Friday, May 30, 2008

Draft #1

As most teams, if not all, we have all begun our formal draft meetings in preparation for the amateur draft (also called the Rule IV Draft) which takes place next Thursday and Friday. All teams prepare a bit differently, but over the next week I'll share some details as to how the Padres do it.

Before getting into a discussion about the draft, or even the players involved, I should begin with the scouts and the structure of the scouting staff. The average team has approximately 15 "area scouts" that are responsible for specific geographic territories in North America (the draft only covers players in the US, Canada, and Puerto Rico). The regions vary greatly in size, as player density is quite different around the country. For instance, I believe every team has two area scouts in Southern California - one for LA County and one for San Diego County. But in most organizations, one scout alone will cover Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico. These area scouts are responsible for creating a draft list of every player in their area that they would like to be on the final draft board. They're also charged with knowing each player in as detailed a fashion as possible, so they'll often see each player in their area many, many times over the course of a few years leading up to the draft in which the player will be eligible.

In addition to the area scouts, many clubs employ two or three "regional crosscheckers" or "area supervisors". These scouts are reponsible for overseeing a larger section of the country, like the East Coast. This scout will cut across the lines of all the area scouts in the East and see all the top players in that region. Obviously, this scout can't possibly get to know each and every player the way the individual area scouts can, but he can do a better job of comparing apples to apples when it comes to draft time since he maintains a wider scope.

Then there are the "national crosscheckers". As you can deduce, these scouts criss-cross the entire country breaking down the top players from every area and region. They are the ones we count on heavily to get the draft board in the right order for draft day. These guys log a staggering amount of frequent flyer miles every year and write hundreds of scouting reports every spring.

The Scouting Director acts as a national crosschecker as well while also coordinating everybody's activities. Often times the Director will help set the schedules of the national crosscheckers and even the area supervisors, as he has the most accurate picture of how the draft may be coming together. On draft day the Director is charged with making the final decision on each pick. This is not an easy task when you consider that we have nearly 1,000 players on our draft board, and the Director can't possibly see even half of them with his own eyes during the course of the spring. It's truly a team effort.

I have to get back into our meetings, but I promise more entries between now and Thursday. For me there is no more exciting time of the year.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Baek for Wells

This is precisely why this forum exists!

I've gotten a number of questions/comments about this trade already, so I'll provide a quick view into our thinking.

Cha Seung Baek is a 6'4", 225 lb, 28-year old (turns 29 tomorrow) RHP from Pusan, Korea. Over the past three seasons in the Majors Baek has made 30 appearances, 19 starts, and compiled a 4.84 ERA: 137.2 innings, 141 hits, 40 walks, and 87 strikeouts. Over that same period in AAA, Baek pitched in 30 games, all starts, compiling a 3.03 ERA: 178 innings, 166 hits, 47 walks, and 121 strikeouts.

We've been keeping tabs on Baek dating back to late last year, as we do with all players who will be out of minor league options in the coming season. In this particular case, we also knew (as did everyone) that the Mariners had a very deep pitching staff, and that Baek would be fighting for a spot on the team. When the Mariners acquired Bedard, we inquired about Baek again, but the Mariners really wanted to keep him. Fortunately, we saw a lot of Baek during spring training (we share a spring training complex with the Mariners in Peoria, AZ), and our scout, Bill Bryk, really liked him and recommended that we continue our attempts to acquire him. Nevertheless, we couldn't work out a deal, and Baek opened the season on Seattle's roster.

We believe Baek is a very good strike-thrower with all of his pitches (Fastball, Curveball, Slider, and Change), which keeps hitters off balance and makes him effective. Our scouts also believe that he pitched a little better than his ERA would indicate from last year. According to the FIP statistic, a defense-independant statistic developed by Tom Tango and utilized by The Hardball Times, Baek had been getting better in each of his past three ML seasons (2004-2007), which goes hand-in-hand with our scouting evaluations.

Jared Wells is a 6'4", 200 lb 26-year old RHP from Texas whom the Padres drafted in the 31st round in 2002. Jared made his first Major League appearance just this past week for the Padres. After moving up through the minors as a starting pitcher, Jared made the transition to the bullpen in the middle of the 2007 season while at AAA. Jared pitched well in that role, particularly against right-handed hitters.

