The San Diego Padres are 7-6 through the first 13 games of manager Jayce Tingler’s career.
When the Padres hired Jayce Tingler as their new manager ahead of the 2020 season, they knew there would be a learning curve with hiring a rookie manager. Tingler had worked for the Rangers organization for five seasons before earning his first managerial gig.
With any new manager, there will be mistakes, especially early on. This season is especially unique given the challenges coronavirus presents in the sports world, including a shortened season for Major League Baseball. This is not an ideal way to start Tingler’s career, but you will not hear him complaining.
Let’s take a look at each aspect of the game and grade how Tingler has fared so far.
Whether it’s Tingler’s influence, new hitting coach Damion Easley striking the right chords, or guys just developing and figuring it out on their own; the Padres just look different at the plate this year. Since 2014, the Padres have never finished about 26th in team on-base percentage and finished dead last in the league a whopping five times.
This year, they are getting on base at a .331 clip, which is good enough for seventh in the league. Fernando Tatis Jr. currently leads the club with a .400 on-base percentage, and he is slugging .647, sixth-best in the National League. Wil Myers, Trent Grisham, and Tommy Pham all have an on-base percentage better than .350. There is a clear plan at the plate, and the Padres have been more patient, with an 11.2 percent walk rate, fifth-best in the big leagues.
Top 10, runs per game:
Note: Marlins have played only three games
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) August 3, 2020
Scoring runs is the name of the game on offense, and the Padres have been good there too. The Friars lead the entire National League and are second only to the Astros in the majors with 5.54 runs scored per game. For reference, San Diego was 27th last year, with 4.21 runs per game.
It’s not all rainbows and butterflies with the offense, however. The catcher position continues to be a black hole, with Austin Hedges and Francisco Mejia combining for a .098 average and -15 wRC+. As a group, the team still strikes out far too much, at 24.8 percent, 20th in the big leagues. However, overall, it has been a significant improvement even with players like Manny Machado still not producing at his normal level (.200 average, 92 OPS+).
The Padres felt good about the top three arms in the starting rotation. Chris Paddack, Dinelson Lamet, and Garrett Richards have a combined 2.99 ERA through three starts each. The starting rotation’s 2.26 walks-per-nine-innings rate is fifth-best in the MLB and is fourth in FIP at 3.31. Zach Davies showed promise in his first two starts, but the last rotation spot between Joey Lucchesi and Cal Quantrill has been a mess. At times, Tingler made tough decisions whether or not to leave a starter in to get out of his jam or go to a fresh arm in the bullpen. A few times, leaving a starter in too long burned him, like Lamet against the Dodgers when a 2-0 lead turned into a tie game and eventually a loss.
On paper, the bullpen was supposed to be one of the best in the big leagues. Frankly, they have been one of the worst, ranked 25th in bullpen ERA. All-Star closer Kirby Yates has been anything but himself, with a 13.50 ERA in four appearances. Emilio Pagan has disappointed to the tune of a 9.64 ERA. Not all of this is Tingler’s fault, as he is using the bullpen general manager A.J. Preller deployed for him, and again, on paper, they are supposed to be good.
Credit to Tingler for sticking to his players and not throwing anyone under the bus. He said, “as long as these guys are working and taking care of their arms, these are our guys. We do not throw away people. We do not throw away teammates. I can’t stress this enough: There will be a time this season when they will carry us.” He may be right.
All in all, it’s been a mixed bag with the pitching staff. The staff as a whole is 21st in team ERA.
Through 13 games, Tingler has challenged just twice and won one. He was ejected in Wednesday night’s gut-wrenching loss to the Dodgers when the Friars were trying to mount a comeback. Credit to him for taking the heat when clearly, Manny Machado, who was the recipient of the lousy strike call at home plate, was also heated, and Tingler would prefer he got ejected over his star third baseman.
The daily lineups have certainly been an adventure. Eight different players have been the designated hitter in 13 games as Tingler has stuck to his word that it would be a rotational position, giving regulars a day off of their feet in the field and an opportunity to give a young guy some at-bats. Only Josh Naylor and Tommy Pham have been the DH more than twice thus far.
Tingler has had to navigate around Eric Hosmer’s illness after a hot start as he has missed ten games. The rookie manager deserves credit for getting Jake Cronenworth into the lineup, as the 26-year-old is hitting .318 with a 200 OPS+ in seven games. The rookie has been a revelation at the plate and on defense.
The usage of the two catchers has been questionable, with Mejia getting seven starts and Hedges with six. He is trying to split time for each of them to try and get going at the plate, but so far, it has not panned out. He may be better served giving one consistent at-bats to see if they get more comfortable at the plate.
Bullpen usage has been Tingler’s biggest weakness thus far. Whether it’s pulling starters too early, leaving them in too long, using a lefty reliever against a righty or vice versa, it’s apparent Tingler is still learning on the job when it comes to using his pitching staff.
The Padres knew what they signed up for when they hired a rookie manager. Of course, there would be bumps along the way, but overall, it has been a positive experience thus far. The Padres are above .500 and remain the talk among Major League Baseball as a sleeper team in the National League. He is still learning on the job, and the learning curve is steep, especially with such an irregular season, but all in all, Tingler has done an admirable job.
If the pitching staff can improve as a whole and the bullpen level out, this will be a dangerous team with him at the helm.
Overall grade: B