Although the Padres’ front office would never admit to such a strategy, last year’s team was constructed to lose (tank) in order to add top prospects to the farm system. However, this year the team added Eric Hosmer and Freddy Galvis in order to start in a new direction, one aimed at actually contending in the not so distant future.
With over-the-hill veterans like Erick Aybar at shortstop and Jered Weaver in the starting rotation last year, the Padres obviously constructed a team not meant to come close to the .500 mark. According to the front office 2018 would be a year of development and building toward the future.
At the half-way point, this year’s performance comes closer to treading water than changing the team’s direction. According to Bleacher Report, Zachary D. Rymer gives the Padres a C- grade in his article “MLB Report Card Grades for All 30 Teams Entering July.” He cited the lack of great pitching, a collective OPS under .700 since mid-April, and defensive inefficiency.
The 2017 Padres had a record of 71-91, 38-50 in the first half, 33-41 in the second. This year’s record at midseason is 36-47 with the Padres firmly entrenched in fifth place. Last year’s team did not have a winning record in any of the first three months, but this year’s team went 15-13 in May.
Excuses abound for this year’s relatively lackluster performance, including the mantra that it’s a “young team.” No doubt that the transition from the minor leagues to the big leagues represents a huge jump. However, these guys have played baseball all their lives. And, in reality, four teams have younger rosters than the Padres average of 27.4.
Furthermore, data taken from baseball-reference.com and based on that’s site’s interpretation of WAR indicates that performance peaks before the age of 30, with position players having a slightly larger window of 25-30 than pitchers (24-29). In other words, the Padres’ cumulative age could be considered an advantage over other older teams.
Another excuse has been injuries. However, by this time in the MLB season, every team has been bitten by the injury bug. The Los Angeles Dodgers lost four of their five starting pitchers early in the season. All-Star shortstop Corey Seager had season-ending Tommy John surgery in April.
Another excuse, that being the hellacious travel schedule in June, actually has more relevance. The Padres rode a high into June, having taken three of four from the Miami Marlins, and won series against the Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. Since June 15 the team has a 3-9 record.
During that spell, the schedule has had the team flying back and forth across the country touching down at home for tiny intervals before taking to the road again. The television broadcasters estimated that the team has traveled almost 8800 miles in June. No other teams have been subjected to a similar schedule.
According to a National Academy of Sciences study (“How jet lag impairs Major League Baseball performance,” by Alex Song, Thomas Severini, and Ravi Allada), travel schedules adversely affect both offensive and defensive performance. Since Padres executives Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler have built strong relationships within the MLB power structure, the two might consider using that study to protect the team from such scheduling nightmares in the future.
A more team-friendly schedule for the rest of the season, a possible influx of anxiously awaited talent like infielder Luis Urias, savvy trades and individual growth gained from experience, could very well help the team improve the overall record and take the steps essential to actually competing.