Padres first half superlatives

Apr 3, 2023; San Diego, California, USA; San Diego Padres second baseman Ha-seong Kim (right) celebrates after hitting a walk-off home run during the ninth inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres concluded the first half of play on Sunday with a 43-47 record. Let’s review the first half as a whole.

The first half of the season is now in the rearview mirror. The Padres are 43-47 and sit six games back of a playoff spot. There is plenty of work to do. Their first half was the definition of a roller coaster ride.

Let’s review the first half of Padres baseball by way of superlatives.

Best pitcher- Blake Snell

Didn’t see that one coming, did you? Snell has been the subject of much hand-wringing in the past among fans. He is certainly polarizing, given his dominating stuff coupled with the occasional mental miscues. His first few starts had Padres fans up in arms again, with a 6.92 ERA in his first three starts.

However, since then, he has been basically an All-Star and borderline Cy Young candidate. Since April 18, in 15 starts, he owns a dominant 2.22 ERA with 116 strikeouts in 85 innings.

He has five double-digit strikeout games, with four of them coming consecutively, tying a franchise record set by Jake Peavy. Snell is second only to Braves ace Spencer Strider in strikeouts in the National League at 132. His 143 ERA+ is fifth-best in the NL, with his 2.85 ERA good enough for third in the league.

Frankly, it’s embarrassing that he was not named an All-Star when his hometown of Seattle is the host city.

Best hitter- Fernando Tatis Jr.

This is both an indictment on how well Tatis has played since returning from his 80-game suspension and after having not played for the better part of 18 months. Also, it shows that none of the other stars were able to sustain success in his absence. Juan Soto technically has some better numbers, but Tatis has been far more consistent. Since Memorial Day, in 37 games, Tatis is batting .327 with a .967 OPS.

Tatis leads the team with a .525 slugging percentage, 16 home runs and is second with 14 stolen bases. He is the most dynamic hitter in the entire lineup. Tatis is on pace for a 30/30 season, which would be the first in Padres history.

Most pleasant surprise- Ha-Seong Kim

While most assumed the stars would produce, what was unexpected was the emergence of Kim. He is currently fourth in all of baseball with 4.1 bWAR. He is tied for the major league lead with 11 Outs Above Average. He also leads all of baseball in dWAR at 2.1. He is on pace to easily win a Gold Glove and should even be in contention for the coveted Platinum Glove.

His bat has come along as well. He owns a 113 OPS+ and is second on the team with a .349 on-base percentage. He has even earned several games at the leadoff spot in the lineup.

Quite simply, Kim is one of the best defenders in the game and is also becoming a slightly above average hitter. He is extremely valuable to this team.

Biggest disappointment- Jake Cronenworth

On the flip side is Cronenworth. Fresh off of a position change and a new seven-year, $80 million extension, expectations were high for Cronenworth. Frankly, he has fallen completely flat. His .217 average, .318 on-base percentage, .361 slugging, .679 OPS, and 91 OPS+ are all career lows. Among qualified first basemen, he is 23rd in wRC+.

Defensively, he has not been as good as most predicted before the season. He is in just the eighth percentile for Outs Above Average and has a subpar -2 Defensive Runs Saved.

To put things in perspective, Eric Hosmer put up better numbers in San Diego than what the team is currently getting out of Cronenworth. No one needs a good second

Best win- April 9 @ Atlanta Braves, W 10-2

While it wasn’t the most dramatic win, this big victory in Atlanta looks better and better. The Braves look like the best team in baseball by a considerable margin. The Padres went into their place and won three out of four, including this blowout on Sunday Night Baseball. Manny Machado and Nelson Cruz each had three hits, with Cruz driving in six runs. Kim homered and drove in three runs as well. Seth Lugo kept a ferocious Braves lineup at bay with six innings of one-run ball.

The Braves currently have the best record in baseball at 60-29. They have only lost three series at home, and the Padres were one of them. This is the type of level the Padres can perform at when they are at their best. Unfortunately, we have seen far too little of this version of the 2023 Padres.

Most gut-wrenching loss- June 29 @ Pittsburgh Pirates, L 5-4

The Padres were absolutely reeling heading into this game. They had lost four in a row and seven of their last nine, to sink to seven games below .500. They needed this one. The Padres scored three runs in the second and made it 4-0 in the fourth on a Kim home run. It was 4-1 until the bottom of the sixth when the Pirates started chipping away. They got one in the sixth and then took the lead in the seventh. The Pirates tied the game on a throwing error by Tim Hill, and then Luis Garcia surrendered the go-ahead single.

The Padres had the tying run on second in the eighth but could not capitalize. Gary Sanchez walked to lead off the ninth, and the Padres squandered their last chance. They blew what was a 4-0 lead to lose their fifth game in a row. They would lose a sixth game in a row in Cincinnati the next day in the most brutal stretch of the season.

I'd like this amount to  

Most exciting prospect- Ethan Salas

How can you not get excited about a kid who should not even be a junior in high school hitting minor-league pitching well? Salas just barely turned 17 and is catching for Single-A Lake Elsinore. Not only that, he is hitting at a .259 clip, with six homers, a .881 OPS, and 133 wRC+ in 30 games.

Salas currently ranks as the No. 49 overall prospect in baseball and No. 2 in the Padres system. It is not unreasonable to think, given his age and progress so far, that he could be a top 10 overall prospect in baseball in short order.

Biggest team need- reliable veteran bullpen arm

One might say another bat in the lineup is needed, which is true. However, if we are playing the long game, the odds are the lineup will figure it out with the names they have before the bullpen does, with the lack of depth.

The starting rotation has been solid, with an ERA ranking sixth in baseball while pitching the 10th-most innings. However, the bullpen ranks just 12th in ERA while ranking 20th in fWAR as a group. Take out Josh Hader and his stellar 1.08 ERA, and it’s a mediocre group at best.

Robert Suarez seems to be on his way back, but there is no guarantee he will be at the form he was to end last season. The Padres need to add another veteran arm to the bullpen. Names to watch are Alex Lange of the Tigers, Joe Kelly and Keynan Middleton of the White Sox, and Scott Barlow of the Royals.

A.J. Preller has his work cut out for him, with now a depleted, top-heavy farm system to work with.

Biggest question- What do we make of this recent hot streak?

The Padres ended the first half winning five of their last six, and they are 6-2 so far in July. What does this mean? Is this finally the point where the team plays up to its expectations? Or is this another aberration in what is a flawed, middling team?

The 5-1 homestand came against two teams who are still looking to be in contention in the Angels and Mets. However, they have won five out of six and six out of eight already this season. Then a slump ensues, sinking the team lower than they were before. Is this the two steps forward before the inevitable two steps back? Or is this the real Padres?

We will find out fairly quickly, with four games in Philadelphia to open the second half this weekend.

(Visited 132 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *