The San Diego Padres have their superstars. Fernando Tatis Jr. makes the Padres a contender any time that he’s on the field. Manny Machado put together his best entire season in San Diego, and Jake Cronenworth evolved into one of baseball’s best second basemen. The three of them combined for 16.8 WAR, third-best for any three-position player trio on MLB teams.
The rest of the Padres lineup combined for 5.0 WAR, which meant the Padres had just the 12th best WAR from their lineup.
The Padres lost their best player for about 30 games, and while no one can be expected to replace Tatis Jr., Ha-Seong Kim’s bat is a world removed from Tatis Jr.’s. Kim’s OPS+, a statistic where the league average is 100, was 74, while Tatis’ Jr’s was 168. That means that Tatis Jr. is more than 200% better than Kim in the batter’s box. If Tatis Jr. cannot stay healthy, the Padres will not be able to compete. If refusing surgery makes it more likely that he is reinjured, he’s doing a disservice to his teammates, the fans, and himself.
Another big hole in the Padres’ lineup was the catcher’s spot as due to Austin Nola’s injuries.
Victor Caratini played over 100 games for the first time in his MLB career. Caratini’s been a below-average hitter for all but one season in his five-year career, and he actually posted a negative WAR. The Padres catching battery as a whole posted a -0.3 WAR, as the struggles of Luis Campusano and Caratini meant that Nola’s short season wasn’t enough to dig the Padres catchers out of the red. Eric Hosmer, Wil Myers, Jurickson Profar, and Tommy Pham all put up less than 1.5 WAR, despite being paid a combined $65.4 million.
As injuries piled up, especially in the starting rotation, the Padres did not have players who were able to step up.
The only starter who didn’t miss any time due to injury was Joe Musgrove. Due to the injuries for Yu Darvish and Blake Snell, Musgrove was forced into being an ace for the Padres. Darvish started very well for the Padres, putting up a 2.57 ERA before the MLB’s crackdown on foreign substances. After the crackdown, Darvish put up a 5.90 ERA in the final half of his season, including a stint on the injured list in August. Blake Snell, who the Padres expected to be a top starter, had a 5.44 ERA in the first four months of the season. While he drastically improved in the final two months, with a 1.73 ERA, he missed most of September with an adductor injury.
The Padres also lost Adrian Morejon, who came into the season as the fifth starter. He required Tommy John surgery after just his second start of the season, which led to Ryan Weathers quickly becoming a starting pitcher. Weathers, who before the 2020 postseason had never pitched above A-ball, was forced into being a part of the starting rotation for a four-month period. Weathers pitched very well early in the season, but as opposing teams began to adapt, Weathers failed to do so. He struggled immensely in the second half, posting an 8.18 ERA in the final three months of the campaign. Chris Paddack struggled on the mound and with injuries, as he spent multiple stints on the injured list.
The bullpen, who picked up the slack for the injured starters, fell apart, as Emilio Pagan, Tim Hill, Mark Melancon, and Austin Adams all saw their ERA after June 1 skyrocket. Injuries to Keone Kela, Matt Strahm, and Dan Altavilla forced the Padres to use pitchers more often than expected. While the Padres bullpen was elite for the first two months, they quickly fell back towards the pack once their workload caught up to them.
Last season, the Padres did not have enough depth to handle all the injuries that a 162-game slog can provide. They’ll have to adapt, or else history will repeat itself in 2022.