After 42 games, the Padres are winning twice as often as they lose.
They have the most wins on the road in baseball. They’re doing it all without their superstar, Fernando Tatis Jr. They’ve had some of the best starting pitching in baseball, a fantastic closer in Taylor Rogers, and elite production from Eric Hosmer and Manny Machado.
There’s been a lot of discussion about the Padres getting even stronger as well. The Padres had just one rotation cycle with all five expected starters healthy. Drew Pomeranz, Michel Baez, and Adrian Morejon could all return to the Padres bullpen in 2022, and they’ve struggled for offense at times. As the Padres get stronger, it is hard to see how they could get worse, but when one looks deeper, it becomes clear.
San Diego’s become a team that has won close games, using a combination of just enough offense and a stellar bullpen to push the Padres to success. They’ve won 10 of their 14 one-run games, which is unsustainable over the course of the entire season. They’ve also won 18 of their 27 games that were decided by three runs or less. The close wins have led to the Padres having the third best winning percentage in baseball, despite having just the ninth best run differential.
Their expected record is 24-18, which is four games worse than their actual record of 28-14. Only the Pittsburgh Pirates have an actual record that exceeds their expected record by more than four games. This means that the Padres have arguably been the second luckiest team in baseball this season. It is true that there are teams that are able to exceed expectations over the entire season. Last season’s Seattle Mariners went 90-72, despite an expected record of 76-86, meaning they exceeded their expectations drastically. However, it’s highly unlikely that the Padres can continue to do better than expected at the level they have been, as they’re currently on pace to have 12 more actual wins than expected wins.
The Dodgers have underperformed their expected wins as they have two fewer wins than their run differential would suggest. The expected gap between the Padres and Dodgers would be 6.5 games when in reality, the Padres are just a half-game behind. The Padres are still a very talented team, though their run differential suggests they should be much closer to the Giants in the standings rather than the Dodgers.
While the Padres have over-performed as a team, they’ve also had individuals with unsustainable success. The biggest reason for the Padres’ success has been Manny Machado. He’s been fantastic, leading the MLB with 3.3 WAR. Machado’s performances have made him the betting favorite for NL MVP, and he’s stepped up massively in the absence of Fernando Tatis Jr., playing the best baseball of his career. However, while Machado is playing at an elite level, he’s been extremely fortunate. His BABIP of .413 is the second highest in the major leagues, and it is drastically higher than his career BABIP of .300. BABIP, which is short for batting average on balls in play, is relatively luck-based. It can lead to extreme outliers over the small sample size of the early games.
Machado’s numbers are impressive, but they suggest that he will regress to the mean over the rest of the campaign. Eric Hosmer’s fast start has been another welcome surprise for Padres fans, but like Machado, he’s been fortunate, according to BABIP. Hosmer’s BABIP is .354, the 15th highest in baseball. San Diego’s been dependent on Hosmer and Machado, so it’ll be critical that other players step up, even as Tatis returns.
On the mound, the Padres have been led by Joe Musgrove. Musgrove put together eight quality starts in eight outings leading the team with a 1.90 ERA. He has the fifth-best odds for the NL Cy Young award. Musgrove has been stellar, but his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is 2.78, suggesting that he is due for a slight regression. However, the more worrying aspect is the Padres bullpen.
The bullpen has been incredibly reliant on closer Taylor Rogers, who’s posted a ridiculous 0.47 ERA. The Padres are a perfect 19-0 in games that he appears in. Rogers has blown just one save all season, and it came in extra innings against the Dodgers. He’s had some close saves this season, and his 1.81 FIP suggests that he’ll fall back to earth slightly. Robert Suarez and Nabil Crismatt, both of whom have pitched often out of the bullpen, have an ERA that is more than one run lower than their FIP.
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The Padres are a very talented team, and they’re going to be a force to reckon with come October. They’ve performed well over the first quarter of the season. However, it’s critical that manager Bob Melvin and his team are mentally prepared that their fight is with wild card rivals, such as the Braves, Giants, Cardinals, and Phillies … not the Dodgers.
This team is set up to stay strong and avoid a late-season slide, unlike the 2021 Padres. It’ll be about finding a way to play their best baseball in October. The Braves won just 88 games in 2021, but they got hot to win the World Series. The Padres can do the exact same.
Sam is a Senior in High School. He has been writing for three years, and started at EVT in June of 2021. He’s headed to Syracuse’s Newhouse School of Communications in the fall of 2023.