Jared will be out of options next season, meaning that he has to be on the Major League roster for the entire year or be placed on outright waivers. Though we like Jared quite a bit, there were three elements in play: 1) given our current injuries, the need for immediate help at the Major League level, 2) the impending lack of roster flexibility with Jared, and 3) our other internal bullpen options going forward. Those three elements combined helped us to make this deal. It's not as though we don't think Jared Wells is a good pitcher - we do. Remember, when you make trades, you have to give up something of value - you don't get something for nothing.

In comparing Baek and Wells, though, we believe Baek has the chance to be a starting pitcher. That was the separator for us and made us willing to accept his immediate lack of roster flexibility. Will he be a starter for us? I guess we'll all find out together. The bottom line is that there is a chance ("So you're telling me there's a chance..."). Even if he isn't, we expect him to be a solid contributor for the Padres starting now.

One last word as it relates to "designated for assignment". One of the comments stated that this indicated a team's willingness to dump a player for virtually nothing. It's actually the opposite. When a team places a player on outright waivers, any club can claim that player for a mere $20,000. However, when a club believes that a player has more value than that, they will designate him assignment. This designation gives the club roughly a week to trade the player and get something in return that is better than the $20k. If there are no takers, the club will then place the player on outright waivers.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Let's hope that the 40 innings of baseball played over two games (22 on April 17 and another 18 today) are the bookends of our bad stretch. Our season took a turn for the worse after that 22 inning loss to the Rockies, so we needed that spectacular outcome today.

As I mentioned in my earlier post, I was very proud of the way our guys kept battling throughout the game, and to have it end with a dramatic three-run homer by Adrian was exactly what we needed. We have now already scored more runs in 24 games in May than we did in 27 games in April, as both Kouz and Brian Giles have joined Adrian in swinging the bat very well.

Sometimes the most successful teams are those that get key performances from unlikely sources. In recent days we've had three relievers who weren't in our Major League spring training step up when we really needed it. Bryan Corey, Mike Adams, and Josh Banks have combined to give up one earned run in about 20 innings of work. So maybe the tide is beginning to turn...

Going to 12

Though there have been many frustrating parts of this game, I am very proud of our guys right now regardless of the eventual outcome. It would have been busy to feel sorry for ourselves and let this one slip away given everything that has happened (both today and throughout the season to date). However, our guys have continued to answer every time.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Long Day

It was a long day on multiple fronts. On the Major League side we experienced two bad injuries to Chris Young and Josh Bard within a matter of minutes. Scary injuries, such as these, are always the worst. Fortunately, it appears as though both guys are going to escape without anything too serious, or at least as serious as they could have been. We will have to make some player moves tomorrow to ensure that we have enough pitching and catching going forward. In-game injuries, especially to members of the battery, always set off a flurry of activity within the front office. Kevin Towers was working throughout the night in concert with a number of others in our organization to decide on the player moves. Then the players must be located (not always as easy as it sounds), told, AND get to San Diego in time for tomorrow's game.

On the amateur scouting front, I just returned to my hotel room after 38 innings of baseball (the first game went 11 innings - a bad omen for the rest of the day). Those 38 innings fell just shy of 16 hours to play. I don't care how much you love the game, that's a lot of baseball for one day. The first 7th inning stretch of the day occured around noon time, and the fourth 7th inning stretch, yes the fourth one, was at 1:25 AM. Trust me, mid-inning pitching changes were not welcome as the evening turned into night and night turned into morning.

Every spring I have a handful of early flights, lengthy drives, hotels, and long days at the ballpark, but our scouts do it all the time. At this time of the year they are drained, yet there they were tonight grinding out the fourth game of the day until almost 2 AM local time. They'll all be there again tomorrow bright and early ready for another quadruple header... all except for one of our guys, who has a 6:40 AM flight in order to catch a different set of games across the country.

Being a baseball scout may sound like a lot of fun, but believe me (or believe them) it's a tough gig.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008


Like many baseball people, I've been traveling for the past few days doing some last-minute coverage for the amateur draft. This morning I'm off to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, AL.

Typically, I wouldn't broadcast my whereabouts, as part of the game in the draft is trying to figure out what players other teams like. In this circumstance, though, I'm sharing because of a few reasons:

1) The Padres have a Scouting Director and a VP of Scouting & Player Development. I am neither.

2) I'll see approximately 120 amateur players before this draft, so it's not as though I'm just seeing five players the Padres really like. I'm trying to see as many players as possible.

