Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Gerut for Gwynn Jr

I'm back! Ok, so it's a day later than expected, but I ended up taking my kids to Legoland yesterday. All the time on the road can be rough on the family.

Anyway, according to the comments, the Gerut for Gwynn swap seems to have been on many minds over the past week or so. In addition to Tony being an outstanding defensive CF with above average speed, there are a handful of elements in a deal like this:
  • Age - Tony Jr is just 26 years while Jody is playing this year at 31. Jody certainly isn't old, but we are committed to getting younger where we can. We've had 32 players currently in our organization who have competed for us at the ML level this season, and 25 of them are in their 20's (Chris Young just turned 30 on Monday, so we just missed out on 26). Only four of those in their 30's are full-time starters: Brian Giles, Chris Young, Heath Bell, and David Eckstein. Furthermore, 13 of the players are 26 years old or younger, and Tony Jr fits into that group.
  • Service Time - Building on the age element, Tony Jr has just over one year of Major League service (players become free agents after six full years), whereas Jody will be over the five year mark at the end of this season, thereby making him eligible for free agency at the end of 2010. As we try to rebuild the foundation for long-term success, we have to take this into account.
  • Money - Nobody likes to talk about it, but the fact is that dollars must factor in our decision making. It doesn't mean that we're just looking to move payroll, but every team has to evaluate the cost of each of player on their roster. In this case, Jody was making $1,775,000 this year compared with Tony Jr's $405,000. That spread will likely increase next year as Jody will once again will eligible for arbitration.
  • Other - It would be silly to ignore the fact that Tony Gwynn Jr's father is Tony Gwynn. Such an affiliation, however, is never the impetus for a move. When weighing options that are similar, it can probably tip the scales but no more.
  • Other Players - I saved this for last, because it may be the most important piece of this transaction. Most deals are not just simply about the player you're trading away for the player you're acquiring. In addition to the standalone deal, there is often a ripple effect on the roster, and in this case that ripple effect may have precipitated the move. Ok, in English... Jody Gerut is a productive offensive outfielder who can play all three outfield positions and is cost effective in relative terms. Well, that also describes Scott Hairston and possibly Drew Macias (who are both younger and have less service time than Jody). This move was about creating at-bats for others like Hairston, Macias, and even Headley as much as it was about the straight-up deal.
So, in summary, though we gave up a good player in Jody Gerut, we got younger, created more cost flexibility, and have provided more opportunity for other players who have a chance to be with us for a longer period of time. It's not without risks, but that's the rationale.

Friday, May 22, 2009


Yesterday was a big day for the Padres in many respects, and unfortunately I was unavailable to read, publish or respond to any of your comments. I am still in Birmingham (at the airport now at 5:30am) and, contrary to the caricature, I don't even have a computer with me on this trip. Therefore, all comments with have to wait until I return late this weekend.

That being the case, expect me to get to all of your questions on Monday and Tuesday.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Tournament Time

We're coming into the final turn for this year's amateur draft, which means many of our scouts and front office personnel are bouncing all over the country to get a final look at some of the top players. That's what brings me to Hoover, Alabama.

For the third year in a row I'm here in Hoover at the SEC Tournament, and we're currently between games two and three (of four in the day). The day starts early with the first game at 10am, and the hope is that the last pitch will be thrown sometime before 2am. It's a long day of baseball.

Nevertheless, it's worth it. The SEC is often loaded with talent. In last year's draft we selected Logan Forsythe (Arkansas), James Darnell (South Carolina), Sawyer Carroll (Kentucky), Cole Figueroa (Florida), Andrew Albers (Kentucky), and Matt Clark (LSU) all in the first 12 rounds or so. The Padres haven't been alone.

In just the past three or four years many top prospects and some young big leaguers have played in this tournament, including guys like David Price, Pedro Alvarez, Matt LaPorta, Pedro Borbon, JP Arencibia, Reese Havens, Luke Hochevar, Jess Todd, Lance Lynn, Chris Coughlan, Casey Weathers, Gordon Beckham, and Padres Chase Headley, Wynn Pelzer, and Nick Schmidt. That's why the crowd is filled with Crosscheckers, Scouting Directors, and General Managers.

The second half of this day one should be a good one, as a number of highly touted players will be on the field. I just hope it's over before sunrise.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Roster Moves

Busy Friday.

