State of the offense

The San Diego Padres scored just one run on seven hits over the last two games of the Dodgers series. The home sweep to LA dropped San Diego to 22-15 overall, and questions of the team’s offensive prowess (or severe lack there of) are getting louder and more frequent. I thought it’d be a good time to take a look at the offense.

The Padres as a team are hitting .237/.320/.358. By wRAA, courtesy of FanGraphs, they currently rank 26th in offense, ahead of only the A’s, Pirates, Mariners, and Astros. To show who is underperforming or over-performing their preseason projections, I am going to look at each player’s current wOBA next to their rest-of-season wOBA estimate (by ZiPS) – which we’ll call True Talent wOBA.

Player PAs Current wOBA True Talent wOBA
Scott Hairston 98 .374 .327
Yorvit Torrealba 66 .357 .289
Adrian Gonzalez 150 .355 .379
Chase Headley 156 .336 .322
Will Venable 119 .324 .312
David Eckstein 134 .322 .307
Tony Gwynn 102 .297 .299
Nick Hundley 81 .294 .294
Kyle Blanks 113 .293 .328
Everth Cabrera 79 .248 .296
Jerry Hairston 123 .231 .279

This shows us how each hitter is performing this season, relative to what our estimate of their true level of performance is. The biggest offenders, in terms of underachievement, are Hairston (Jerry),  Cabrera, Blanks, and Gonzalez. Scott Hairston and Torrealba are playing well above their heads. Everyone else is hitting close to their true talent level, according to ZiPS.

That is kind of scary. I mean, the offense is struggling a bit, but frankly there just aren’t many great hitters on this team. Adrian Gonzalez is really the only guy who is a true above average bat. Scott Hairston, Headley, and Blanks are all around average. There are some big holes in the rest of the lineup.

What is important to remember, however, is that a position player’s job isn’t just hitting – they also have to field their position. So far, the Padres have been one of the best fielding teams in the league, by the numbers.  They rank first in Dewan’s Plus/Minus at +37 runs, second in UZR (+17), and fourth in RZR/OOZ runs (+19). They have been led, defensively, by Eckstein, Headley, Gwynn, Scott Hairston, and Gonzalez. Note that it’s an extremely small sample size, especially for individual players.

There are really no holes on this team defensively. There are some question marks, sure. Can Blanks play solid defense in left for the long haul? I doubt that Eckstein is truly an above average glove at second, at this point. And we’ll see about Headley at third. But, overall, this is a pretty good defensive team. There’s really no position on the diamond where we are really sacrificing defense for offense.

In conclusion, yeah, the hitting has been bad. I doubt that it is going to get *a lot* better with this current roster. I mean, it’s not quite as bad as it looks, as Petco always obscures hitting to a degree. But make no mistake, the Padres are no offensive juggernaut, even when we consider that some players should improve as the season progresses. However, when we consider how good the defense is, well, things don’t look so bleak. A lot of the value being lost with the bats is being regained in the field.

I’m not against adding some hitters to this club; not at all. We just have to make sure we consider their entire game before we can make an accurate assessment on how much value they will add.

Sunday driving: Can you feel that draft?

The amateur draft takes place on June 7th, and the San Diego Padres select 9th (and not again until 59th). The draft is arguably the most important event all year for a franchise; the opportunity to add an Evan Longoria, Joe Mauer, or a Jake Peavy to an organization entices teams to spend a lot of their resources on a (hopefully) successful draft.

This will be the first draft for Padres GM Jed Hoyer, Assistant GM Jason McLeod, and Scouting Director Jaron Madison. MLB Bonus Baby has a good preview, including some info on the guys mentioned above.

Recently, MLB Bonus Baby, Peter Friberg, and Lincoln Hamilton released some draft prospect lists.

There’s been some talk that the Padres are very interested in Ball State 2b/RHP Kolbrin Vitek, spurred by a tweet from Jim Callis. Vitek has smashed 15 homers this year, and according to College Splits has a .356/.447/.702 park/schedule adjusted line. Vitek hit .357/.436/.646 in his first two seasons at Ball State. Here’s some nice scouting video of him.

