The San Diego Padres’ winter will not be boring

Mandatory Credit: Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 World Series is over and it is time for the San Diego Padres to get started on what looks to be a very busy winter.

Left Coast Sports Babe (Janice Hough) said it all — the “worst thing about a World Series Game 7. There is no Game 8.”  There is no ball at all until pitchers and catchers report to spring training, which seems about a million years away. Padres baseball won’t resume again until February 22, when the Padres face the Seattle Mariners in Peoria, AZ.

No one expressed the angst of true fans better than former commissioner A. Bartlett Giamatti (who obviously loved the game a whole lot more than current complainer Rob Manfred).

“[Baseball] breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall all alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight when you need it most, it stops.”

For Padres fans, the second-half swoon combined with the promise of Fernando Tatis Jr. will no doubt lead to a winter of collective discontent coupled with cautious optimism. If Preller identified Tatis Jr.’s talent, perhaps he’s just one example of what fans have to look forward to as highly rated prospects like MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino finally arrive in San Diego.

Unfortunately, the playoffs have also highlighted the leaps and bounds the Padres must take to reach and compete in the postseason. After all, isn’t that the point of the long grind?  Isn’t that the implied promise of the current owners?

This World Series has positively reinforced the notion that stud pitchers remain a requirement for playing into October and winning the ultimate prize. Game 7 featured two former first-round draft picks who became Cy Young winners, Zack Greinke of the Houston Astros and Max Scherzer of the Washington Nationals.

In Game 6 San Diego State University product Stephen Strasburg overcame the relentless offense of the Astros in a brilliant 8 1/3 innings, giving up only five hits and two runs. He outpitched Justin Verlander (the very definition of a stud pitcher with a career 70.9 WAR and regular-season record of 225-129, 3.33 ERA, 1.135 WHIP) to halt the Astros’ momentum in a series in which the visiting team has won every game.

Credit: The Daily Aztec

Strasburg will undoubtedly be considered for the Cy Young award after a season in which he won 18 games to six losses and compiled a 3.32 ERA and 1.038 WHIP in the regular season, 2.51 ERA and 1.047 WHIP in the World Series.  The Padres haven’t boasted a Cy Young winner since 2007 when Jake Peavy joined Randy Jones (1976), Gaylord Perry (1978), Mark Davis (1989).

Although rumors have abounded that adding a front-line starting pitcher would be a priority in the offseason, Preller seems to be backing off from that goal. The team may just end up with some combination of Chris Paddack, Garrett Richards, Dinelson Lamet, Joey Lucchesi, Eric Lauer, and Cal Quantrill with Gore and Patino joining the mix at some point during the season.

Like the Padres, the Nationals (which started as the Montreal Expos) had never won the big prize.  Both came into existence in 1969.  Perhaps Washington’s victory will give the Padres, Texas Rangers (1961), Milwaukee Brewers (1969), Seattle Mariners (1977), Colorado Rockies (1993), and Tampa Bay Rays (1977) a dash of hope.

Coupled with solid pitching, both Houston and Washington played fundamentally sound baseball both defensively and offensively throughout the series. That cannot be said of the Padres this season. Sloppy became a common word used to describe the defense (especially in that absence of Tatis). At the plate, batters flailed away, swinging for the fences and striking out 24.3 percent of plate appearances.

The obvious gulf between teams like the Nationals and the Padres, as well as owner impatience, will make this offseason the most important of General Manager A.J. Preller’s tenure.  Preller has tied his fate to rookie manager Jayce Tingler, a familiar face from his time with the Texas Rangers.

Like his recent hire, Andy Green, Tingler has never managed in the big leagues. But he comes with a reputation for getting the most from his players, just as Dave Martinez (who was hired in October 2017) did with Washington this year. Can Tingler also establish a culture in the dugout like the one that helped the Nationals prevail after a season that began with a 19-31 record?

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From the beginning of the playoffs, the Nationals demonstrated tenacity on the field, a passionate connection with fans (shown by the “Baby Shark” singalong), and a solid bond among teammates in part thanks to Martinez.

Other issues abound, with question marks all over the field except at third base, shortstop, and first base as the Padres are stuck with Eric Hosmer and his burdensome contract. Other teams have expressed frustration at dealing with Preller in trade discussions in the past, and he will have to be more willing to give up some of his prize prospects to get quality in return.

Throughout his time in San Diego, Preller has traveled different routes each year, sometimes even making a U-turn from the previous season, so unpredictability may be the most reliable prediction. At the very least, as fans approach the fall and winter with no ball at all, this offseason promises to be anything but boring.

20 thoughts on “The San Diego Padres’ winter will not be boring

  1. Diane,
    For way too many years the Padres have been a poor contact team. Multiple hitting coaches hasn’t fixed that. Is it the lower level approaches or more home runs equals bigger ego and paycheck? I’d rather have Our hitters strive to hit 20 Hr and 50 doubles than 30 hr and 20 doubles. Teach opposite field hitting. Tony Gwynn made a living from it! Baseball has changed and I believe better success would come from contact and placement hitting. Bunt against the dang shift! GET ON BASE! If nothing else, their SP throws more pitches and you get to the bullpen sooner.

