Hitting a major league pitcher successfully is one of the most difficult things to do in all of professional sports. The reaction time a batter needs in order to make contact is phenomenal and even the best athlete in other sports (Michael Jordan) find it nearly impossible to have success swinging the bat.
With all that being said, the San Diego Padres have an issue that needs to be resolved. They fail to make contact far too often to be a productive offensive force. Game after game, at bat after at bat they continually just give away at bats to the opposing teams pitchers.
In their most recent three-game series against the Dodgers the team struck out 37 times. The series before that against the Braves, they struck out 30 times in three games. The Marlins three-game series before that 28 batters went down swinging. You cannot win major league games against teams by striking out 10 or more times a game. The Padres have power in their bats, but they do not have that kind of team. They cannot continue to swing from their heels moving forward if they want to succeed.
The trades of Matt Kemp and Melvin Upton Jr. have lessened the teams strikeout totals a bit. Kemp currently has 133 strikeouts in total while Upton has struck out 143 times. Both are currently former Padres, but there are still plenty of current ones who fail to make contact with two strikes. The season Wil Myers is having is fantastic. He is healthy and there is no talk at all of his wrist. He has also produced for the team and was an easy choice for the All-Star game at Petco Park. He has struggled mightily since the game though and it probably has to do more with fatigue than anything else. He has never played this many games at the major league level. Myers had a batting line of .286/.351/.522 with 78 strikeouts in 339 at bats before the break and after is at .200/.295/.329 with 60 K’s in 170 at bats. He was still striking out way too much before the break, but now his K percentage is downright horrible.
Myers could very well be the face of the franchise for the future, but he needs work on his plate discipline. The goods news is he is still 25 and still learning his craft. There are plenty of things he can work on, and reports are that Myers is not opposed to fine tuning his craft. A full season of production from Myers could result in a Padres record-breaking type offensive year. With his combination of power and speed, the sky is the limit. Myers may strikeout a ton presently, but he is not alone. The Padres currently have 1,288 strikeouts on the year as a team. They only trail the Milwaukee Brewers who have 1,316 on the year. That is not a stat line you want to be on top of. In fact five of the top six teams (Brewers, Padres, Rays, Diamondbacks, Twins) leading the league in team strikeouts are statistically the worst teams in the league. Only the Astros who are third with 1,246 K’s are presently a playoff contending team. Their team is built on power and obviously it has worked to some degree as the Astros continue to contend. However when the Astros face good pitching they will be in trouble. Especially if they are in a playoff series.
There have been some really bad swings coming from the Padres this year. The bench players have horrifying strikeout numbers as Brett Wallace and Adam Rosales each almost strike out in half their at bats. Rosales has K’d in 72 of his 185 at bats while Wallace has struck out in 78 of his 205 at bats. Those are crazy numbers for bench guys. There used to be a day and age when striking out was frowned upon. It really blows my mind when I see numbers like this. Players off the bench should be contact hitters, not all or nothing hitters.
Wallace and Rosales aren’t the only offenders as Derek Norris has struck out 123 times this year. He is batting well under .200 and the Padres are at the point where they do not know what to do with him. They would love for him to hit so his value can rise leading to a trade. The Padres clearly plan to hand the starting gig to Austin Hedges fairly soon.
The style of play Travis Jankowski brings to the team is exciting to watch. He flies all over the field and hustles his butt off on every play. His teammates respect that but Jankowski has also struck out way too much to be a viable option at the leadoff spot. In his 276 at bats, he has K’d 84 times. In a full season you are looking at potentially 180 strike outs and that will not fly for someone who has little to no power. Jank is a great bunter and the team would be wise to utilize him as a bunting machine. Put pressure on the defense and good things can happen. Swinging over the top of sliders and chasing high fastballs out of the zone is the exact opposite of that.
Ryan Schimpf‘s strikeout numbers are a bit concerning. He does provide a ton of power so you have to take the good with the bad. He has struck out 74 times in 204 at bats but is still slugging .574 with a .919 OPS and a 144 OPS+. Of all the before mentioned players, he is still allowed to swing for the fences provided he continues to deliver extra base hits at a crazy pace. You cannot argue with his production. Oswaldo Arcia has horrible K numbers throughout his career as well and he has struck out 76 times this season in 182 at bats. It is still yet to be determined what his future is with the team. It is certainly a bad recipe to have too many strikeout hitters bunched together in a lineup.
Yangervis Solarte with 53 K’s in 341 at bats is the only everyday player who has respectable strike out numbers. Even Jon Jay saw his strikeout percentage rise to a new career high of 21.3% this season as a Padres outfielder. His previous high was 16.7% strikeouts per at bats as a major leaguer. It really make you scratch your head and it proves the old baseball adage that strikeouts are contagious. This team needs to call a doctor, because swinging and missing is not going to lead this team into the promise land.
Manuel Margot and Carlos Asuaje provide a glimmer of hope for the Padres future. Both are contact type hitters that are not afraid to shorten up their approach with two strikes. Asuaje has struck out 82 times this season. But that was in 535 at bats in Triple-A. The left-handed hitter continues to swat two strike pitches up the middle for base hits. As for Margot he has struck out 64 times in 517 at bats. He has a very quick bat and the Padres will thrive with him in the top of the order. I can’t wait. Those two bring hope of a more productive lineup coming to Petco Park in the near future.
Austin Hedges with 51 strike outs in 313 Triple-A at bats, is not one to be too concerned with in terms of making contact. His approach at the plate is developing and he should only improve with the bat. The reigning PCL MVP is another story. Hunter Renfroe hit .303 this year with 30 homers and 105 RBI for the El Paso Chihuahuas. He is ready for major league service time. Renfore struck out 115 times in 533 at bats which isn’t that bad. However he only walked 22 times which is a bit of a concern once he faces major league pitchers. Still, if Renfore can drive the ball like he did in El Paso, the Padres will live with the swings and misses.
The Padres are presently developing their style of play. The team wants to be more aggressive on the base paths and with the bats but they need contact hitters in key positions in order to fully utilize their well-laid plan. Striking out 1,288 times is not a way to winning baseball. The Angels are the toughest team to strike out as they have only K’d 825 times this season as a team. That is 463 fewer times than the Padres. That is unreal. Could you imagine all the good things that would have happened if the Friars put over 400 balls into play instead of swinging and missing or being rung up? They wouldn’t have the worst batting average in the league, like they presently do. That is for sure. Put the ball in play fellas. Please.