Seems like 9th might be a bit high for Vitek, as it does not appear like he has a ton of defensive value. He can hit a little, though.

Feel free to discuss anything regarding the draft here.

Adjusted standings and playoff odds

Baseball Prospectus publishes adjusted standings, based on a team’s Pythagorean record, equivalent runs, and a strength of schedule adjustment. Here’s the NL West:

NL West AEQR AEQRA W3-L3 Actual W-L
Giants 165 122 21.5-12.4 19-15
Padres 145 111 21.4-13.5 22-13
Rockies 171 143 19.8-14.2 16-18
Dodgers 165 164 17.5-17.5 18-17
Dbacks 182 211 15.4-20.6 14-22

AEQR is equivalent runs, adjusted for SOS. AEQRA is equivalent runs allowed (also adjusted for SOS). W3-L3 is win-loss record, based on AEQR and AEQRA.

The San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres have been the class of the NL West so far. The Rockies are going to be dangerous, as they are underperforming their actual record by quite a bit. The Dodgers have been a .500 team all-around. Arizona has struggled, allowing 211 adjusted runs already (221 real ones; most in MLB).

This is more positive reinforcement for the Padres good start. Not only are they 22-13, but they are not really getting lucky – just a little bit. Now, how about some early playoff odds? Here’s PECOTA’s version:

NL West Avg. Wins Playoffs%
Padres 84.5 36%
Giants 86.6 49%
Dodgers 82.5 25%
Rockies 82.4 24%
Dbacks 73.1 2%

Average Wins is the average number of wins each team accumulates over one million season iterations. Playoff% is the percentage of times each team makes the playoffs. At this point the Padres are fourth in the NL in Avg. Wins (and playoff%), behind only St. Louis, Philadelphia, and San Fran. If we look at the original report, which does not regress back toward PECOTA’s projections, we get an even better prognosis for SD – 61% playoff odds.

The Dodgers come to Petco

Okay, okay, I’m on the bandwagon … pretty much. No, I don’t think this is a .650 team (or a .600 team). But if we play the “what will the Padres record be if they play .500 ball from here on out” game, we get 86 wins. The Padres have been playing great baseball, and they have definitely played themselves into the playoff picture (it is still a long way away, I know). Even if they come back to Earth and play .500 baseball from here on out, which is a distinct possibility, there’s a decent shot at the playoffs.

I’m wondering what is going on in the mind’s of the front office. I mean, my guess is that they were not expecting a potential playoff bid. They were probably planning on being sellers as the trade deadline approach. Well, if the Padres are still around come June and July, and there’s a very good chance they will be, I don’t think there is anyway the Pads will be sellers. Buyers, more likely. A potential playoff birth can’t be passed on, and a playoff run would be a great way for Hoyer, Moorad, and company to debut in San Diego.

Before we get to our mini series preview, a few words should be spent on Mat Latos. Yesterday, as you’re well aware, he spun a one hitter against the Giants. It is the second time already that he and Sanchez have faced off this season, and Latos and the Padres have won both games 1-0. Sanchez has pitched 15 innings against San Diego, allowing a total of eight base runners and two runs, while striking out 15. He’s 0-2. Latos has pitched 16 innings against SF, allowing only 6 base runners and no runs, while only k’ing eight.

Yesterday, by WPA, Latos was +.787 on the mound. He was also +.122 at the plate, knocking in the only run of the game. Overall, that’s +.909 WPA. Not bad. The next closest Padres were Chase Headley and Tony Gwynn Jr. at +.018. It is cliché to say that a player singlehandedly won a game, but in this case it is pretty close to the truth – of course, Latos still needed his fielders on most of his outs.

Oh, the Dodgers. LA comes in at 17-17, 6.5 games behind San Diego. Their offense has been great, scoring 5.3 runs a game, but the pitching has given it right back (allowing 5.3 per). Below is tonight’s Dodger lineup, with current season wOBA and Zip’s rest-of-season estimate (true talent wOBA):

Lineup wOBA TT wOBA
Martin .330 .343
Kemp .348 .371
Ethier .501 .401
Ramirez .461 .418
Loney .364 .357
Blake .328 .350
Dewitt .330 .329
Carroll .325 .309

That is quite an offensive attack. The only real hole is Jamey Carroll. Manny Ramirez and Andre Ethier have been unreal so far, and they are clearly the best hitters on the team. The rest of the offense is filled with average to above-average bats.

