The ‘Big 4’ failed the Padres and its fans in 2023

Mandatory Credit: Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Stephen Brashear-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres entered the season with an enormous amount of hype. Most of that hype surrounded their four superstars- Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Juan Soto, and Xander Bogaerts. As the season winds down, those four players failed to live up to the hype in a doomed year.

It was supposed to be one of the best lineups ever assembled. It was supposed to help the Padres power themselves towards a run at a World Series title. It- being the “Big Four” in Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts, and Manny Machado. All had a combined 13 All-Star selections heading into this season. All handsomely paid (Soto certainly will get a raise in the offseason).

After all, the Padres made it to the NLCS last season and seemed to get better over the offseason.

Yet, it didn’t work in 2023. This year’s Padres turned out to be one of the most infuriating and puzzling teams in all of baseball in recent memory. They are all but eliminated from playoff contention, sitting at eight games back in the Wild Card race with three other teams between them and the playoff picture. FanGraphs gives them less than a 1% chance to make the postseason.

Now, it doesn’t rest all on the shoulders of these four players. However, given the star power, gravitas, and past production they brought, they should get a large share of blame.

It’s more than just these four individual players and what they can do by themselves. It’s what the foursome represents- a supposed new era of Padres baseball where they are the bullies, not the bullied. At least, that’s what was supposed to happen.

It’s a new era of Padres baseball, with piles of money spent, perhaps irresponsibly.

Pitching had something to do with it as well. The bullpen ranks 13th in team ERA, but that is massively buoyed by Josh Hader‘s stellar 1.29 mark. Tim Hill has a 5.48 ERA through 38 appearances this year, almost two full runs worse than his 2022 campaign. Luis Garcia had a 6.23 ERA in 18 games between June and July.

While starting pitching has been solid for most of the year, that is in spite of Yu Darvish‘s worst season of his career (4.56 ERA and 90 ERA+).

Not to mention, the Padres are flirting with history, currently sitting at an inexplicable 0-11 in extra innings games.

All of that aside, and the main problem remains with the massive disproportion of hype versus results of the four big boppers in the lineup.

As a team, the Padres rank 15th in runs scored, 17th in OPS, 22nd in batting average, 24th in hits while grounding into the seventh most double plays in the league. They are also 28th in batting average with runners in scoring position.

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How can that be with such star power in the lineup?

Let’s start with Juan Soto, who should get the smallest slice of the blame pie among the four. After all, he is still eighth in MLB in OPS+ at 148 and ninth in OPS with .888. He leads all of baseball in walks, as Soto does.

However, after a brutal August (.219 AVG, 93 OPS+), Soto’s numbers are now below his career averages. He has a career .281 batting average with a .519 slugging, .938 OPS, and 155 OPS+. This season, those numbers are .260, .488, .887, and 148 respectively.

Up until that too-little-too-late comeback against the Dodgers in LA on Monday night, he also failed to come through in the clutch on several occasions.

However, Soto is the least guilty of the four.

By order of guilt, from least to most, the next is Fernando Tatis Jr. While some big leaguers would trade places with Tatis for the season he is having (.259 AVG, 24 HR, .781 OPS), it is a far cry from what Tatis was before his long layoff.

2020-2021 .281
2023 .259


2020-2021 .963
2023 .781


2020-2021 163
2023 116


2020-2021 13.6
2023 23.6

Tatis still gets more of a pass than the other two, given his long layoff and position change. Plus, it’s reasonable to expect he will bounce back stronger than any of the other four next season. However, his season is still a little disappointing, given that he has a lower OPS than the likes of Brent Rooker, James Outman, and Jack Suwinski.

Manny Machado deserves plenty of blame, too. He got off to a brutal start to the season, given he was batting .222 with five homers and a .628 OPS through June 4. This is on the heels of getting a giant 11-year, $350 million extension and finishing as MVP runner-up last season.

2023 has not been the same.

Machado is currently almost 30 points below his career batting average, and his .773 OPS would be his lowest in nine seasons and lowest in San Diego. Unfortunately, elbow issues have caused him to be DH most games of late, and it may require him to end his season early and get surgery.

While Machado should be commended for playing through some pain, he is a big reason why this offense has failed miserably to take off.

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The guiltiest party of the four is Xander Bogaerts.

Coming in with much fanfare, fresh off an 11-year, $280 million free-agent contract, he has underwhelmed.

A year after he garnered MVP votes and earned an All-Star bid and Silver Slugger in Boston, he is far from that same player. His OPS is nearly 70 points lower, with his OPS+ dropping from 131 to 113.

The most egregious part of Bogaerts’ flop of a San Diego debut is that he leads the National League with 21 double plays grounded into, which is already a career-high.

This is not to say all these players are doomed to underwhelm and be massive busts during their contract in San Diego. 2024 may look much better, especially if the Padres can make a few organizational changes to improve player development.

The Padres failed this year. The hype did not match the results on the field, not by a longshot. Fair or not, it falls on the shoulders of these four superstars. They were brought here to bring a championship to San Diego. It’s not that these four players are utter failures, but the goals and expectations that came with having such a strong core were far from met.

Due to their failure as a group, all of San Diego must continue waiting.

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