    I’d like to see our SP throw more to contact as well instead of 6+ pitches to every batter. We gave up too many walks and taxed our bullpens too frequently.

    Preller needs to win now. Don’t over value our talent and try not to drain the whole farm system so you can save your job Jay! But… win and get us fans interested again past the month of a July!

    1. You speak my language, Tony,
      I can’t count the number of times I yelled at the t.v. about bunting against the shift. Perhaps these guys are too “manly” to take that obvious approach. Changing hitting coaches has been a ritual and probably hurt much more than it helped as the message changed.
      I agree with your other arguments as well.

  2. We are stuck with Hosmer. No one will want him even if we eat a great deal of his contract. Hopefully, he will exhibit professional pride and do what’s needed to get better (endless BP against lefties this offseason) and bounce back. Otherwise, platoon him. I think the team needs to learn discipline at the plate and perhaps in the clubhouse. A mature leader (Strasburg) might go a long way in helping not just from a pitching perspective.

    Prospects are prospects until they aren’t. I’m tired (SD native fan) of hearing how great a farm we have with such a poor ML team. It’s time to put up Padres! Have the guts to do what’s necessary. Just because you want a lot of $ for your used car, doesn’t mean anyone is willing to pay that much. Get realistic and creative Preller! Make difficult decisions and put a winner on the field. I’m tired of a field of dreams and dreamers!

    1. Hello Tony,
      Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion. Hosmer is probably here to stay, and platooning him would not be a bad idea if he continues to flail against lefties. But Padres hitters, in general, had a terrible approach at the plate, swinging for the fences instead of just making contact. In the playoffs, successful teams got on base, moved the runner, etc.
      You are absolutely right about prospects. They are suspects until they prove their worth at the major league level.
      Preller is definitely on the clock, so the season will be interesting from that standpoint. But wouldn’t it be great if the games themselves captured our interest?

  3. FYI – The Padres ranked 13th in defense in the MLB. Idk that i would define the season as sloppy other than Hosmer and maybe Naylor/Reyes (Both NL DHs).

  4. Why do you say that it seems like preller is stepping back from adding a TOR? All indications have been that they’ll be in on Stras/the trade market for one. If anything, it seems to have been heating up.

    1. Hi BK,
      I’ve read multiple sources about Preller’s intentions regarding pitching, and they’re all over the place. As of last week, it appeared that he’d backed off, now not so much. The infield defense, in particular, looked sloppy, especially with Tatis Jr. hurt and Luis Urias playing out of position. Hosmer certainly didn’t help but the chances of him going anywhere are slim to none.
      Myers may be able to play multiple positions, but not well. He’s passable at first or in left, hopeless in center or at third base.
      Your comments are always appreciated.

      1. I don’t know that i’ve seen any that demonstrate him backing off. Starting with the trade market first, then going for FAs sure, but would love to read them!

        Myers is above average in LF/RF and passable at first, at least according to his defensive metrics. CF – we, including the padres have known he’s never been a CF, just someone that has decent batting splits and isn’t horrendous at the position. Bad, but i wouldn’t say hopeless. 3rd was a joke of a trial, agree wholeheartedly there.

        If he’s put in a position to succeed, I think you have to keep him in LF/RF/1B (ideally LF/1B). Hosmer should basically never be batting against LHP at this point. Thanks for your writing as always!

  5. Diane wrote another fab story. No it won’t be a boring off season. And who do we “thank” for all of that? Our wonderful owners! We can’t blame Preller anymore – it’s Fowler and Seidler who should get 100% of the credit for this winning, terrific and well run baseball team we have loved following the past 5 seasons. Did things get better when they bought the team? No, they got worse, a lot worse. Bottom anyone? It’s a long, long way to the top. And the team has gotten rid of the beautiful blue that matched the ocean and sky too? Yep, that too. Why should there be ANY good news?

    1. Hi Gary,
      Thanks for the high praise. This is actually therapy for me…
      Unfortunately it is a long way to the top, and the second half of the season was most disheartening.
      I do have to disagree about the uniforms. I like the brown, as it’s distinctive and doesn’t look like a wanna-be Dodger, etc. uniform.
      Preller’s future is on the line, so it will be very interesting to see what other moves he makes.