As you might expect from such a good offense, the defense has been bad, last in the NL in team fielding at –25.5 runs (UZR). They are also second to last in RZR and last in OOZ, further displaying their defensive ineptitude.

The pitching, too, has not been a strength. The Dodgers have walked 4.3 per nine, however, their other peripherals (8 k/9, .77 hr/9) indicate improvement may be on the way (they have a 3.98 FIP, twelfth in baseball).

The Padres face Ramon Ortiz tonight. Ortiz hadn’t been in the majors since 2007, before joining on with the Dodgers this season. He’s pitched only 22.7 innings, with a 5.16 ERA. He has struggled with the long ball (1.6 hr/9), just like he has his entire career (1.44 career hr/9). It is hard to know what to expect from Ortiz, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the Padres jumped on him tonight.

I’m going to refrain from making a prediction, because it didn’t go so well last time (and making single game predictions is slightly crazy). I’m just going to say that I am confident in the Padres and would not be at all surprised if they won this series.

Simon Castro is not Mat Latos

On the same day that 22 year old Mat Latos threw his first CG shutout, a fellow 22 year old top pitching prospect named Simon Castro led the San Antonio Missions to only their third win in May (3-9 this month). This win has led many to look at the young Dominican phenom and liken him to last year’s top pitching prospect Mat Latos. These optimistic fans have even gone as far as saying that Castro should be on the same path to the majors as Latos. Let me make this clear, baring catastrophic injuries, and a drastic fall from contention we will not see Simon Castro don a San Diego Padres uniform in the next 3.5 months. These are different players, with a different front office, different prospects ahead of him, and most importantly a different year.

Lets just get the similarities out of the way. Both are 22 (Latos is 4 months older). Both were the #1 pitching prospect in the organization at the time. Both players skipped Lake Elsinore after obliterating Fort Wayne. Both players led the Mission’s rotation despite being the youngest member. Finally both players have #1 potential.

The single biggest factors that surround a top prospects promotion are how well the team is doing, relative strength at the position, and of course money. Last year the Padres were out of contention by the all star break and had already used 10 starters. Of those 10 starters only Peavy (traded), and Stauffer (1 start prior to ASG), had an ERA below 4. In fact the next lowest was Correia at 4.50 and Gaudin (traded) at 5.03. Needless to say the Padres were in desperate need of a starter. In addition the Padres also had flexibility in the 40 man as players like Geer, Silva, Hill, Floyd, etc… could all be DFA or placed on the 60 day DL without much of a concern. They had given other pitchers like Leblanc Geer, and Banks a shot but none were remotely effective.

Enter Mat Latos who after 4 G in Fort Wayne (25.1 IP, 10 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 27 K) was promoted to AA where he was equally as impressive (5-1, 1.91 ERA, 47 IP, 32 H, 9 BB, 46 K). So we have a team out of contention, with a desperate need for starters, other pitching prospects flailing, room on the 40 man, and Latos tearing up AA. Why not promote Latos at that time, especially since it was late enough into the season to not have to worry about Super 2 status.

This year is a different story. The team is currently in first place with the best record in the NL. In addition they are first in the NL in ERA (2.61), 2nd in BAA (.220), 2nd in OPS (.627), 1st in WHIP (1.16), and 5th in QS (17). Every starter has an ERA below 4! Castro is the #1 Padre pitching prospect (#2 overall), and was voted by scout.com as the #12 pitching prospect in all of baseball, and is currently leading the Missions and if he continues on his pace will probably be deserving of a promotion come the all star break. However, while his stats might be deserving the Padres are in contention, have crazy rotation depth (provided Stauffer recovers from his appendicitis and Correia comes back as the same pitcher after the untimely death of his brother), and do not have the flexibility on the 40 man that they did last year. Even if the Padres do begin to falter the current Padre rotation of Garland (30), Coreia (29), Richard (27), LeBlanc (25), and Latos (22) is still extremely young. Also I would have to think that if Garland is traded or someone goes on the DL there is still CY (if he is ever healthy), Stauffer (extremely deserving), Ramos, and Liz who are all on the 40 man roster and will probably have a shot before Castro.

