The Padres offense needs more aggressive approach in 2024

Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

As the calendar inches closer and closer to flipping to March, so do we as a fan base inch closer and closer to the start of the Padres 2024 regular season. 

Yes, parts of the San Diego roster are still in flux, with depth concerns within the Outfield and starting rotation still lingering. Yet, at this point, they’re topics that have been discussed at length and to a point where most Padres fans understand where things stand. 

While filling holes is no doubt important, it’s also equally important to focus on the roster and current group of players the Padres do have and evaluate where and how that group can improve to help avoid some of the troubles that the 23′ team saw. 

The area, or aspect of the team, that was undoubtedly under the most scrutiny this past season would be that of the Padres offense. With, at the time, a lineup consisting of Juan Soto, Fernando Tatis Jr. Xander Bogearts, and Manny Machado all filling out the lineup, many felt that the team’s offense underperformed to its potential. 

San Diego’s offense wasn’t as dreadfully bad as some made it out to be, as they still finished tied for 7th in wRC+ across the MLB. That said, it was still an offense that was far to the middle of the road for its talent, ranking 15th in Slug%, 12th in wOBA, and 13th in OPS. 

There are several contributing factors to last season’s offensive shortcomings, but the area that needs to see the most improvement in 2023 is the team’s philosophical and overall approach to hitting.


Lack of Overall Aggression:

To those who watched the Padres in 2023, it’s clear that San Diego was a team that practiced patience and valued walks. Those are traits that, in general, are a good thing. In fact, it yielded the Padres the highest BB% (10.6) In the MLB & 7th highest OBP (.329) in baseball last season.

The team’s “patient” approach was put further on display as San Diego had just a 25.8% Chase rate as a team last season; that’s good enough for 3rd best in baseball, only being the Pittsburgh Pirates and World Champions Texas Rangers. 

Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

But in truth, the Padres were patient to a fault. They were passive. Statistically, their approach and willingness to take pitches came off more like a team that lacked aggressiveness and the desire to do damage. 

In 23’ San Diego frankly kept the bat on their shoulders an inexcusable amount of the time. When pitches were in the zone, San Diego posted a league-low 63.3% Zone Swing% and a league-low overall Swing%, as they offered at just 44.4% of pitches thrown last season. 

As a team last season, San Diego saw 24,671 total pitches. & with those 24K+ pitches, they posted a -3.9 SwAgg., placing them dead last in the MLB in 2023.  

Ya dig a bit deeper, and the lack of aggression starts to show itself further. 

Last season, the Padres saw the 8th highest Meatball% per Baseball Savant. For those unfamiliar, Meatball pitches are defined as pitches down the heart of the plate. Yet, despite seeing one of the Highest Meatball% in baseball, they posted the 2nd lowest Meatball Swing% in the bigs. 

Keeping the bat anchored to their shoulder not only limited the damage the Padres could do but also allowed Pitchers to steal strikes, knowing San Diego was a team inclined to let quality pitches pass through the zone. 

The passive nature of the San Diego offense was also well displayed in the team’s reluctance to swing at the first pitch, as they ranked 26th in major league baseball last season, swinging at 28.1% of first pitches.

Statistics showed that in 2023 if you swing and put the ball in fair territory on the first pitch, good things would happen. As last season, hitters that ended a AB on the first pitch had a SLUG% of .596, and a OPS of .955. Heck, The Padres themselves even posted .986 OPS in 610 ABs where they opted to swing at the first pitch.

Yes, there is an inherent risk if hitters swing & miss, foul the pitch off, or fail to put that 1st pitch in play. But the reward was still significant enough to where the team needed to make more first-pitch offerings. The Padres themselves showed that.  So why not do it more often? cc


Compared to the Competition. 

Everything stated above does a responsible job of painting a picture of what the Padres’ offensive philosophy was last season. And for San Diego, they must look around the league to some of the better offenses to see how aggression is pivotal to offensive success.   

Let’s compare them to two of the better offensive teams in baseball, the Braves & Tampa Bay. Two teams had opposite approaches at the plate to the Friars.  

Both Atlanta & Tampa ranked in the bottom 10 in Chase% at 30% & 31.3%, respectively, but that higher-end chase rate isn’t as big of a deal as it seems. With a more aggressive mindset in the box, they also ranked inside the top 10 in Zone Swing% & Swing%. It’s a pair of approaches predicated on attacking, even if it comes with inherently more swing & miss. 

The ballclub’s attack/swing first approach would also help yield profound results on mistakes and meatball pitches. Despite both teams being in the bottom ⅓ of the league in Meatball% seen, they still ranked 1st & 6th in Meatball Swing% at 80.4% & 78.9%.

Furthermore, both the Rays & Braves embraced the idea of attacking the first pitch, as both clubs swung at the 1st pitch at a 33% clip, tying them for the 6th highest rate in baseball. And wouldn’t you know it, both teams finished in the top five in OPS on the first pitch. The Braves came in first with a 1.146 OPS & Tampa 1.014 OPS. 

All of these potent offensive numbers are a direct bi-product of both team’s aggressiveness in the zone and opportunistic approach at the plate. When they saw pitches they could handle, they pulled the trigger and did damage. cc


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Amend the Issue:

If the San Diego offense hopes to bounce back or improve in 2024, a fundamental change in philosophy needs to occur. The Friars don’t need to do a complete 360 and hop the polar end of the spectrum, but they must do a better job of being aggressive. That much is evident. 

Walks and working yourself into hitters counts are good things, but San Diego more often needs to look to damage when they find themselves with leverage at the dish rather than keeping the barrel rested on their shoulder. Being aggressive early needs to become the norm, even if that means seeing an uptick in strikeouts or chase rate as a team. 

It’s tough to tell early in the spring if the team has started to make a shift in approach, given the small sample size. In all honesty, a dramatic switch may not be in the cards, as during AJ Preller’s tenure, they have always favored hitters with a more patient approach. 

Only time will tell if the Padres stay patient and passive or make a move for more aggression in 2024. 

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