A position by position comparison of the 1998 Padres to the current team

Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: AP Photo

1998 San Diego Padres World Series glory versus 2021 San Diego Padres World Series guesses.

After a flurry of end-of-December transactions, the 2021 San Diego Padres have become the talk of the game.  The moves yielded 4 reinforcements to add to the 2020 roster that yielded the organization’s first playoff appearance since 2006.  Ace level starting pitchers Yu Darvish and Blake Snell will don Padres colors for the next 3 seasons.  On the position player side, Korean star infielder, Ha-Seong Kim, comes aboard with impressive projections. Meanwhile, former Cubs switch-hitter, Victor Caratini, brings underrated two-way talent to the catching core.

Inevitably, comparisons started.  According to this article, for instance, Fangraphs projects the Padres and Dodgers (as of this draft’s writing) to finish with an equal 98-64 season record.  Fangraphs also puts both NL West juggernauts at a 12% chance of winning the World Series.  However, we’re just a few days into January.  Significant, if not substantial, change is not only possible for these rival rosters, it is probable. 

Comparisons here can wait till Spring.

However, as Padres fans are deliriously imagining what this squad may achieve, a worthy comparison/contrast requires a position by position comparison of the 25-man roster of the World Series title hope afforded by the 2021 roster with the most recent World Series reality: 1998.  

The ground rules?  OPS+ and defensive rating will be used in tandem to analyze position players.  The pitchers will be assessed using ERA+.  The numbers for the 1998 Padres will have to come from Baseball-Reference, while the 2021 Padres will come from the Zips projections for 2021 by Fangraphs. 

A 25-man roster will be used even though the 2021 Padres will likely be allowed at least one more player on their roster.

Would it be better to send 1998 Tony Gwynn to right field or the 2021 projected season for Wil Myers?  Who is the better ace: Kevin Brown of 1998 or Yu Darvish’s projected 2021?  Who would be best suited to play the hot corner: Ken Caminiti’s 1998 or Manny Machado’s projected 2021? 

Surprises abound in this past versus projection, this history versus hope.

Position Players

Catcher  

The Contestants: 1998’s Carlos Hernandez and 2021’s Austin Nola

1998 Carlos Hernandez

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

417

390

34

102

.262

9

52

2

N/A

.305

.369

.674

83

2021 Austin Nola (Fangraphs Projection)

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

430

378

49

93

.246

10

54

2

-1

.326

.386

N/A

93

Carlos Hernandez was a key contributor to the 1998 Padres National League championship run.  His OPS+ of 83 comes in lower than one would have expected over the course of his 400+ plate appearances.  The catching position was shared with Greg Myers and Jim Leyritz over the course of the season, but Carlos was the primary receiver.

Amazingly, even with a dozen categories, the two players’ seasons are incredibly similar.  Austin Nola brought surprisingly adept catching play to the 2020 table after not really starting to catch till much later in his career than is normal.  He’s a natural in some ways and had a huge impact on the playoff run last season.  The catching position will likely be shared with Victor Caratini and Luis Campusano over the course of the season.  Nola’s 2020 OPS+ was a mere 95, and he only hit .222 in his 19 games as a Padre receiver, but he is the Padres catcher.

With OPS+ as the deciding factor, Nola gives the 2021 Padres their first victory in this comparison/contrast.

2021 Padres 1, 1998 Padres 0

First Base  

The Contestants: 1998’s Wally Joyner and 2021’s Eric Hosmer

1998 Wally Joyner

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

494

439

58

131

.298

12

80

1

N/A

.370

.453

.824

124

2021 Eric Hosmer (Fangraphs Projection)

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

581

533

67

139

.261

20

98

6

0

.317

.422

N/A

99

 

Lighter-hitting consummate professional Wally Joyner only logged 439 at-bats and only hammered a mere 12 homers in 1998 as the team’s primary one-sacker.  Joyner played the role of a smooth-fielding veteran who came through in the clutch and brought experience and intangibles to the field and locker room.  Sound familiar?  Joyner’s impact on the 1998 team was greater than the boundaries of a stat sheet.

Meanwhile, the projected work of the clutch-hitting World Champion, Eric Hosmer, showed more power and RBIs over nearly 100 more at-bats.  Having played a sort of pied piper role in the massive influx of talent over recent seasons, Hosmer has been an attractive teammate to play next to on the Petco stage.  Hosmer’s OPS+ in 2020 was 131, so his digestion-challenged, 60-game 2020 would have won this challenge.

However, buoyed with greater batting average, OBP, and slugging and with OPS+ as the deciding factor, Wally Joyner gets the 1998 Padres on the board, tying the score with a decisive OPS+ victory between players who share more similarities than one may recognize initially.  