Finally some people have mentioned that if Castro did not follow in the footsteps of Latos, than maybe his path would look more like David Price who was a September call up and helped the Rays into the playoffs and eventually WS. While this scenario is more likely, meaning Castro getting a September call up, the Padres have even better bullpen depth. Russell faced 14 hitters during his last call up with the Padres and retired 13 of them (1 walk), and yet because of depth was sent back down to the minors. The Padres have shown that the big 3 (Bell, Adams, and Gregerson) are nearly unhitable, Stauffer and his 0.49 ERA as a reliever, throw in Russell, Webb, Thatcher, Mujica, and even Ramos and Gallagher and this is one of the best pens in baseball. This isnt even considering the Padres have both the closers at AA (Italiano) and AAA (Frieri) on the 40 man and both are doing extremely well in their perspective leagues. So making the big assumption that every thing stays the way it is come September, tell me what is the point of calling up Castro if there is no place to play him? The Padres wouldnt call him up just to cross their fingers that we play another 22 inning game against the Rockies…

Despite Castro not being Latos or even David Price (talk about setting the bar low), Castro will be in San Diego soon enough. While it would have probably happened anyway, Castro will with 100% certainty be placed on the 40 man roster by November as he would be Rule V eligible. Now whether he starts 2011 in the Padres rotation remains to be seen. No matter the outcome the future looks extremely bright for this potential number starter, and while the temptation might be there, there is no need to rush.

I Like Watching the Padres…Baseball in General, I'm Not So Sure

Growing up my Dad would often give me a hard time.  He’d come home from work, see the family room television set tuned to Channel Four, and playfully ask: “How can you watch regular season baseball?”

“It’s baseball, it’s relaxing” was my usual reply.

“It’s boring…especially since its a last place team” he would argue.

For years I thought it was baseball that I loved to watch.  I enjoyed plopping down on the couch, watching the San Diego Padres, and completing my homework; all in a relaxing three hour session.  What I realize now is that I never loved watching baseball.  I like the game of baseball, but I only like watching the Padres.

Yesterday I went to a St. Louis Cardinal’s game at Busch Stadium.  They played the Houston Astros.  I lost interest after the first inning.

The outing began enjoyably enough.  A friend hosted a pre-game barbeque at his place.  He told me it was only the second time he had used his grill.  I don’t believe him.  He cooked up some hot-dogs and hamburgers, and while the dogs were a bit charred, the burgers were perfectly seasoned and grilled to medium; a pleasant deviation from the well-done burgers that are all too often served at casual cook-outs.

Following the barbeque, we walked over to the metro, caught the 6:05 train, and were at the stadium within twenty minutes.  Next we found our seats.  Not our exact seats, but a block of empty seats within the five upper-deck sections that our 800 person group had purchased months in advance.  We got ourselves situated, watched an acquaintance throw one of the worst first-pitches I have ever seen (he threw the ball well over the catcher, and almost hit the group of first-graders who were set to sing the National Anthem), stood for the National Anthem, and returned to our seated positions to watch Kyle Lohse deliver the actual first pitch of the game.

A few minutes later I was already bored.  Watching a game between two teams I care nothing about does not do it for me.  I need to have a rooting interest to enjoy a game of baseball.  Even watching Albert Pujols take his hacks was a bit of a let down.

Perhaps the most excitement came when the usher asked to see the tickets of some people in our section. Despite the fact that our group had five full sections, she demanded that people sit in the actual seat stated on their ticket.  She kicked a few people out, before finally realizing that nobody was in their assigned seat, and that this was going to be a losing battle.

Also interesting was one of the promotions run by the Cardinals.  In one inning–I forget which one it was–a lucky fan was chosen to participate in the “Mow-Em Down Inning.”  If the Cardinals struck out one Houston Astro that inning, the fan would win five dollars.  Two strkeouts was ten dollars.  Three strikeouts was a brand new lawnmower.  Um, yeah.

