2024 Padres first half superlatives

Apr 30, 2024; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres right fielder Fernando Tatis Jr. (23) runs off the field ahead of left fielder Jose Azocar (28) and center fielder Jackson Merrill (3) after defeating the Cincinnati Reds at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2024 season for the San Diego Padres is halfway over. What have we learned? Let’s do the first half superlatives.

The Padres currently sit at 41-40 through 81 games. That is exactly halfway through Major League Baseball’s 162-game marathon they call the regular season.

Sticking with the marathon theme, let’s take a quick break for some water and electrolyte gummies at the halfway mark of this race and review the first half of the Padres’ season.

Where they stand 

Let’s face it, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a strong grip on the NL West and have for some time. That likely is not changing this season.

However, under the Dodgers and Phillies, the National League is a jumbled mess. There are currently 13, yes thirteen National League teams that either occupy a playoff spot or are no more than three games back of one. That leaves just the Rockies and Marlins truly out of it.

If the season ended today, the Padres would make the playoffs. Yes, even at just one game above .500, the Padres occupy the third and final wild-card spot.

Hot on their tail are the Diamondbacks, Nationals, Pirates, Cubs, and Mets, all within just two games of snatching that spot from San Diego.

First-half MVP- Jurickson Profar 

Let’s not bury the lede much longer. Profar has been a revelation this season. With Manny Machado clearly playing hurt, as his numbers indicate he isn’t himself, Profar has stepped up as the leading run producer.

In fact, Profar leads the team in runs created (58). The list of stats he doesn’t lead the team in would be shorter. But that’s no fun. The Curacao native leads the Padres in hits (86), on-base percentage (.415), slugging (.483), OPS (.898), OPS+ (159), and WAR (2.1).

He leads the NL in on-base percentage and is second in batting average. If the season ended today, he would get NL MVP votes, much less the team’s first-half MVP.

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Best pitcher- Robert Suarez

It’s a double-edged sword when your best pitcher on the roster is your closer. On one hand, it’s a luxury in this game to have such a reliable closer. Suarez is 19 for 20 in save opportunities with a 1.16 ERA. Every team would take that from their closer in a heartbeat. He is likely headed to the All-Star Game. On the other hand, this is an indictment on the inconsistency and unreliability of the starting pitching in San Diego. Suarez’s 344 ERA+ almost triples the top mark among starters on the team.

Best rookie- Jackson Merrill

If Merrill keeps playing like he has the last few weeks for an extended period, we might not be talking about the best rookie on the Padres but the entire National League. Among NL rookies, the Padres centerfielder is leading in hits, home runs, RBI, and second in WAR. Over his last 13 games, he is batting .370 with seven home runs.

Best newcomer- Luis Arraez

Arraez has been an injection of life into the Padres lineup. In 44 games for the Padres since arriving via trade from Miami, he is batting .323 with 61 hits. Even with a recent slump (.196 average in his last 13 games), his contact skills are elite. He is exactly what the Padres needed atop the lineup to set the table for the sluggers.

Biggest surprise- Matt Waldron

Waldron has reinvented himself this season. He adopted a knuckleball (but don’t call him a knuckleballer!) and now is basically the Padres’ second-best starting pitcher that is currently healthy. In 15 starts this season, he owns a 3.46 ERA and 115 ERA+. He’s been even better in his last eight starts, with a stellar 1.82 ERA. That includes three outings where he completed seven full innings. Not bad for a guy who broke into the big leagues at 26 as an unheralded prospect.

Most exciting win- 8-0 comeback vs the Cubs (4/8)

Through four innings against the Cubs, the Padres trailed 8-0 and things looked bleak, to say the least. Yu Darvish and Pedro Avila were touched up for four earned runs each. Then, the bottom of the sixth happened.

Jake Cronenworth broke the seal for the Padres with a two-run homer. Ha-Seong Kim later hit a two-run triple, still with no one out. The deficit had been cut in half to 8-4. Merrill singled Kim home to make it 8-5. Xander Bogaerts then launched a two-run shot of his own. All of a sudden, the Padres were down just one. They had scored seven runs in the blink of an eye.

