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.


David Spencer said...

Agreed, Paul. We all feel at least some measure of your frustration.

Your numbers, especially where you discuss RISP and luck, really bear out why I feel both frustration and hope. I really think that ballplayers need to choose to enjoy their work to succeed, rather than succeed to enjoy their work. The latter mentality exacerbates the hills and the valleys.

I was sad to hear about CSB, and hopeful that it's nothing serious. Even if he ends up in the bullpen, he has flashes of brilliance that are fun to watch.

On the other hand, I'm very excited to hear about Blanks... hope that experiment bears fruit.

Be well,

Anonymous said...

Youre frustrated? Try being a 40 year fan. Other then a couple of years where things came together, it gets tiresome waiting for that turnaround that comes with adding talent.

If the owners are not willing to pay for true major league talent at more then a couple of positions, and refuses to invest in the best player when drafting in the first round, then team will continue on the path it has been on for the life of the franchise.

Most teams, often through luck, will land a premium talent ie Winfield, Gwynn, Peavy et al, yet if they do not surround him with real talent on a consistent basis, those players will become frustrated and want to and likely leave.

This season is no different. Its just another makeshift team and yet another reminder the ownership wont put real money into the team. Yeah we have some good minor league talent, but most of them will wash out and those that do emerge will not be surrounded by talent.

If you havent figured what you got yourself into Paul, then it is only a matter of time before you realize that until the right ownership group is in place, this team is not going anywhere despite the positivity you might show on the odd day of blogging.

We are the LA Kings of MLB.

Sad to say I have been a fan of both for 40 years.

Leo Izmir said...

I agree about alot of that, and I'm sad about CSB, but is there a similar sense of pressing in the front office? Let's face it, attendance is down and alot of people are just not expecting much more then this from the Padres. Is there that feel in the office to make the move to reignite the base, whatever that is?

Unknown said...

Paul, sorry, but I gotta believe there's more to the Padres' offensive slump than players pressing at the plate and bad luck. In fact, that something's batting .158.

Despite being the worst hitter on the team, Brian Giles is not only in the lineup every game but in the top third of the order -- where is is guaranteed to do his team the most damage. If I'm one of Giles' teammates, I'm thinking that winning is a secondary concern to my organization and that raising some over-the-hill teammate's trade value is the top priority.

That realization has to have gone through the Padres' clubhouse like a toxic gas.

Please end the Brian Giles experiment. He's 38, the PED era is over (I absolutely hate this insinuation, but his numbers are making everyone wonder) and he has been struggling since spring training. Not only that, but it can't be easy for a guy who was seen on YouTube beating up some young woman to go about such a public business. End the experiment. No team, not even the worst team in baseball, bats its worst hitter one, two or three in the lineup every single game.

This bizarre situation's gotta be really tough on the rest of the players, so many of whom are at or just above the mlb minimum. They've gotta be stewing that the same guy getting all those extra chances to leave runners on base is making 20 times their salary.

But it's not just about the rest of the players. It's about the fans, too. How can the Padres expect people to pay their way into games when the lineup tells us that winning is a secondary concern?

Brian Giles needs to be put on waivers. Or talked into retiring. At the time, I totally agreed with picking up his $9 million option. But, wow, how things have changed.

Unknown said...

Paul -- what value do you think Giles brings to the team at this point? Regardless of the bad luck on balls in play, the fact of the matter is his batting numbers are absolutely atrocious. He's a late 30s player, making $9 million this year, blocking whatever progression we might ever hope to get from guys like Macias or Blanks or Hairston (who presumably could play more regularly with Gerut or Macias in RF), and appears to me from my vantage point in RF to be an average defender on his best days. Under what theory should he continue to be trotted onto the field on a daily basis?

Dan Pollock said...

Paul - Off topic, but positive. Ever since you first wrote about Jaff Decker, I've been following his career... maybe because I've got a 12-year-old slugger on the chunky side, and Pony League managers seem only to want whippets on their team, no matter how far he hits 'em. Anyway, Decker seems to be tearing it up in Ft. Wayne. Can't wait to see him in Petco.

Unknown said...

"No team, not even the worst team in baseball, bats its worst hitter one, two or three in the lineup every single game."

Someone better tell the Rays that.