We stuck around until the eighth inning, but at no point was I interested in the game.  Watching other teams is boring.  I guess you really do need a weird type of devotion to consistently watch regular season baseball. And a team to root for.

Week 5 Power Rankings

I had the San Diego Padres ranked eighth again this week.  I think that is as high as I am willing to go with this team.  Its not that the team is bad–it isn’t–its just that it does not have the same amount of talent that a number of other teams do.

Here’s how I had the N.L. West ranked this week, along with my comments (Yardbarker rank in parentheses)…

7. Colorado Rockies (14): Perhaps the Rockies won’t miss Jorge De La Rosa so much after all. His replacement, Jhoulys Chacin, has now thrown 15 innings of shutout ball.

8. San Diego Padres (7): Tim Stauffer has only allowed one run in 23 innings. He’s the team’s 7th starter.

9. San Francisco Giants (6): Mark DeRosa (0.279 OBP, 0.258 SLG) is having a nightmare of a season.

16. Los Angeles Dodgers (19): The concept of having a knuckle-baller in the rotation is neat, but Charlie Haeger (20 BB in 23 IP) needs to go.

22. Arizona Diamondbacks (23): Ian Kennedy is having a lot more success in the NL West than he did in the AL East.

Other notes…

  • I like the Rockies a lot more than the other voters.  I truly believe they are the most talented and well balanced team in the division.
  • The Atlanta Braves are too talented to continue losing games at this rate.  I had them ranked 15th this week, but 5th in my pre-season ranking.  Eventually they will string together some wins.
  • In week 3, I had the Seattle Mariners ranked 10th.  This week, I have them at 25.  That team is an absolute wreck right now.
  • I am still not buying into the Washington Nationals.  Their pitching is terrible, and outside of Ryan Zimmerman, their position players are pretty junky as well.  Despite a winning record, I have the Nationals ranked 27th, well below the Yardbarker rank of 16.
  • One team that has not moved much in my rankings has been the Diamondbacks, a team that is certainly below average, but not laughably terrible.  Over the course of the rankings I have had them: 19, 19, 22, 21, 22, 22.
  • But the Diamondback’s consistency in my rankings cannot even compare to that of the New York Yankees.  I have ranked the Yankees first every week, and am likely to continue ranking them first for the foreseeable future.

Padres, Giants battle for first

The Padres (19-12) face the Giants (18-12) tonight in San Francisco. And I really wish I had MLB Extra Innings. As much as we like to talk about the future, it is nice to simply live in the present every once in a while. The Padres, despite the fact that this was expected to be a rebuilding year, are playing in a big series.

It is early, man

It is very early, of course. Not even one fifth of the season has been played. The Padres play so far certainly does not guarantee a playoff-run; not even close. But, for the time being, this group is playing good baseball. There’s a reasonable chance that this team is “for real.” And as far as May series go, this one has its significance.

Similar starts

The Padres and Giants numbers, so far, are pretty similar. The Padres have scored 4.4 runs per game; the Giants 4.7. The Pads have allowed 3.1 per; the Giants, 3.2. Neither team has been lucky, in terms of winning a lot of close games or bunching together their runs. In fact, both team   are actually slightly underperforming their pythagorean records. Here’s a quick comparison of a few basic stats:

Team wOBA FIP UZR
Padres .314 3.64 +17.2 runs
Giants .334 3.46 +19

The Giants have been a little superior, overall, you could argue. However, the teams have been pretty close. In fact, they are ranked number one and two, respectively, in UZR and near the top of the league in pitching.

LeBlanc vs. Zito

Tonight, a pair of left-handers, Wade LeBlanc and Barry Zito, square off. LeBlanc has been great so far in 23.3 innings, striking out 20, allowing 6 walks, and no homers. Yeah, 23.3 innings … LeBlanc’s rest-of-season ZIPS projection, which accounts for the early performance but strongly weighs his past, forecasts his ERA/FIP for about 4.5 — a better overall measure of his true talent level.