The comeback was punctuated in the bottom of the eighth by Fernando Tatis Jr.‘s two-run homer.

Most crushing loss- Walk-off loss to the Royals (6/2)

The Padres were still seeking their first sweep of the season. They had taken it to the Royals in Kansas City, who currently occupy a playoff spot, for the first two games. Then, the Padres entered the bottom of the ninth up 3-1, three outs away from a sweep. Yuki Matsui took the ball after Robert Suarez was deemed unavailable for closing. The Royals basically walked it off before the Padres, or their fans, could blink. The inning went single-walk-triple-walk off a sacrifice fly, and the game was over. The Padres blew a chance at a sweep of a quality team on the road.

Most improved- Jake Cronenworth

The first season for Cronenworth at first base was a disaster. In 127 games, he posted a measly 1.0 WAR with ten homers and a miserable .689 OPS. This season, he has already exceeded his dinger count with 12 home runs in just 76 games. He hit a walk-off homer this past week to beat the Brewers. He owns a .790 OPS and 125 OPS+, already with 1.7 WAR. He looks like a man reborn.

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Biggest disappointment- Manny Machado and Xander Bogaerts

Some of this isn’t fair, given the injuries. Bogaerts hasn’t played since May 20. Even before fracturing his shoulder, he was off to a terrible start. In 47 games, he batted .219 with a putrid .581 OPS.

Machado is the most disappointing. Yes, he is playing while also recovering from a major offseason elbow procedure. He is a shell of himself. The batting average is respectable, at .259 (current league average is .242). However, a peek under the hood is concerning. He is not hitting for anything close to the power we are used to from No. 13. His slugging is down 80 points from last season. His OPS is down nearly 100 points. At a 100 OPS+, he is currently precisely a league-average hitter. Not what you want from a man in year two of an 11-year, $350 million deal.

Biggest injury concern- Joe Musgrove

Even though Bogaerts is on the shelf, and reportedly, Profar and Tatis have played hurt, the biggest concern is probably Musgrove. Yu Darvish is set to return from a long IL stint this week. Profar and Tatis have played through injuries. Musgrove is on the shelf for the second time this season already. This, after missing time last year as well. He has made just 27 starts since the start of 2023 (for reference, Dylan Cease has made 49 in that same timeframe).

The Padres need all their big dogs in the rotation healthy as soon as possible. The starting pitching has not been good in Musgrove’s absence.

Best individual game performance (hitter)- Jake Cronenworth goes 5-for-5 vs Brewers (6/21)

Best individual game performance (pitcher)- Dylan Cease tosses seven shutout innings vs Cubs (5/8)

Best moment on social media- Patrick Mahomes pretending to be Matt Waldron

Usually, it’s the other way around for two-time NFL MVP and three-time Super Bowl champion Patrick Mahomes. Usually, you will see kids out at recess imitating his funky arm slots and imaginative play as a quarterback. The tables turned when a video surfaced of the six-time Pro Bowler throwing a football in a funky manner, like an unorthodox baseball pitcher.

Consider Matt Waldron, an unorthodox baseball pitcher.


They say imitation is the sincerely form of flattery.

Biggest question- Who are the true 2024 San Diego Padres?

This current club is a complete enigma. At times, they look like a playoff team. They just won three straight against the first-place Milwaukee Brewers. They took three out of four from the Braves earlier this year. They currently have the edge in the season series with the Dodgers 5 to 3. And then the other side. They have been swept by the lowly Angels and Rockies. They have had two separate four-game losing streaks and a five-game losing streak.

Hence, this team seems tied to the pole, which is .500, like a misbehaving dog in your backyard. They don’t seem to venture too far in either direction. However, with how the National League is shaking out this year, .500, or a few games above it, might do the trick to get to the postseason.

Either way, the Padres need to play more consistently in the second half. They need to add to the pitching staff via the trade market. A.J. Preller might need to perform his best high-wire act yet, given the payroll constraints.

This could very well be a playoff team. They just need to act like one a little more often.

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