First half superlatives for 2022 Padres

May 8, 2022; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres pinch-hitter Jorge Alfaro (38) reacts after hitting a walk-off three-run home run during the ninth inning against the Miami Marlins at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres finished the first half 52-42. Let’s take a look back at the first half of Padres baseball, including some highlights as well as a few lowlights.

As it stands now, the Padres are two games up in the Wild Card standings, ahead of the Phillies and Cardinals, who both occupy the third spot. They will need a stronger second half if they are to stave off the likes of the Giants, Cardinals, and Phillies for a Wild Card spot.

Team MVP

Manny Machado

This is the most obvious one. Not only has Machado been the most valuable Padre on the squad, but he is also still very much in contention for NL MVP as the first half draws to a close. He is fourth in the NL with a 158 OPS+ and is third with a 4.4 fWAR. Machado is on pace to have his best season in a Padres uniform and was named an All-Star for the second straight season. He did all of this without the support of his compadre, Fernando Tatis Jr., at shortstop through the first four months of the season. At times, he carried the team squarely on his back and is a big reason they are currently in a playoff spot.

He leads the team in hits (95), homers (15), RBIs (51), stolen bases (7), batting average (.303), OPS (.890), and OPS+ (158).

Best Pitcher

Joe Musgrove

While Machado is in contention for NL MVP, Musgrove is still lurking in the NL Cy Young hunt. The El Cajon native has reached a new gear this season, even after being San Diego’s most consistent starting pitcher last year as well. He is fourth in the NL with a 2.42 ERA and fifth in ERA+ at 157. The Padres’ strength this season has been starting pitching, and Musgrove spearheaded the effort through the first half. He also has a WHIP better than 1.0, ranking sixth in the National League. By all accounts, he is a top-five starting pitcher in the NL.

Best game for a hitter

Manny Machado goes 5-for-6 (April 14 vs. Braves)

The Padres opened their 2022 home schedule against the defending World Series champion Braves. All the Padres did was drop 12 runs on them, with Machado leading the charge. He launched a homer, but that was only a small part of his solid game. He collected five hits, going 5-for-6 with a homer, two RBIs, and four runs scored. This marked the first five-hit game by a Padre since 2018 and his four runs scored were the most for a Friar since July of last season.

 

Best game for a pitcher

Joe Musgrove flirts with another no-no (June 3 vs. Brewers)

The game felt very much like déjà vu. On April 9, 2021, Musgrove tossed the first no-hitter in Padres history in Texas against the Rangers. This game against the Brewers felt similar, as Musgrove cruised and got a few lucky breaks and solid defense behind him. It was building towards something special. He allowed just three baserunners through five innings, none via a hit. He entered the eighth inning, still having not surrendered a hit. Fans began believing this could be no-no No. 2 for Joe and the Padres. He retired Victor Caratini and Lorenzo Cain to start the inning, meaning he was just four outs away from yet another no-hitter. Kolten Wong then lined a double against the wall, ending Musgrove’s no-hit bid at 7 2/3 innings. Wong and Musgrove shared an incredible moment, as each acknowledged the other in a sign of sportsmanship. Musgrove finished the inning, giving the Padres eight shutout innings.

Most disappointing player

Trent Grisham

Unfortunately, a few players could have been named most disappointing. Grisham’s fall from grace has been shocking. From the 2020 Gold Glove winner in center field and a 123 OPS+ at the plate that season, both areas have taken a nosedive this year. Among the 137 hitters in Major League Baseball this season with at least 300 plate appearances, Grisham ranks 137th, dead last, in batting average, with a .190 mark. He is striking out in over a quarter of his plate appearances while his average exit velocity has taken a big dip. For a while, his stellar defense was able to justify keeping him in the lineup. Recently, that part of his game has also decayed. Over the final few weeks of the first half, he had several misadventures in center field, with some head-scratching routes to balls and costly mistakes. After posting 15 Defensive Runs Saved between 2020 and last season, he is at -2 this year. The Padres expected much better from him, and his days as a starter may be numbered if the Padres make a necessary move in the outfield ahead of the deadline.

Most surprising player

Jurickson Profar

Most counted on Machado and Jake Cronenworth to carry the load offensively when it was announced Tatis would miss a large chunk of the season. Luke Voit also took on those expectations once he was acquired as the full-time DH. However, Profar, the former failed infield prospect, has turned into the Padres’ best outfielder and one of the more consistent hitters. First, he is batting .291 with a .917 OPS with runners in scoring position, one of the best marks in baseball. He is second on the team in doubles (21) and second in on-base percentage (.343). The big question is- can he maintain this success for an entire season? The Padres will need him down the stretch if they are going to secure a playoff spot.