Today we optioned RHP Edwin Moreno, released RHP Duaner Sanchez, placed SS Luis Rodriguez on the 15-Day DL, recalled LHP Joe Thatcher, purchased the contract of RHP Greg Burke, claimed SS Josh Wilson on waivers, and transferred RHP Cha Seung Baek to the 60-Day DL. Whew.

Joe Thatcher has pitched well this season in AAA Portland, going 14 innings with 12 hits, five walks, and 17 k's. What's particularly good is that Joe has held left-handed hitters to a .557 ops and right-handed hitters to a .661. His ground ball ratio has also been 4:1, so all that indicates that his cutter looks more like the 2007 version.

Greg Burke will be making his Major League debut, and it's a good story. A non-drafted free agent, Greg began his career in 2006 splitting time between the rotation and the bullpen with both of our A-Ball teams. Once again an A-ball swing man in 2007, Greg posted a 5.23 ERA. Then came 2008. Greg made the move to the AA pen, and everything clicked. He notched 23 saves for AA San Antonio on his way to a 2.24 ERA in 84 innings of work. He hasn't missed a beat in AAA this year with seven saves and a 2.25 ERA across 16 innings.

Josh Wilson is a 28-year SS who has over 1700 plate appearances in AAA and about 350 in the big leagues. Most recently with the Diamondbacks, Josh does everything pretty well - solid defense at SS, good runner, and has a little power. He gives us some needed veteran depth at the SS position with the injuries to both Everth Cabrera and Luis Rodriguez.

The move of Cha Seung Baek should not materially change his return, as the 60 days began at the beginning of the seaon, and we don't anticipate his return before the beginning of June.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Looking at Brian Giles

I was in the midst of posting this response in the comments section, and I figured it was better suited as a post...


I know a lot of people have been raising questions about Giles recently, as he's had a miserable start to his season.

I know he's 38, but this is also a very small sample that may not be indicative of anything.

In 2005 Giles hit .145/.294/205 over 100 or so pa's from early April to early May.

In 2006 Giles hit .115/.303/.135 in roughly 70 pa's from late June through early July.

In 2007 Giles hit .175/.273/.330 in more than 100 pa's from early Sept until the end of the season.

In 2008 Giles hit .218/.365/.308 in more than 70 pa's in late April through mid-May.

The point is that just about anything can happen to just about anyone over a span of 150 plate appearances, and in fact, something similar has happened to Giles in each of the past four seasons.

Here's another example: in 2003 when I was still in Oakland, we had the reigning AL MVP, Miguel Tejada, playing shortstop. After his first 120 pa's or so of the season, he was hitting .157/.229/.287 - the reigning MVP! By the end of the season he was up to .278/.336/.472 - right in line with his career norms.

Though Brian hasn't swung the bat the way all of us are accustomed to seeing, he has had some bad luck and his approach has improved. In the first 15 games Brian walked just four times and struck out 10. That is unusual for a guy who walked more than he has struck out over the course of his entire ML career. However, in the past 16 games Brian has walked nine times and struck out five. That's more like it and could be a sign that he's seeing the ball better. Then again, that could just be small sample sizes playing tricks on us...

The real point is that we're generally better served by looking at the body of work over a longer time frame than we are by focusing on the last 100 pa's. Furthermore, bad streaks get exacerbated early in the season because the numbers on the scoreboard look so terrible. If a player has a tough stretch in July that takes his average from .280 down to .255, it doesn't get nearly as much attention.

All of that doesn't mean that we're blind to changes of skill level, especially as players age. However, it does mean that players with long track records of success ought to be given more leeway before making irrevocable decisions.

Injury News

Cha Seung Baek - After making two rehab appearances in Lake Elsinore and one in Portland, Cha Seung felt some elbow soreness and was removed from the game. This is different than the previous injury for which he was rehabbing.

Walter Silva - Walter has already made two appearances for Portland, going a total of 7.1 innings and yielding three runs. He should be very close.

Mike Adams - Mike is progressing well and threw a full bullpen yesterday. His first simulated game against hitters could come later this week, which keeps him on target for a return hopefully sometime in June.

Matt Antonelli - Matt started experiencing some discomfort around his knee toward the end of spring training and had a difficult time getting rid of the pain. Fortunately, he's been pain free for a while now, has been playing nine innings in extended spring training games, and will be activated in AAA Portland today.

Steve Garrison - A left-handed starter, Garrison was on his way to AAA this year after posting a 3.82 ERA in AA San Antonio as a 21-year old. His season ended in August (if I remember correctly), and he had shoulder surgery. Fortunately, he's been up on the mound already a handful of times, is progressing well, and is scheduled for his first simulated game against hitters tomorrow. We're hoping that he'll be ready by July.

