Coming into the season, the Padres looked like they had acquired enough average veteran hitters to have an average offense.
An optimist would have said the team had an above-average lineup, with new additions Eric Hosmer, Chase Headley, and Freddy Galvis solidifying a lineup already including Wil Myers along with some intriguing young outfielders. The four aforementioned hitters who were supposed to be the anchors of the lineup, have not lived up to the expectations.
Headley played so poorly that he quickly lost his starting job and was released soon thereafter. Hosmer cannot, for the life of him, stop pounding balls into the ground on contact. The defense of Freddy Galvis has been nice, but the same certainly can’t be said for the way he’s swung the bat. At least Myers has played well when he’s been healthy, but his multiple stints on the disabled list took a lot of the thump out of the lineup.
There have been some early surprises and showings from players who have seized opportunities, following the failures of other veterans on the Padres’ roster.
Christian Villanueva had a three homer game, and was red hot at the beginning of the season. Since the start of May, he’s gotten on base at a disappointing .235 rate — Even despite this mark Villanueva has remained one of the best hitters on the team. That speaks to the issues the team has had scoring runs, when a guy with a .235 on base percentage is so valuable to the lineup. Travis Jankowski has done a good job playing excellent defense, while also getting on base at a .342 clip. Though even with some bright spots sprinkled in, the Padres have continued to have a pretty helpless lineup in 2018. Why have so many Padres hitters struggled this season? How and why are they struggling to create runs?
As far as one of the most interesting methods of creating runs is concerned; base running — The Padres aren’t making it any easier on themselves to bring runners on base around to home plate. Now, a part of their issues with running the bases are tied to speedsters getting thrown out on the bases too often. Manuel Margot has been caught stealing seven times, equal to the number of steals he has. Cory Spangenberg, regularly a speedy runner on the bases, couldn’t hit well enough to stay in the major leagues early in the season. Though there are more significant reasons for the team’s difficulty running the bases.
The most obvious reason they haven’t been good at running the bases, is that most of the players on the team are simply not very fast runners. The majority of the team is comprised of average to slightly below average runners, when you think about it. Having three catchers on the roster never helps, and guys like Franmil Reyes or Hunter Renfroe are never going to get down the line very quickly. What’s confusing about the Padres’ players who have struggled on the bases, is that many of the Yankees big and hulking hitters have actually rated out as decent baserunners. Aaron Judge, Giancarlo Stanton, and Gary Sanchez have combined for nine stolen bases thus far. That’s not many, but the point is that those guys are all big sluggers who you wouldn’t expect to run well. The point is that those three Yankee sluggers haven’t hurt their team with their base running, and that’s definitely something the Padres can’t say about their team’s endeavors on the bases.
So as far as the base running is concerned, the team can expect some players who are regularly dangerous on the bases, to improve in that area as the season progresses. Maybe this is mostly tied to the fact that the players aren’t very fast by nature, and won’t realistically improve their work on running the bases. Yet that would be a pessimistic way to handle the situation, especially considering that the roster is tied for sixth-youngest in the major leagues. If the Yankees can get their three big guys to be decent on the base paths, the Padres should expect to get more out of their seemingly average runners.
Some players just look like they don’t care enough about how well they run the bases, which is where the problems they’ve had on the bases seem to be rooted. Watch Eric Hosmer’s lead off second base in a recent game versus the Dodgers:
This is a pretty apathetic way to take a lead, and the whole sequence must have made the Dodgers’ battery feel like they had nothing to worry about with Hosmer on second base. He’s supposed to be an aggressive base runner, like when he daringly scored the tying run in the 2015 World Series against the Mets. He has also been touted and announced himself as a real leader in the clubhouse.
If he is going to run the bases so poorly, Hosmer is setting a bad example for his other teammates. As likely the face of the franchise for the time being, Eric Hosmer needs to be better on the bases to inspire those around him to be better as well. Base Running isn’t the only area where the team has had issues scoring runs, however.
The Padres have the league’s highest strikeout rate, at 25.5%. Just being able to put the ball in play more often, would go a long way towards improving the team’s hitting. Furthermore, the lineup is getting on base at a mere .298 clip — Only the Orioles have been worse in this area at .290. The Yankees strike out 23.5% of the time, but they get on base at a .330 rate — It’s okay to strike out often, if you walk enough to mitigate the swing-and-miss problems you have. These Padres could at least work on being more patient, even if it isn’t reasonable to expect the team to lessen their number of strikeouts.
Seeing Travis Jankowski and Carlos Asuaje continue to receive more playing time should help this offense, at least. Thisis because the former walks 10.5% of the time, while the latter has done so at a rate of 11.5%. Two of the most patient Padres hitters have either been in Triple-A, or simply haven’t gotten enough playing time to make a real difference in how the offense produces runs. Both players have been impressive lately, so it would be reasonable to expect manager Andy Green to have them in the lineup together frequently.
The struggles have been exacerbated by the injury to Myers, along with injuries to others, as well as Eric Hosmer’s poor season thus far. It really does seem like the lineup is better than this, and part of the problem has been tied to guys playing worse than their talent level would seem to indicate. The reality is that if some of these players don’t start producing, they’ll find it a lot more difficult to make the roster next season.
On the infield, Luis Urias and Fernando Tatis Jr. are looking nearly ready to make an impact in 2019 as a double play combination. Josh Naylor and Buddy Reed are looking talented enough to push the outfielders for spots on the roster at some point next year, as well. As the prospects get closer to the big leagues, the current guys underperforming will be under increasing pressure to perform. Hopefully, in the end — The Padres will have an improved offense once they’re done shuffling the roster as the 2019 season begins.
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.