The Padres’ Offense Has Awoken in August

Credit: Padres

Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

The Padres’ offense has been pretty disappointing this season, as the team ranks near the bottom of the league in terms of almost every statistical measurement.

A month ago, I wrote an article about how tough it had been for the team to score runs throughout the year. Underperforming veterans like Eric Hosmer and Wil Myers, along with slow starts from Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe, have made it especially difficult for the Padres to put up enough runs to back their pitching staff during most games.

Let’s take a look at where the team ranks in the league in a number of statistical categories offensively:

Runs Scored Fangraphs WAR wRC+ Strikeout Percentage
Walk Percentage
26th 28th 27th 29th 21st

Outside of teams like the White Sox, Orioles, and Royals, the Padres have had one of the worst offenses in the entire league. The aforementioned teams that have been worse than the Padres did not make a concerted effort at all to win this season, and everyone pretty much knew they were tanking coming into the year. When the Padres signed Eric Hosmer late last winter, the team was expected to be better than teams that were deliberately losing. Let’s not get too pessimistic about the situation though, because the future is looking bright.

We know about the prospects who have been touted to improve the Padres’ lineup in the future, but we should also take note of the players who have improved the offense that are already in the big leagues. After all, the Padres’ offense has been much improved in August, in comparison to the way it performed before the start of the month. Let’s look at the same numbers we just saw, this time measuring the Padres’ offensive performance in August:

Runs Scored Fangraphs WAR wRC+ Strikeout Percentage
Walk Percentage
10th 9th 7th 20th 8th

The team has moved into the upper-third of the league in every offensive category outside of Strikeout percentage, which is a pretty drastic change from the numbers in the previous table. Who has been behind this newfound surge in offensive production for the Padres? Cory Spangenberg has led the charge in August, with a 180 wRC+. Other key contributors include Hunter Renfroe and Christian Villanueva, among others. Here’s a table that includes the players who have fueled the team’s offensive firepower in August:

Player wRC+ Fangraphs WAR Walk Percentage Isolated Power
Cory Spangenberg 180 0.7 17.0% 0.209
Hunter Renfroe 152 0.6 5.4% 0.333
Christian Villanueva 173 0.6 6.3% 0.146
Austin Hedges 123 0.5 7.3% 0.220
Travis Jankowski 128 0.5 12.2% 0.070

In the case of Spangenberg, he’s helping save his chances of winning a roster spot next spring with his performance in August, leading the offense thus far. In an article recently, I criticized Spangenberg’s pull tendency because it made his batted balls too predictable for shifting defenses. Take a look first at his Statcast batted ball heat map throughout the season before August, followed by the same heat map during this month:

Animated GIF

Spangenberg’s done a much better job of using the whole field now, for example with his game-tying opposite field home run the other night. Opposing defenses will eventually adjust to this more all-fields hitting tendency from Spangenberg, and he’ll have better luck on batted balls if he can keep this up. He’s also improved his defense, which was somewhat of an issue before the start of the month, though there are others who have impressed, almost as much as Spangenberg has.

We’ve all noticed that Hunter Renfroe’s been mashing this month, right? The guy has shown his power to be very dangerous of late, good for his Isolated Power figure of 0.333 in August. He’s homered four times off fastballs in this month alone, and those home runs have an average exit velocity of 105.5 mph. A recent article I wrote lauded his ability to better focus and swing at pitches thrown over the heart of the plate, which has been key to him hitting so well lately.

Let us not forget the contributions of Christian Villanueva, who’s hitting .349 with a .462 on-base percentage in his last fifteen games. After falling off in terms of performance during every month but April, Villanueva is showing us some signs of life with his bat. His recent walk-off hit seemed to be a culmination of the recent hot streak he’s been on.

The always excellent defensive outfielder, Travis Jankowski, is also impressing us with the bat, which has allowed him to utilize his top-notch speed on the bases much more often. All in all, this is a roster that was seriously disappointing with the bats up until this month. Following a horrific July in which the team won only five games, it’s been refreshing to see the team’s offense wake up and produce runs as well as they have recently. Cory Spangenberg and Co. have led the Padres’ offense into what we hope is a new era in which the Padres don’t struggle to score runs as often as they have previously.

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