Last week, the San Diego Padres were winning games despite a struggling lineup, one that lacked three of its best right-handed hitters.
After returning to San Diego following a 6-2 road trip, the Padres scored two, three, zero, three(all on a pinch-hit home run from Jorge Alfaro in the ninth inning), and zero runs in five games to open the homestand.
Tuesday, May 10, Luke Voit and Wil Myers returned from the injured list, and suddenly the Padres began to score in bunches, scoring five, five, eleven, five, and seven(with some help from extra innings) runs in the following five games.
The #Padres have reinstated OF Wil Myers and INF/DH Luke Voit from the 10-day IL, optioned INF CJ Abrams to Triple-A El Paso and designated OF Trayce Thompson for assignment.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 10, 2022
Voit and Myers are just two pieces of the puzzle for the Padres, but it becomes significantly easier to complete a puzzle when more pieces are on the table. Those two batters aren’t lighting the baseball world on fire, either.
Myers has six hits, one of which being a home run and a walk in 21 at-bats since his return. Voit looks slightly better than Myers, with just five hits but two for home runs to go along with a double and two walks while striking out nine times in 21 at-bats.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) May 11, 2022
How has the addition of two bats improved the lineup drastically? Expansion.
Two very formidable bats were suddenly inserted in the middle of the lineup, which provides more protection for red-hot Manny Machado and Eric Hosmer. Also, bats who were previously batting higher in the lineup and struggling are now hitting in the lower parts of the order after Myers and Voit.
One batter who thrived this past weekend against the Atlanta Braves is Ha-Seong Kim. After going hitless in the first six games of the previous homestand, Kim exploded with four hits in the three-game series against the Braves, including a go-ahead home run on Friday and a go-ahead double on Sunday.
national league shortstop wRC+ ranking (min. 100 PA)
1. ha seong kim (124)
2. willy adames (117)
3. francisco lindor (111)
4. trea turner (111)
5. josé iglesias (107)
6. dansby swanson (100)
7. brandon crawford (90)
— Sung Min Kim (@sung_minkim) May 16, 2022
Kim is not the only batter who is starting to see some offensive improvement over the last week of action.
Trent Grisham, who is still struggling and seemingly in a platoon role with Jose Azocar, drove in four runs against Atlanta, his first runs batted in since May 1. Given Grisham’s lack of production, having more potent bats in the middle of the Padres lineup compliments his walking prowess much more now that he’s batting eighth or ninth as opposed to sixth or seventh.
Austin Nola only got one hit from May 5 through May 9. In his three starts following the return of Myers and Voit, Nola got four hits and saw his average rise from .193 to .215. Nola won’t play every day due to the nature of being a catcher, but his patient at-bats suddenly become more valuable towards the bottom of the order instead of in the leadoff spot or two-hole.
— Bally Sports San Diego (@BallySportsSD) May 11, 2022
No batter arguably turned it around more than Jurickson Profar, who fell off a cliff with the bat after a torrid start to his 2022 campaign. Profar boasted a .664 OPS after the Padres were shut out by Chicago Cubs starter Kyle Hendricks. Profar, unlike most of the other wavering bats, remained in the starting lineup and batted just in front of Machado and Hosmer.
In the five games since the sluggers came off the injured list, Profar looks far more like the hitter of a $21 million contract. He has six hits in the last five games, two of the games were multi-hit games, and four of the hits went for extra bases.
The return of Myers and Voit signaled for more than just the return of two hitters, but also the placement of hitters back in spots where they are better suited to succeed. The results are showing in the Padres’ previous five games, which is certainly a tiny sample size. Still, it is incredibly encouraging after an egregious display by the Friars in their five games leading into that.
San Diego currently sits at 22-13 in a tie for first place 35 games into its 162-game season. An up-and-down offensive display earlier is seemingly evening out in the right direction, and that’s with a struggling Jake Cronenworth batting leadoff and zero at-bats from their $340 million shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., The Padres, have the pieces to the puzzle. It’s all about piecing them together before October and potentially into the postseason.