Jul 3, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; San Diego Padres left fielder Jurickson Profar (10) runs after hitting a single against the Los Angeles Dodgers during the sixth inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Most exciting win

Padres 3, Marlins 2 (May 8)

The Marlins stifled the Padres’ bats for the majority of their Mother’s Day matchup. San Diego had just five singles and zero runs heading into the bottom of the ninth, trailing 2-0. Jurickson Profar singled with one out, putting the tying run at the plate. A single by C.J. Abrams put runners on first and second with two outs, with Jorge Alfaro representing the winning run at the plate. The catcher jumped on the first pitch from Cole Sulser, smashing a ball deep into left-center, over the wall, and into the bullpens, sending Petco Park into a frenzy. Alfaro, decked in the Sunday camo with accents of pink for Mother’s Day, emphatically rounded the bases and met the team at home plate, where they mobbed him. The Padres had just an eight percent chance to win the game entering the ninth.

Most brutal loss

Diamondbacks 7, Padres 6 (June 28)

This game was a symptom of the Padres’ biggest flaws. After a scoreless first four innings, the Padres exploded for six runs in the top of the fifth, taking a commanding 6-0 lead. Sean Manaea pitched into the seventh inning before being removed and charged with three runs. It seemed that Bob Melvin made a rare mistake in handling his starters and let Manaea go too long. The lead had already sprung a leak. By the end of the seventh, the lead was just 6-4. Luis Garcia entered the game in the bottom of the eighth, with the Padres still clinging to a two-run lead. After allowing a single, two walks, and a hit-by-pitch to allow a run, Taylor Rogers came in. He immediately hit another batter with the bases loaded, tying the game for the Diamondbacks.

The Padres had blown a six-run lead with some sloppy pitching punctuated by a failure from the bullpen. Rogers was able to preserve the tie heading into the ninth inning. The Padres failed to take the lead back, setting up Arizona with a chance to walk it off. Rogers gave up two hits after getting two outs before Christian Walker lined a grounder to first baseman Eric Hosmer. Hosmer misplayed it, and the D-backs were able to bring across the winning run, to walk it off and stun the Padres. The bullpen revealed some warts the team needs to address before the deadline. Hosmer continues to play poorly at first base.

Best defensive play

C.J. Abrams  full extension dive (July 11)

Abrams is racking up valuable time at the big league level at shortstop in Tatis’ absence. He also made one of the best diving stops by a Padres shortstop in a long time.

Most exciting prospect yet to make MLB debut

James Wood

Wood is a massive, mashing 19-year-old whom the Padres selected in the second round of the 2021 amateur draft. At 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, he is a powerful and surprisingly athletic outfielder, and MLB Pipeline gives him a 60-run grade and 55 for power. Thus far in Single-A Lake Elsinore, he has displayed both. In 41 games, he has seven home runs with 14 stolen bases and a 1.009 OPS, which is the ninth-best in the California League. He is one of just two teenagers in the top nine of that leaderboard.

Wood is still very raw but has 30-homer power with a plus arm fit for right field. He is still at least a couple of years off from making his big league debut, but the skills are there. MLB Pipeline ranks him as the Padres’ No. 3 prospect and No. 90 in their Top 100.


Biggest question mark

Does this year’s team have what it takes to avoid another catastrophic collapse? 

The Padres limped into the end of the first half, going just 7-14 over their final 21 games. The team’s recent struggles have every fan dreading the same fate the Padres faced last season when they collapsed at a historical level. After being 18 games above .500 on August 10 and being squarely in the playoff spot, they went 12-34 down the stretch, missing the playoffs and finishing below .500. Could it possibly happen again?

The most significant differences between 2021 and this year are twofold. One, Bob Melvin is at the helm. He is as experienced and respected around the league as any manager in baseball. The Padres no longer have a rookie manager trying to figure it out on the fly. Secondly, the starting pitching has been stellar. Last season, injuries and lack of depth forced the Padres into several bullpen days and picking up starting pitchers off the scrap heap. This season, they are built better to withstand a few injuries to the rotation. They have perhaps the deepest starting rotation in baseball.

However, the flaws are real. The bullpen is on shaky ground, and the offense goes too quiet too often. Will Tatis’ eventual return be the team’s saving grace? It might not be enough. That’s for A.J. Preller to decide and build on.

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Nick Lee
Native of Escondido, CA. Lived in San Diego area for 20 years. Padres fan since childhood (mid-90s). I have been writing since 2014. I currently live near Seattle, WA and am married to a Seattle sports girl. I wore #19 on my high school baseball team for Tony Gwynn. I am a stats and sports history nerd. I attended BYU on the Idaho campus. I also love Star Wars.
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TannedTom
TannedTom
21 days ago

Mostly a spot-on analysis. However, the most disappointing player is not Grisham (0.6 WAR at a $729,300 salary). It is Hosmer (0.3 WAR at a $21m salary). The club simply MUST deal him and move on.

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