The San Diego Padres have had a disappointing 2023 season thus far, currently sitting in fourth place in the National League West with a 33-35 record.
A team that came into Opening Day with World Series aspirations has played well below expectations, but there is still time to turn it around.
The offense has been the most underwhelming, but with the amount of potential and star power in the lineup, it is expected to pick back up. The pitching staff has been very solid, ranking in the top seven in the league in ERA, WHIP, opponent batting average, and quality starts.
Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove have been a bit inconsistent, but Musgrove has looked a lot better over his last four starts. Michael Wacha had an insane month of May, winning NL Pitcher of the Month while owning a 0.84 ERA over five starts. He hasn’t allowed a run over 12.2 innings in his last two starts.
Perhaps the Padres’ most important pitcher for the rest of the season is Blake Snell. Snell started off the season very poorly, allowing 14 earned runs in 23 innings in his first five starts. The Padres lost each of those five starts, although he only received more than two runs of offense just once.
The most concerning part about the beginning of Snell’s season was the walks. Snell walked 18 batters in those 23 innings and failed to go more than five innings in each start. Snell has never been a consistent seven-inning starter, but over the last month, he has certainly picked it up.
Over Snell’s last eight starts, he has pitched six innings, five and seven innings once. His last start was easily his best of the season, throwing seven shutout innings with 12 strikeouts and zero walks at Coors Field. He was pulled after 85 pitches due to swelling in his ankle from a comebacker. This was his first start with less than two walks since May 1.
Snell owns a 0.75 ERA and a 0.92 WHIP over his last four starts. In those 24 innings, he struck out 33 batters, walked 10, and only allowed one home run.
Last season, Snell’s average exit velocity and hard hit% were in the 12th and 32nd percentiles, respectively. He has substantially raised those numbers this year, with the exit velocity rising to the 55th percentile and hard hit% up to the 52nd percentile.
Snell’s chase rate has also dropped from the 62nd to 33rd percentile, but his K/9 is still sitting at an elite 10.6. The barrel % dropped from the 46th to 22nd percentile, and his HR/9 rose from 0.8 to 1.3, but Snell has only allowed one home run in his last four starts.
Snell has a track record of starting seasons slow but completely flips the switch in the second half:
2021 first half: 70.1 IP, 3-3, 4.99 ERA, 1.55 WHIP, 11.9 K/9
2021 second half: 58.1 IP, 4-3, 3.24 ERA, 1.04 WHIP, 11.9 K/9
2022 first half: 50 IP, 1-5, 5.22 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 11.9 K/9
2022 second half: 78 IP, 2.19 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, 12.1 K/9
“Second half” Snell has undoubtedly arrived early, and he has been phenomenal over the past few weeks. If Snell can maintain a similar output from his last four starts, where his ERA has dropped from 5.40 to 3.78, the Padres will continue to have a top rotation with Darvish, Musgrove, Snell, and Wacha.
With Seth Lugo returning soon, which will likely move Ryan Weathers out of the rotation, the rotation will be even better. If the bats can start to heat up, this Padres team will look to go on a run and get closer to an NLWild Card spot.
Bobby is currently a senior at Arizona State University and is majoring in Sports Journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. He expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Fall 2023. Bobby is from San Diego, loves to write and has a deep passion for baseball, football, and basketball. He also co-hosts the “Devils Talking Padres” podcast, contributes for ZonaHoops.com and is a digital reporter and photographer for Cronkite News/Arizona PBS.