Zito is also having a great start, as he has a 1.49 ERA in 42.3 innings. Despite having a career .92 home run rate (which is pretty good, but not quite otherworldly), Zito has yet to surrender a long ball. His rest-of-season ERA/FIP, due mostly to his suspect recent past, sits at ~4.3, a little lower than LeBlanc’s.

The final prognosis

The Giants probably have the advantage in this game (and series). It isn’t a big one, though. Both teams are similar overall, but the Giants play (and probably overall talent level) has been a little bit better so far. Zito is probably a slightly better option on the mound, though both pitchers are hot and similar overall. The Giants are playing on their home field, which never hurts.

It is a great early season matchup and these next five games (the teams have a two game series coming up at Petco) may help decide who takes early control of the division.

Jon Garland is Average

Prior to the season, I projected Jon Garland to throw 195 innings of 4.35 FIP ball for the San Diego Padres. About Garland, I wrote:

Garland is nothing special, but has been consistent throughout his career.  He always throws around 200 innings of somewhere around league average baseball.  Garland won’t overpower many batters, but the Padres could do a lot worse than have Garland take the hill every five days

Garland has now started seven games, and my projection is looking pretty solid.  That’s right, despite an ERA of 1.71, Garland has been exactly the pitcher we thought he would be.  Here are Garland’s overall stats for 2010, 2009, and his career:

Year

FIP

xFIP

ERA

2010

4.32

4.53

1.71

2009

4.48

4.63

4.01

Career

4.71

4.61

4.36

Essentially, Garland has been the same pitcher in 2010 has he was in 2009, and throughout his career.  The only significant difference has been his ERA.  And no, pitching a few games at Petco Park does not explain that large of a decrease in ERA.

Lets now take a look at Garland’s K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 numbers:

Year

K/9

BB/9

HR/09

2010

5.36

4.50

0.64

2009

4.81

2.69

1.01

Career

4.74

2.95

1.11

Garland is striking out a few more batters this season, and surrendering fewer more walks and more fewer homeruns.  I expect Garland’s strikeouts to inch down just a bit.  He is also likely to walk a lot less batters.  His HR rate will likely come up a bit, but not regress fully to his 2009 and career rate as he now has the benefit of pitching approximately half his games in Petco Park.  Based on a comparison of his 2010 K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 rates with his career rates, there is little reason to think Garland’s FIP will be much different going forward.

Garland’s 2010 batted ball statistics are remarkably consistent with his past performance as well:

Year

LD%

GB%

FB%

2010

22.1%

49.2%

28.7%

2009

19.3%

45.7%

35%

Career

21%

44.6%

34.4%

So what is different about Garland this year compared to previous seasons?  His batting average on balls in play (BABIP):

Year

BABIP

2010

0.224

2009

0.302

Career

0.289

Once Garland stops getting so lucky on balls in play, his ERA will rise.  Garland has been the pitcher we expected him to be when the team signed him, and there is nothing wrong with that.  League average production is valuable.  Just don’t be fooled into thinking Garland is better than he is.

Good reason to be patient with Venable

Our man Corey Brock wrote an article the other day about the Padres being patient with Kyle Blanks and Will Venable. We discussed Blanks the other day, so let’s concentrate on Venable.

So far he’s hitting .242/.307/.473. He’s striking out a lot (33% K rate) and the .307 OBP isn’t great, but he’s providing a lot of power, and his overall production has been fine (actually, above average). He’s also 8-8 on steal attempts so far. In fact, his .355 wOBA is behind only Scott Hairston, Gonzalez, Headley, and Torrealba amongst Padres. His .231 ISO trails only Hairston. Not to mention his defense has been excellent, by the numbers, so far in his short career.

I know there’s still a certain aura that surrounds batting average, and I have little doubt that’s why Venable is being called out here. And make no mistake, batting average is important. It just isn’t a great measure of a hitter, by itself. I certainly have my doubts that Venable will continue hitting with this kind of power, but if he cuts down on the strikeouts and his average creeps up, he should be fine. There’s no reason to be overly concerned with his early season performance, as far as I can tell. He is helping the San Diego Padres offense.

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