Historically, San Diego has been a city of elite closers.
The Padres have sent out Heath Bell, Huston Street, Craig Kimbrel, Kirby Yates, Mark Melancon, Brad Hand, and of course, Trevor Hoffman, all in the last 25 years. However, in 2022, the closer position has been one of the biggest holes on the entire squad.
Taylor Rogers, who was acquired on opening day, could not make it to Arizona in time for the season opener. Robert Suarez, who stepped in, blew a two-run lead in one of the most frustrating losses of the season. This, unfortunately, proved to be a trend for the Padres. Rogers looked good early, starting out with a 0.44 ERA in his first 20 outings, but he quickly fell apart in June and July.
Over those two months, Rogers posted a 7.45 ERA. He blew five saves and allowed runs in 11 of 19 appearances. He gave up three runs to the Pirates in a blown save, four to the Brewers in another, and two more to the Tigers. After the gut-wrenching loss in Detroit, it was announced that Rogers would be given a “break” from the closer role.
Three days later, he was shipped to Milwaukee.
In the first of four monumental trade deadline moves, A.J. Preller acquired four-time All-Star closer, Josh Hader. Rogers headlined the return package, which also saw Dinelson Lamet, Esteury Ruiz, and Robert Gasser head to the Brewers.
Hader’s resume spoke for itself. He’s won three NL Reliever’s of the Year, more than any player ever. Between 2017 and 2021, he posted a 2.26 ERA, recording 96 saves in the process. There was some concern after Hader had regressed to a 4.24 ERA in 2022, with a 12.54 ERA in his final month in a Brewers uniform. However, it seemed to have just been a brief rough patch, as Hader allowed just one run in his final four outings for Milwaukee. If history was any indication, Hader was the answer at closer.
While it’s been just under three weeks since the trade, it has quickly become clear. Hader was not the answer at closer.
In six outings as a Padre, Hader owns a 12.46 ERA. He’s picked up a blown save in his only save opportunity. While Hader has only earned one loss, he allowed two inherited runners to score in a loss to the Nationals, which proved to be the difference. He also was bailed out in his blown save by Manny Machado’s walk-off home run, which spared Hader his second loss as a Padre.
After Hader allowed three runs to three batters on August 19 against the Nationals, Bob Melvin announced that the southpaw would be taking a break from the closer role. Melvin also made it clear that the Padres would use a “closer by committee” role, with both Luis Garcia and Nick Martinez having picked up saves since Hader’s break.
On Wednesday, Hader worked a scoreless inning in a blowout loss to the Guardians. The lefty looked much better, striking out two batters in the appearance. For the Padres, hopefully, he figures it out, and this showing was a display of the future output from the pitcher.
It has been a wild season for the Padres relievers, as five different pitchers have recorded saves. That doesn’t even include Hader, who is still looking for his first Padre save. San Diego also had five pitchers record a save last season, but no one besides Melancon recorded multiple saves. This year they’ve already had three, and Hader was certainly expected to be the fourth.
The Dodgers have Kimbrel, the Mets have Edwin Diaz, the Cardinals have Ryan Helsley, the Braves have Kenley Jansen, and even the Brewers have Devin Williams. The Phillies are the only NL team in the playoff race without a clear closer, but that has been due to injuries, not poor play. The Padres do not have that.
For the first three months of the season, Bob Melvin and the Friar Faithful could count on seeing Taylor Rogers in the ninth, even with his struggles.
Now, they don’t even have that.
San Diego’s blown 18 of their 54 save opportunities, with 16 of those coming since May 27. It’s been a disastrous three months for the Padres’ closers, and it is costing San Diego wins that they cannot afford.
In a tight NL Wild-Card race, every win will matter. Should the Padres come just a handful of games short of the postseason, they’ll know where to look for where those games went.
The job is open. It’s time for someone to step up and command the closer role in San Diego.