Projections are optimistic about Padres’ Chris Paddack

Padres Chris Paddack

Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Padres right-hander Chris Paddack has had a disappointing run since his initial rookie season surge. However, it seems the projections for the 2022 season are mildly optimistic. 

Chris Paddack came on strong to open his rookie campaign in 2019, posting a 3.33 ERA and 126 ERA+, one of the best rookie seasons for a starting pitcher in franchise history. From there, it has gone south. In the two seasons since, he has been average at best and a liability at worst. In just over 167 innings between 2020 and 2021, he owns a bloated 4.95 ERA and subpar 81 ERA+. After earning 2.8 bWAR in his initial season, things have turned upside down since, with a -0.4 bWAR in the last two seasons.

However, projections for the 2022 season seem bullish on the almost 26-year-old Texan. The projection tool “Steamer” suggests Paddack is due for a 3.83 ERA. However, that is with just 11 starts in 28 games, suggesting he takes on a swing-starter, long-reliever role for San Diego.

Dan Szymborski’s ZiPS projections on FanGraphs also favor Paddack’s fortunes in 2022. He states, “On the positive side, ZiPS remains less down on Paddack than fans and possibly the team are, the computer agreeing with Steamer that he should still be in the team’s plans.”

The fans are indeed pretty down on Paddack and not without reason. However, Szymborski’s projection tool has Paddack with a respectable 4.05 ERA in over 126 innings, with a slightly above-average 103 ERA+.

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So what is the reason for all this optimism?

First, consider his final five appearances of 2021 as hope for the future. In those five starts, he owned a 3.76 ERA, a solid 3.28 FIP, and allowed just two home runs in over 26 innings. Perhaps there was some overall rotten luck for the right-hander in 2021, as his ERA (5.07) and FIP (3.78) are far apart, suggesting he got very little support as far as defense and was void of any good luck or fortuitous bounces.

Another reason for optimism is that Paddack just does not walk batters very often, residing in the 95th percentile for walk rate. He averaged just one walk per nine innings in that final five-start stretch of last season.

From the beginning, it was assumed that Paddack needed to develop a third pitch aside from his fastball and changeup in order to be a long-term option as a starting pitcher. Over the last two seasons, he developed a curveball. In 2020, Paddack tossed it 71 times with an opponents’ batting average of .250 and a spin rate at 2,096 rpm. Last season, he used the curve 230 times, with hitters batting just .163 against it, with an improved 2,185 rpm spin rate.

Be it finally getting some good or even average luck to the further development of his curveball. Projections favor Paddack having a bounce-back campaign in this upcoming season.

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