April has come to a close with the Padres finishing the opening month 10-20 and in last place in the NL West.
None of this comes as a shock. We have learned a few things along the way, some good and some bad.
1. The offense has not improved at all
The Padres were hoping, with the hiring of hitting coach Matt Stairs, the team would have a different attitude at the plate than in 2017 when they ranked dead last in average (.234) and on-base percentage (.299) while striking out the third-most in the league (1,499, 9.3 per game) and ranking 27th in walks (460, 2.8 per game). Stairs hoped the Padres would get on base more and work the count. The Padres are currently averaging exactly three walks per game, which is a slight improvement.
What has not improved has been the strikeouts as they are now at 10.4 strikeouts per game and leading the entire league with 303 so far. The Padres averaged 3.7 runs per game in 2017, and this year they have improved marginally to 3.9. Basically, the offense is no better than it was last season, at least at the start. The Friars are fanning at an alarming rate. They are batting .228 (26th) with an on-base percentage of .298 (27th).
Not exactly what the Padres were hoping for when they brought in Matt Stairs.
2. The Padres have legit National League Rookie of the Year contenders
There have been some bright spots in a tough first month. As it stands, the Padres have three contenders for National League Rookie of the Year. If the season ended today, Christian Villanueva, Franchy Cordero, and Joey Lucchesi would all be at least in the discussion.
Villanueva has a ridiculous 1.150 OPS, which is the third highest in all the league, and higher than the likes of Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Freddie Freeman. His eight home runs leads all rookies, as does his .726 slugging percentage and 216 wRC+. He also leads National League rookies in average at .329. He has been an offensive force in the Padres’ lineup and hasn’t slowed down, as he is hitting .316 with two homers and a double in his last five games.
Cordero got a late start since he played his first game on April 11th, two weeks after the season had started. Since then, all he has done is mash Ruthian dingers. His six home runs is second only to Villanueva among rookies. He has multiple batted balls recorded at over 115 MPH. Despite his high strikeout totals, Cordero has a 120 wRC+. He has already made a few mainstream media highlight reels.
Franchy Cordero tried to hit this one into oblivion. 489 feet later, he pretty much did. pic.twitter.com/WGthlTgBgU
— MLB (@MLB) April 21, 2018
Finally, starting pitcher Joey Lucchesi has made a strong case and seems to be becoming the most reliable starting pitcher in the Padres’ rotation, which is both encouraging and terrifying, since he is only six starts into his major league career. However, his numbers stack up against anyone’s. Among rookie pitchers with at least 20 innings pitched this season, Lucchesi is on top of the leaderboards with a 3.15 FIP, 2.78 ERA and a 0.7 WAR. He boasts a 9.74 K/9 rate and only walks 2.8 per nine innings. He has gone toe-to-toe with some tough lineups and held his own.
3. The bullpen is a strength
Ignore the undressing the Padres received at the hands of the Mets in Sunday’s 14-2 loss and the bullpen has been pretty solid. Brad Hand was the Padres’ lone MLB All-Star last season and could be on his way to his second straight selection with six saves, a 13.9 K/9, 1.46 ERA and 2.62 FIP. He has not been the only standout, either.
Adam Cimber, also a rookie, has been somewhat of a revelation. He earned a spot out of spring training and has not let up. He has a 2.45 ERA, a 11.3 K/9 and a dominant 1.17 FIP, which is sixth-best in all of baseball.
Craig Stammen also has an ERA under three. Phil Maton has a ridiculous 0.90 ERA as he has only allowed one run in 10 innings. Despite Sunday’s meltdown, the Padres are ranked 8th in bullpen ERA at 3.33.
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