Grading the Padres: Relief Pitchers

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With the San Diego Padres season coming to a close, the staff here at East Village Times will take the time over the next week or so to properly evaluate and grade each of the position groups from the 2022 team.

Today, we’ll examine the relief corps, a unit that played an enormous role in San Diego’s all-around success this season that was more than amplified in the playoffs.

Below you’ll find a grade on each reliever on the Padres with a rationale supporting the assigned value.

To clarify, only qualified relievers were included in this grading scale. Players that were minimally involved throughout the season, such as Pierce Johnson and Drew Pomeranz, were left off due to the lack of sample size. 

Taylor Rogers, B

We’re including relievers who were once on the team as well, and Rogers did spend the entire first half of the season as a member of the Friars. At the time he was traded to Milwaukee, Rogers was second in the National League in saves, including a stretch of 12 straight games without allowing a run to start the season.

He faltered in the weeks approaching the trade deadline, however, and the lack of confidence in him ultimately led to the team acquiring Hader. Unloading the southpaw appeared to be the right move, as Rogers posted a 5.48 ERA over 23 innings pitched with the Milwaukee Brewers. Still, he was nails for the Friars early on and was a key piece to the Hader deal, earning a fair grade as a result.

Steven Wilson, B-

Wilson was valuable for the Padres at times, and he logged a fairly significant workload (53 IP) for a reliever. He struck out exactly one batter per inning pitched, though he allowed 1.2 HR/9 and posted a 3.4 BB/9, too.

Padres Steven Wilson
Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Still, Wilson’s ability to cover multiple innings and an analytically friendly fastball-slider combo proved key for this team throughout the season.

Nabil Crismatt, C+

Crismatt started the year on a tear and tapered off afterwards, finishing the season in the minors and finding himself off the postseason roster entirely.

He still appeared in 50 games and covered 67 ⅓ innings while also pitching in high-leverage situations for Bob Melvin’s team early on. Crismatt’s 2.94 ERA is a bit deceiving, but he served his role as the “swing man” in this ‘pen adequately.

Tim Hill, B

Hill earns a higher grade than the aforementioned duo for a few reasons. To start, he was the only left-handed arm in this ‘pen prior to Hader’s arrival, and that carries more weight for me personally. Hill made 55 appearances for this team and didn’t allow an earned run from July 2 to September 6.

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

His ERA is inflated because of two outings in which he served up more than three runs, including the final game of the regular season against the Giants. One underrated aspect of Hill’s value to this team is how successful he was at escaping jams, whether he was thrust into the situation or self-induced.

Adrian Morejon, B-

Grading Morejon was the toughest task of this entire exercise. On one hand, he finished the season with a 4.24 ERA, a 1.18 WHIP, and only a 7.4 K/9.

On the other hand, he’s an electric 23-year-old southpaw who held a relatively long scoreless streak at one point in the year, and 12 of the 16 earned runs he allowed came in just four of his 26 appearances. Because of the growing pains that come with his age and adjusting to big league hitters, Morejon’s grade comes in at slightly above average.

Nick Martinez, A+

There’s a legitimate case to be made that Martinez was the most valuable asset in the Padres’ bullpen this season. He broke camp as a starting pitcher and honestly performed at an above-average rate, yet transitioned to the ‘pen for young star MacKenzie Gore.

Padres Nick Martinez
Credit: Getty Images

After Mike Clevinger returned from the Injured List, Martinez’s role as a reliever became permanent, and the 32-year-old thrived for the Friars. His ability to cover multiple innings, pitch in key situations while seemingly being unfazed, and bringing a starter’s repertoire that featured above-average control of his entire arsenal was instrumental to the success that San Diego’s bullpen had throughout the year.

Martinez pitched to a 2.67 ERA over 54 relief innings, walking just 14 batters and locking down eight saves as well. With hopes of returning to a full-time starter’s workload, Martinez is expected to opt out of his current contract with the Padres, almost certainly having interest in bringing him back.

Luis Garcia, B+

Many of the ‘Friar Faithful’ were torn on Garcia as the season went on, and truthfully that sentiment is justified. Though he has electric stuff, a high-90s sinker with a tumbling splitter, and sharp slider to boot, Garcia’s command woes did show true at times throughout the season. He improved as the year went on, however, walking just six batters after the all-star break in 25 ⅔ innings while punching out 30.

There’s no arguing that Garcia is a dynamic reliever capable of getting anybody out when he’s around the zone, and the Padres were comfortable enough to thrust him into high-leverage situations throughout the year. Returning to the team on a relatively friendly deal from a monetization standpoint, Garcia’s B+ grade feels more than adequate.

Robert Suarez, A+

Suarez had really only one bad outing during the regular season, and it was his first-ever appearance at the big league level in a high-leverage situation on Opening Day. He didn’t allow a run at Petco Park until the second game of the National League Championship Series and was absolute nails all year, pitching to a 2.27 ERA and punching out 61 batters over a 47 ⅔ inning span.

Credit: AP Photo

Suarez appeared to be Bob Melvin’s most trusted arm at one point, and he escaped several jams unscathed, especially in the NLDS. He’s expected to exercise the opt-out clause on his contract, and losing Suarez would leave a pretty significant void in this bullpen.

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Josh Hader, A+

There was a point in time where this grade would have been about as close to an F as you could possibly get, but the tides and perspective on Hader as a member of this team have shifted dramatically. He appeared like he had regained his normal stuff as the regular season winded down and flat-out dominated in the playoffs, whiffing eight batters in a row at one point while consistently performing in clutch situations.

Most notably, Hader was called upon to record four outs in game two of the NLDS in Dodger Stadium, which he did, and he also struck out Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, and Freddie Freeman in game four to secure a series win for the Friars. After finding his release point and performing during this team’s most crucial moments, Hader’s more than deserving of an A+ grade.

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