Kellen Kulbacki - After having shoulder surgery on his non-throwing shoulder in the off-season, Kellen aggravated the injury in spring training. He was activated in San Antonio over the weekend and is 2 for 8 is his first two games.

Brian Joynt - Brian had some lower back pain that kept him out of some spring training games, but he is back playing nine innings in extended games and has already played 3B, 1B, and the OF. Barring any setbacks, he should be ready to go shortly.

Lance Zawadzki - Lance was actually activated in Lake Elsinore a few weeks ago after just about two weeks in extended spring. He's hitting .338/.407/.688 in roughly 85 plate appearances for the Storm. He's 4th in the Cal League in homers and slugging percentage despite the late start.

Jackson Quezada - After not pitching in big league camp, Jackson started pitching on the minor league side and was pitching in extended spring training games until just a couple of days ago. He is now resting and not on an active pitching schedule.

Matt Latos - After rolling his ankle in minor league spring training, Matt was a few starts behind his colleagues. He made some appearances in extended spring before being activated about two weeks ago in Ft. Wayne. So far Matt has made two appearances for the TinCaps going 11.2 innings with four hits, three walks, and 12 strikeouts.

Jaff Decker - Jaff was activated just over two weeks ago in Ft. Wayne and he's made his presence felt. Through his first 15 games he's hitting .317/.548/.659. That's ridiculous.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Over the past two weeks I've been up and down the East Coast, up and down the West Coast, and spent at least a little bit of time in between. Throughout that time our Major League Club has played poorly. And it's been frustrating.

People often comment about how much fun our jobs must be, and sometimes I'll respond with, "It's fun when you win." Well, we haven't been winning, and it hasn't been much fun.

Nevertheless, this is part of the reason for this blog - times like this. It's also a time for us to analyze what has gone awry. So what has happened?

We started out hitting a solid .254/.336/.433 over our first 12 games, but we've managed just a .232/.305/.367 line since then, so we're now at .240/.316/.391 as a team. A .316 obp isn't going to get it done. We're better than that.

One of the things that happens when teams aren't scoring a lot is that individual hitters tend to press, thinking that they have to be THE guy to break the team out of the collective slump. Unfortunately, this often exacerbates the problem.

This self-inflicted pressure is never more evident than when the pressure ought to be on the pitcher - when there are two men in scoring position (2nd and 3rd or bases loaded). Pressing hitters will get jumpy in this situation rather than let the game come to them. We've had 53 chances so far this season in those situations and we're hitting an abysmal .109/.283/.152 with just 16 rbi. In contrast, the National League has combined for a .264/.359/.436 line in those hitter-friendly circumstances. Basically, we've missed out in a big way on the best chances that we've created.

Additionally, a portion of the bad numbers has come from bad luck. The National League as a whole has a batting average on balls in play of .238 on ground balls, .144 on fly balls, and .710 on line drives. That's a reasonably good proxy for where we ought to be; however, we're hitting just .204 on grounders and .105 on fly balls (.708 on liners is on par with the league). Brian Giles, for one, has been hit particularly hard in this area, hitting just .130 on ground balls and .500 on line drives. A long season is a good thing.

Similar to our hitting, our pitching took a turn after the first 12 games. We posted a 3.79 ERA as a team in the first 12 and we've had a 5.24 since. The good news is that we were back to a 3.74 in the past seven days. In general our walks are too high, and we're spending too much time pitching from behind in the count, but I continue to have faith that this will improve.

One of the things that every team has to deal with is injuries, and we've certainly had our share. There is a strong correlation between our DL numbers on a daily basis and our winning percentage, but it's tough to ascertain whether or not a causal relationship exists. Since April 20 we've had six players on the Major League DL and seven since April 27. While we haven't lost a #1 starter, a closer or a cleanup hitter (knock on wood) to the DL, it does get to a tipping point where the sheer volume hurts. In essence, we have seven players currently on our team - nearly 30% of our active roster - that were ticketed for AAA. Day in and day out that ends up taking a toll. Of course, we're not the only team having to deal with such an issue.

It is often said that you're never as good as you look when things are going well and never as bad as you look when things are going poorly. Our season to date has typified that axiom. Now we have to forget about the last couple of weeks and get out of the trough of the rollercoaster.