  6. Should be a very busy, and interesting off season, as 2020 is a make or break year. If the team does not make the playoffs, or come close, Preller will most likely be fired. To compete for a playoff spot means a minimum of 85 wins. So there’s the problem, there is no way this is an 85 win team. How to cure what plagues our fair city’s team? Here are some ideas:
    1) Send Ron Fowler to a baseball camp. He knows almost nothing about baseball, and less about dealing with employees. His calling out of people who work for him was so classless, it was Trump-like. Especially when he hired Preller, and approved the contracts.
    2) Fire Preller, now. This job calls for a lot more vision and determination than the endless wheel-spinning we get from him.
    3) Fix the Hosmer situation. Not fix him as a player. It’s too late for that. Trade him (get him to waive his no trade clause and dump him somewhere) or platoon him. His numbers against righties are barely tolerable ( 102 wRC+), but against lefties are just not professional (59 wRC+). As Hosmer goes, so goes the Padres. He was hot in May and June and the club played well. He cratered in the second half (hitting .170 from Sept. 1) and so did the team. Minimum, Tingler has to have the guts to restrict his playing time. Possible platoon partner: Wil Myers. 2019 wRC+ against lefties, 130.
    4) Make big roster changes. They need to add a proven starter, at least one reliever and possibly 2 OFs. There are too many meh players, get rid of them.

    1. Hi Tom,
      I really like your idea of platooning Myers and Hosmer at first. Myers should also play left field since the Padres are stuck with him and his soon to be bloated contract. Why Nick Martini is still on the roster (while Travis Jankowski is not) is truly puzzling.
      There’s no chance Preller will be fired until well into the season. Although he appears to have drafted well (the jury will be out on that score until more of his prospects arrive at the major league level), he has made huge mistakes on the major leaguers he’s brought in.
      Fowler has a big mouth (although he can’t compete with Trump…), and he really should be muzzled. You’re absolutely right, he approved the contracts. Plus, he’s a minority owner.
      Peter Seidler shows a lot more class.
      Thanks for taking the time to comment,

      1. You are so right about Nick Martini. Jankowski can field, run and his OBP against righties was .345 in 2018, but no, there’s no room for that guy. So he keeps Martini, who has no speed, no power and is terrible in the field.
        And yes, when Myers is not at 1B, let him play LF, and live with it.

  7. Thanks Diane…however, I continue to be troubled by always reading about Hosmers contract…people seem to forget that he drove in 99 runs, while almost never hitting a lefty well…his first year was a parade of ground balls, and I believe he corrected much of that…he did have a few issues at first this year, but overall his defense is solid…I believe we’re about to see his best in year 3…his contract may even end up to be a bargain….now, about the Myers contract……?

    1. For what it is worth, the RBI stat is considered antiquated, if not virtually meaningless when measuring the quality of hitters (e.g. because hitters have little control over who is on base, how many baserunners, etc). This, according to all the cool kids, which I am not, but it does make sense. Other stats are deemed more accurate (agree or disagree) like WAR, OPS, etc. By those measures Hosmer is the worst firs baseman in all of baseball! Not only that, as you mentioned his contract, that makes this far, FAR worse (the amount per year, plus the length).

      Also, Hosmer batter 4th. This is prime RBI territory (another reason for devaluing the RBI). If he batted 7th or 8th, then he would have had about 50 or so, if that. If he did not have Tatis, Machado, and Garcia’s high OBP right in front of him then there is no way he would get 99 RBI’s.

      Defensively he is far from solid. “A few issues”? There are many new ways to measure defense, and he failed horribly at all of them. He led the league in errors for 1b. He was deep in the negative by the other defensive measures. So, he is not solid, he does, in fact, suck. It is possible he may improve, but, given all of the above, and many other factors (e.g. there was no need to pay him this much, to sign a first baseman, there are better players at this position, etc) there is NO WAY this contract will ever be a bargain, NEVER.

      1. Hi Tommy T,
        Frankly, I was shocked at Hosmer’s miserable defensive stats (old school and new). He’d won all those Gold Gloves after all. But I didn’t have to dig deep to discover that he is and always has been a below-average first baseman. Ironically first base is usually where a team stashes the guy who can hit but isn’t much with a glove.
        But, the Padres are stuck with him. We better not hear that a first-rate starting pitcher isn’t in the budget…
        Thanks for reading and sharing your insights.

    2. Hello Paul,
      I have moaned and groaned about Wil Myers’s contract on the pages over and over again. However, I think the Padres would have been better served by sticking him at first and not spending all that money on another first baseman.
      By the numbers, Hosmer has never been even an average first baseman defensively. This year, his defense really hurt the team in my opinion.
      I hope you’re right about seeing his best years yet, but…
      Thanks for your comments as always,

    3. Hosmer is really bad. His contract (So far) is a top 10 worst in MLB history.

      Myers contract was backloaded and he has provided some value. He can also flex into 3.5 positions. Hosmer has been below replacement level since coming to SD.

      His defense is very bad, he has no ability to hit LHP and he needs to start walking again or he’s a cut candidate.

  8. If they are thinking of not adding any starting pitching then let’s just start with the “heads rolling” now as 2020 will just be yet another development season

    1. I couldn’t agree more, Kevin,
      The playoffs and especially the World Series demonstrated the need for dominant pitching of the veteran kind. But even adding a veteran stud pitcher will not solve the myriad problems elsewhere on this roster.
      Thanks for your input.

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