliable:
- Sample size - always a killer
- Ballparks - the ball jumps in Arizona almost like pre-humidor Coors Field
- Game conditions - teams play primarily day games with a "high sky" in Arizona
- Competition - Major Leaguers play early in games and minor leaguers in the late innings, so someone can pad their stats by playing in the late innings
- Preparedness - some players are coming off of full winter ball seasons while others are coming off of surgery
- Game plan - teams don't really try to win spring training games, so players aren't always put in the most advantageous situations
- Varying objectives - some players are working on adding a new pitch, while others are trying to make a team
For all these reasons and more, spring training is a terrible time to evaluate personnel. Of course, that doesn't stop us from doing it, and by "us" I include fans, field staff, and front office. The fact of the matter is that we must make some evaluations in spring training, because we need to get our roster down to 25 players and some of the players under consideration haven't previously been with the organization. Perilous indeed.
When we (remember, I mean everyone) watch baseball games we are constantly processing who's good, who's bad, who could be better, etc. I'm not even sure that there is an "off" position for that switch, but we have to do everything we can to mute that voice if it appears in the month of March. Taking it one step further, if the player doesn't absolutely need to be evaluated for some irrevocable decision at the conclusion of March, then he probably shouldn't be.
Here's some OPS evidence from this spring for the Padres which should give all of us a little caution:
- The team leader in OPS was Adrian Gonzalez with a 1.110 - so far so good
- Coming in 2nd was Kevin Kouzmanoff with a 1.030 - not completely crazy
- And next, coming in just under 1.000 - David Eckstein with a .996
Folks, if David Eckstein flirts with a 1.000 OPS this year, our offense will be better than we expect. Speaking of our overall offense:
- Five of our 13 position players had an OPS over .900
- Nine of our 13 position players had an OPS over .800
- 11 of our 13 position players had an OPS over the 2008 NL average of .744
Yahtzee! Get ready for the run barrage in Petco in 2009.
With all of these guys raking, who was below the league average and came in last among the Padres in OPS for spring training? Brian Giles with a .636.
I could go into all the pitchers, but I think you get the point. Spring training is a fabulous time of year to enjoy baseball, just don't try to evaluate it. On Monday afternoon all the Padres players will have an OPS of zero and all of the pitchers will have 0.00 ERAs (let's hope the latter lasts longer than the former). Then we'll be able to start evaluating again.
Thursday, April 2, 2009
It appears as though Geoff won't be doing quite as much posting this year, so take the opportunity to get his analysis in the Ducksnorts annual.
Also, Tom Tango is running a community forecast for Major League playing time. You can either vote with your head or your heart on this one. I recommend submitting your forecast BEFORE opening up the results so that no biases (other than your own) creep in to the results. I'll be checking the tallies on Monday morning.
Wednesday, April 1, 2009
After a number of moves in the past 48 hours - acquiring RHP Edward Mujica from Cleveland, optioning OF Drew Macias, reassigning RHP Greg Burke, OF Emil Brown, 1B Kyle Blanks, and C Eliezer Alfonzo and releasing RHP J.K. Ryu and LHP Justin Hampson - we now have 13 healthy pitchers in our Major League camp:
We anticipate starting the year with 12 pitchers, so at least one of these guys will likely be headed to AAA. Nevertheless, this list provides a pretty good idea of what we're looking at for next week assuming that Cha Seung Baek won't be able to start the year on the active list. Amazingly, just four of the 13 (Peavy, Young, Bell, and Meredith) pitched for the 2008 Padres in the big leagues and only six were even in the Padres' organization.
As for the position players, we have 13 roster players remaining in camp (in alphabetical order by position):
C Henry Blanco
C Nick Hundley
1B Adrian Gonzalez
2B David Eckstein
2B Edgar Gonzalez
SS Everth Cabrera
SS Luis Rodriguez
3B Kevin Kouzmanoff
OF Cliff Floyd
OF Jody Gerut
OF Brian Giles
OF Scott Hairston
OF Chase Headley
This group of 13 is the mirror image of the pitching staff - just four of the 13 (Blanco, Eckstein, Cabrera, and Floyd) did NOT play for the 2008 Padres in the big leagues. Since we plan on carrying 13 position players, this could very well be the group on Monday in Petco.
There's always a flurry of roster activity in the final days leading to Opening Day, but I wouldn't be surprised if our 25-man roster came from these 26 players.
A 24-year old from Venezuela, Edward has spent the bulk of the past three seasons between AAA and the Majors where he was used both as a closer and a setup man. Edward complements a 90-94 mph fastball (sitting usually around 92) with both a slider and a split-finger fastball. This move brings another plus arm to our pen, and this one comes with excellent command - just 2.2 walks per nine over his professional career.
We believe Edward should be a good fit for our bullpen and our ballpark.
We still have a handful of days before Opening Day, so anything can happen, but with all of the recent additions we feel more comfortable with our pen than we did just a few weeks ago.