3) Every team will have anywhere from one to four representatives at the SEC. There are a number of players at the tourney who will be drafted in the top five rounds. No secrets in Hoover.

In summary, my attendance somewhere isn't much of an indicator.

Sometimes the gamesmanship goes a little too far. A few weeks ago I was leaving a high school game and on my way to another one. I was expecting to be in the car for at least an hour, so I planned to stop at the bathroom before leaving. With no indoor bathroom in site, the port-o-potty on the way to the parking lot was the only option.

As I approached, I thought I heard a voice. It was only when I reached out my hand to grab the door handle that I heard the voice loud and clear. It was a scout, inside the port-o-potty, on his cell phone reporting what other teams were in attendance at the game. Out of respect for his effort (and sacrifice), I kept walking.

This may be a little more Austin Powers than 007, but it does illustrate the competitive nature of the draft. We all know what players we like, and none of us are telling. :-)

I'm not sure where I'm heading after watching the tournament's first day (four games starting at 9 am tomorrow). Nevertheless, I'll try to provide some sort of update from the road. They're closing the doors on the plane, so I have to shut down.

The is the first time I try to post from my blakcberry, so I hope this works.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Power, Speed and Defense

When a team doesn't hit, they look flat. Plain and simple. The natural gut reaction? We need to get more athletic, we need more speed, we need to create runs.

There are a lot of fans who have already expressed these feelings, and I empathize with every one of you. I've had these feelings many times during my career (though not so much in Cleveland in the mid-90's). In this particular case, though, our gut reaction doesn't serve us well.

Speed Versus Power
I really shouldn't say "versus". I should probably use the "balance" of speed and power, because the world is more gray than black and white. However, for this exercise I'll do my best to keep them separate for the sake of clarity. In an ideal world all of our players would have BOTH speed and power. Trust me, we're not averse to having speed on our club. However, when you have to choose...

Earl Weaver had some interesting things to say about team speed, but I'm not going to link to the particular audio clip (which can be found on youtube) because this is a family show. Instead, we'll have to stick to some, um, less colorful analysis.

Since 2004 (opening of Petco), there have been 14 NL teams who have won at least 89 games, and there have been 14 NL teams who have won 71 or fewer games. What is a common characteristic of the 14 winning teams? Every single team that won at least 89 games out-homered their opponents over the course of the season. Every single one. Of the 14 teams at the bottom, just 3 out-homered their opponents. So, out-homering your opponent does not guarantee success. However, getting out-homered generally leads to tee-times in October.

Now we'll examine the same teams as it relates to SB's. If you take the net stolen bases* (SB minus CS), the top 14 teams stole more bases than they allowed on seven occasions, just 50% of the time. The bottom 14 teams stole more bases than they allowed six times, 43% of the time. So, stealing more bases than your opponent indicates... very little. Indeed, the Padres have been negative on the stolen base scale in each of our four seasons in Petco - all winning campaigns - and our best stolen base season was our worst record (82-80) while our worst stolen base season was our best record (89-74).

Ok, ok, but maybe I'm cherry-picking the teams here, so let's take a look at every team in the NL since 2004 and run a correlation to winning percentage. The correlation between net home runs (home runs hit minus home runs allowed) and winning percentage is about .56 - surprisingly strong considering it's just one statistic that occurs roughly twice per game. The correlation between net stolen bases and winning percentage over that time frame? .19, a level which is referred to as "insignificant". Basically, no relationship exists.

Conclusion - power is more necessary than speed.

Speed and Defense
Even if power impacts winning and losing more than stolen bases, speed can manifest itself in other ways, including defense. We can look at this observation from two angles:

1) Do all good defenders have speed?
2) Are all speedy players good defenders?

The answer to question #1 is pretty obvious. No. Some do, some don't, which is much like our analysis of team speed and the lack of correlation with winning percentage. Anecdotally, two of the better defenders on the Padres, Adrian Gonzalez and Khalil Greene, will never be mistaken for Herb Washington.

The answer to question #2 is again a mixed bag. I'm not going to name names, but I'm sure all of you reading this can name players who are fast but aren't good defenders. The reason for this is that good defense relies as much on skill and instinct as it does on raw athletic ability. Sure, speed helps in the outfield, but average speed with perfect routes to the ball will often trump great speed combined with poor routes. Speed with good routes? There aren't many of those guys out there, and they're winning gold gloves. Ones who can also hit? They're getting MVP votes.