2021 Padres 1, 1998 Padres 1

Second Base  

The Contestants: 1998’s Quivio Veras and 2021’s Ha-Seong Kim

1998 Quilvio Veras

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

612

517

79

138

.267

6

45

24

N/A

.373

.356

.729

101

2021 Ha-Seong Kim (Fangraphs Projection)

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

N/A

595

93

159

.267

22

103

18

0

.337

.442

N/A

110

2021 Jake Cronenworth (Fangraphs Projection)

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

500

449

61

118

.263

8

48

11

2

.332

.392

N/A

97

Fangraphs posits a fascinating projection for the upcoming season at second base.  They expect Ha-Seong Kim to not only take second base, but they project him to excel in his rookie season in San Diego.  Meanwhile, Fangraphs expects Jake Cronenworth, the defending Rookie of the Year in some circles, to take a somewhat precipitous performance dive, going from a 128 OPS+ campaign to a projected 97.  If Kim lives up to this projection, San Diego will be a force in the National League West and beyond.  So, the competition for second base between 1998 and 2021 becomes Kim v. Veras.  

Quilvio Veras was a revelation in Qualcomm.  With little fanfare, he quietly asserted himself at the keystone, playing solid defense, getting on base regularly, and stealing bases.  Veras ended up in Atlanta in 2000, but his 3-year run in San Diego was largely effective and memorable.

But, for all of Veras’s strengths, Fangraphs is particularly giddy over Kim’s rookie campaign, and Kim takes the lead back for the 2021 crew.   

2021 Padres 2, 1998 Padres 1

Third Base  

The Contestants: 1998’s Ken Caminiti and 2021’s Manny Machado

1998 Ken Caminiti

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

536

452

87

149

.252

29

82

6

N/A

.353

.509

.862

132

2021 Manny Machado (Fangraphs Projection)

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

650

582

84

158

.271

33

116

11

3

.338

.498

N/A

124

This is a colossal battle of MVP-caliber titans: Ken Caminiti and Manny Machado.  As good as Ken Caminiti’s 1998 was, recency bias makes it seem like Machado may be the clear favorite to take a head-to-head at the hot corner.  Machado powered through a 158 OPS+ in 2020, and he was the most consistent short-season player on the team.  Fangraphs projects a lesser season for Machado, however, setting his expected OPS+ mark for 2021 at 124.

In 130 fewer at-bats, though, Caminiti’s OPS+ from 1998 is 8 points higher, and as he often did in their NLCS-winning season, he pushes his Padres team to another win.  The 1996 National League MVP came through many times in San Diego, and he does so 25 years later.  He wins the battle and ties the score.

   2021 Padres 2, 1998 Padres 2

Shortstop  

The Contestants: 1998’s Chris Gomez and 2021’s Fernando Tatis, Jr.

1998 Chris Gomez

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

516

449

55

120

.267

4

39

1

N/A

.346

.379

.725

98

2021 Fernando Tatis, Jr. (Fangraphs Projection)

PA

AB

Runs

Hits

Ave

HR

RBIs

SB

Def

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

524

461

89

131

.284

28

94

24

-2

.365

.540

N/A

142

On the surface, this doesn’t seem fair when simply stating the names of the contestants.  However, Chris Gomez was always underrated and an important piece of the winning puzzle.  With a strong OBP and surprising pop at times, Gomez was a Steady Eddy in the field, which kept the Padres defense strong.  However, his 98 OPS+ probably isn’t enough to challenge an all-time talent like Tatis, Jr., right?

Fangraphs suggests a somewhat modest season for Fernando Tatis, Jr. as well.  There has been some up and down in FTJ’s performance over his first few seasons, but it’s hard to imagine the fourth-place finisher in last season’s MVP race doesn’t do anything but exceed the incredible expectations placed upon him.  In our contest, Tatis, Jr. is projected to achieve an OPS+ of 142 gives the 2021 squad a lead as we head to the outfield.

2021 Padres 3, 1998 Padres 2

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M. Robert Klemesrud
M. Robert Klemesrud, born and currently residing in the great state of Iowa, is an educator of 25 years. Having studied journalism at the University of Iowa, played baseball in the Missouri Valley, and followed the Padres religiously for over 30 years, he has found the perfect place to align some of his passions at East Village Times.

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(Visited 1,733 times, 1 visits today)

M. Robert Klemesrud
M. Robert Klemesrud, born and currently residing in the great state of Iowa, is an educator of 25 years. Having studied journalism at the University of Iowa, played baseball in the Missouri Valley, and followed the Padres religiously for over 30 years, he has found the perfect place to align some of his passions at East Village Times.