Conclusion - speed can enhance defensive ability, but speed does not equal good defense.

My guess is that some of you are saying, "But speed can also impact other parts of the game, like batting average and doubles." You're absolutely right. However, in an earlier posting we established that Petco Park isn't batting average friendly. Furthermore, the Park is as tough on doubles as it has been on home runs. The fact of the matter is that despite the dimensions of the ballpark, fly balls go to die in Petco, which is also why defense in CF may not be quite as important as it would initially appear. I guess we can blame the perfect weather in San Diego.

We, as an organization, do not turn a blind eye to speed and athleticism. We like it. When I was in Oakland Billy Beane always used to say, "I have nothing against stealing bases. I love stealing bases as long as we're safe." In a perfect world all of the Padres players would have power, speed, and defensive ability. Unfortunately, there is no perfect player out there, so we need to make choices and attempt to balance the team such that it is competitive in every important area (we were in the top five in the NL in defensive efficiency in both 2006 and 2007 despite a lack of team speed).

The bottom line is that the best way to create runs is to get on base and hit for power. We have done neither so far this year, and that, Padres fans, is our problem. Nevertheless, we have been better of late, outside of yesterday, and are optimistic that we'll continue to do a better job in both departments as the season continues.

There are two more discussions that should occur, though both deserve their own post. The first is the distinction between correlation and causation - a distinction that is particulary important when dealing with the complexity of baseball. The second regards our need as educated/experienced fans to see the game played the "right" way, with the correct fundamentals. I'll get to each of these eventually - plenty to discuss!

*This isn't the best formula for team speed or even stolen bases, as one caught stealing is more destructive than one stolen base is additive, but it serves the purpose of the exercise here.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Check Back Tomorrow

Check back in tomorrow, as I'll have a new post concerning the question of the relative importance of power, speed, and defense at Petco.

In the meantime, two quick guidelines that I probably should have mentioned upfront:

1) Per MLB rules, I am not able to discuss players from other teams. Therefore, if you ask me about trade rumors or what I think of other players, etc, I can't answer.
2) There have been a lot of questions regarding my time at the Dodgers that I haven't published. I am simply not permitted to speak about anything relating to the Dodgers. Sorry. I didn't want you thinking that I was blowing off all of those questions.

I hate losing day games.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Quick Response

Rather than try to keep up with each comment, I just wanted to provide a quick post regarding Petco's home/away splits.

One thing to think about, and it was briefly touched upon in one of the comments, is that BOTH our home splits and our away splits tend to the extreme. I already touched on our home splits in yesterday's post. Consider this about our away splits:

1) We play zero away games in Petco - already established as a pitcher friendly ballpark.
2) We play 18 or 19 of our away games in Coors and Chase - two of the most hitter friendly parks in the game.

I'm not going to get into the fine details for a few reasons, including the possible boredom that could ensue. However, I thought it was worth mentioning.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Petco Park - Part I

There have been a number of comments/questions so far regarding Petco Park, so that's as good a place as any to start.

As far as plain old quality of life, it's tough to compete with San Diego. Though my wife is from Mexico City, she moved to San Diego when she was in junior high so she's essentially a native. On the other hand, when we met I was East Coast personified - born in Philly, grew up in DC, and my entire extended family in Connecticut. I had never even been to California. Therefore, whenever she talked about San Diego, which was all the time, I thought to myself, "Southern California... yeah, right." Now that I'm here, I'll be the first to admit that she was on to something.

I'm not alone - SI recently did a study of all the ballparks, and Petco ranked #1 in MLB for the surrounding neighborhood and atmosphere. Petco, itself, is a beautfiul park, and the playing surface is recognized by players as the best in the league. Finally, many baseball players live in San Diego and for good reason.

So, as it pertains to our ability to lure players, San Diego and Petco Park are huge selling points, as they should be.

Now let's talk about how the park actually plays. There isn't a dispute that this is a pitcher's park (unless you talk to our pitching coach, Darren Balsley). In the 4+ years of the park, the National League has combined across all venues for an approximate average of .265 with a .335 obp and a .425 slg. However, batters at Petco have combined to hit .244 with a .312 obp and a .377 slg.

Every ballpark, to some degree, becomes a lightning rod in the first few years as people try to figure out how it plays, and since Petco is a rather extreme park it has received a lot of attention. As evidenced by all the comments, Petco is very much in everyone's mind this spring. That's probably because the Padres have hit .215 with a .296 obp and a .309 slg at home. That line isn't going to lead to a lot of runs, and when teams don't hit they look lethargic. Do you know what our opponents have hit in Petco so far this year? Try .207/.279/.308.

In each of the past 4+ seasons, the Padres have had a higher OPS than our opponents while playing in Petco. The total line since the opening: .246/.321/.379 for the Padres and .243/.303/.376 for the opposition. Over 342 games, that's a significant spread. So big deal - Petco suppresses run scoring, and we all already knew that. What is interesting to me is the relative aspect of this puzzle. Scoring runs in an absolute world isn't as important as in the relative world in which we compete - you win by scoring more runs than your opponent, not by scoring a certain number of runs.

Given the difference in batting lines between the Padres and their opponents, one would expect the Padres to have had a winning record at home, which has been the case. The Padres worst home record in Petco came in the inaugural season when the 2004 team posted a 42-39 record at home (interestingly, that team had the best home batting stats of any Padres team in Petco). The total record at Petco for the Padres, including this season, is 186-156, which pro-rates to an annual record of 44-37 at home. Does anyone happen to know what the average record at home has been for all Major League teams since the beginning of 2004? Drum roll....

44 and 37.

That relatively superficial analysis tells me two things: one that is discouraging and one that is encouraging. The encouraging takeaway is that the Padres are solid at home, and the way Petco plays in terms of wins and losses is on par with other home ballparks. So our fans have plenty of reasons to come to Petco to enjoy the best atmosphere in all of Major League Baseball while also watching a winning team. The discouraging takeaway is that I'd rather be on the high end of the spectrum rather than the middle. Last year's team moved in that direction, as we posted a 47-34 season at home, which outside of 1998 was the best home record in 19 years for the Padres.

A lot of questions regarding the park pertained to specific personnel and certain attributes that our players need in order to be successful here. I'll try to tackle those questions in Part II sometime later this week.

In the meantime, fans of the Padres should remember that the only four year run of consecutive winning seasons in franchise history has coincided with our four years with Petco as our home.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Today's Game

I'm not going to make a habit of writing a preview (or wrap up) of every game we play, but I couldn't resist mentioning something about today's game in Chicago.

Due to the rain out yesterday for the Cubs, Carlos Zambrano has been pushed back and will pitch today. He was the one starter we were supposed to miss in our four game series. I'm not here to whine about that - we still need to do our job and not worry about who is on the mound. The reason I bring it up is because of this: Stinkin' hilarious.

I think there are five of these, including ones with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, and Brad Hawpe. I don't know if being in a few youtube videos qualifies someone for a Webby, but Ron Stilanovich would get my vote. He might be the best baseball coach in film since Matthau as Buttermaker.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Maddux and 350

We're all frustrated with our recent play, and I'm sure we'll spend plenty of time in this space talking about it. However, for this morning let's take a minute to savor last night's victory (after all, it's Mother's Day) and think about 350 wins... 350 wins... three hundred fifty!!!

I can't think of a good way to put this in perspective. 20 years of 17.5 wins? That doesn't seem to do it justice. As many as Smoltz and Hudson combined? Nope. Maybe this will help - when Maddux passes Clemens (354), the only pitcher with more wins who pitched in a game after 1930 was Warren Spahn (363). So forget about Cy Young or Walter Johnson, Maddux and Spahn will likely be the all-time wins leaders in the last 80 years.

This is almost as hard to fathom as his record 17 Gold Gloves.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's Time

I began thinking about hosting a blog about a year ago, and back in January I took the first big step by starting an internal blog for employees of the Padres. The idea all along was to someday create an external blog to engage in a direct dialogue with our fans. Well, given the events of the past few weeks, that "someday" is now.

There are already some thoughtful and intelligent conversations taking place at other sites, like,, and of course, (in addition to many others). Nevertheless, hopefully you'll find it useful to have some unfiltered access to our internal conversations and feelings. We'll have to figure out the rules as we go since I won't be able to share everything, but I think it's important to open this avenue right now.

So, I'm here, and I'd like to be a part of the conversation. I'll do my best to reply to comments/questions, though I can't promise punctual responses or regular posts. After all, just like everyone else out there, I already have a job. :-)

Hit me with whatever you have and let's get out of this slump together.