The San Diego Padres and the stretch run

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

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Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

With eight weeks left of the regular Major League Baseball season, the San Diego Padres have plenty of time to catch up in the division and cement their position in the Wild Card race.

Don’t look back, though, as the red-hot Cincinnati Reds are breathing down their necks for that final wild card, having won their last four games and eight of the last 10. The Padres will have to overcome both injuries and confounding inconsistencies to power through the stretch run.

The Padres have held their own against the leaders in the National League West, having gone 4-5 against the San Francisco Giants and 7-3 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, the team has underperformed against sub .500 teams, including the bottom feeders in the division, the Colorado Rockies, and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The latter just happens to have the worst record in all of baseball and should be easy pickings. Instead, the Padres have a 6-4 record against the D-Backs and 8-8 against the Rockies.

Current Padre’s ownership has given general manager A.J. Preller a long leash. The payroll has reached heights never imagined in Padre land.  San Diego’s 26-man payroll of $152 million is second to the Los Angeles Dodgers at $169 million. In total payroll, the Dodgers also lead at $267 million while the Padres’ $176 million ranks eighth.

At the trade deadline, Preller couldn’t pull off any deals to fill their most glaring need: starting pitchers. Instead of adding sought-after pitchers Max Scherzer or Jose Berrios, the Padres acquired outfielder Jake Marisnick, pitcher Daniel Hudson, and second baseman/outfielder Adam Frazier. Compounding the pitching issues, starter Chris Paddack recently sustained an oblique injury. The off-injured Dinelson Lamet has started throwing again but will most likely work in relief when he returns.

Actually, the fact that the Padres even sought a starting pitcher (or two) defied all expectations. In the offseason, Preller dramatically upgraded the rotation and added substantially to the payroll, especially with the adjusted salaries for Yu Darvish ($19 million) and Blake Snell ($11 million). Darvish, Blake, and Joe Musgrove (who pitched the first no-hitter in team history in April) performed according to expectations early on. However, starter ERA has gone the wrong direction each month:

April 2.67 (4th)

May 3.61(14th)

June 4.41 (16th)

July 6.21 (28th)

In a hopeful sign, Darvish returned to his earlier form and dominated the D-Backs in his latest outing. In seven strong innings, Arizona collected 12 strikeouts and just four hits. That performance should help wipe out the memory of Darvish’s five starts in July, in which his ERA ballooned to 7.36.

Blake Snell followed in Darvish’s footsteps, lasting seven innings with career-high 13 strikeouts and giving up just two hits in a 2-0 shutout against the Diamondbacks. He has been trying to recapture the dominance that led to his American League Cy Young award in 2018. In San Diego, before this start, he had been a puzzling disappointment with his ERA of 5.24, a WHIP of 1.623, and ERA+ of 72.

Credit: Padres

The Padres also welcomed the return of catcher Austin Nola, who had appeared in just 28 games this year. The team can certainly use his bat, and it also takes the pressure off Victor Caratini. In an admittedly small sample size, Nola has batted .292/.404/.389/.793 with an OPS+ of 124.

During the trade deadline, Preller also tried but failed to rid the Padres of a particular weight dragging the Padres down—Eric Hosmer’s contract. The team owes 31-year-old Hosmer $59 million for three more seasons. After 2022 Hosmer can veto any trade.

Adding to the team’s woes, Fernando Tatis Jr. yet again clutched his shoulder, winced, and left a game, this time against the Colorado Rockies on Saturday, July 31- a game the Padres ended up losing  5-3 loss. At the time of the injury, manager Jayce Tingler admitted that a worst-case scenario–season-ending surgery–had not been ruled out. The team has also considered moving Tatis Jr. to center field, which would displace Trent Grisham, who has been one of the more valuable players this year and frankly suggests desperation.

Following last year’s playoff run, pundits valued the Padres highly in the lead up to the 2021 season. According to current prognostications, however, San Diego has slipped from the top four or five teams:

Bleacher Report

1 Giants

2 Dodgers

3 Rays

4 Brewers

5 White Sox

6 Astros

7 Red Sox

8 Padres

1 Giants

2 Dodgers

3 Astros

4 White Sox

5 Rays

6 Brewers

7 Red Sox

8 Padres

Inevitably, the chances of the Padres reaching the playoffs this year have also been downgraded.

Playoff projections

Dodgers 98.8

White Sox 98.1

Giants 97.2

Houston 96.5

Milwaukee 94.1

Tampa Bay 91.8

San Diego 79.4

World Series projections

Dodgers 23.8

Houston 14.4

Rays 9.7

White Sox 9.0

Milwaukee 6.9

San Diego 6.9

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Notably missing in the top six is the team currently leading the National League West, the San Francisco Giants, with a World Series projection of just 4.5. Not valued highly at the beginning of the season, the Giants currently lead all of baseball in wins with 69, a .627 winning percentage.

Despite the current woes, the Padres have not rolled over and played dead. The team survived the grueling schedule during the earlier months of the season, and the stretch run will be much less demanding.

In the end, Padres’ fate rests in their own hands. The team will face off against the Dodgers and the Giants multiple times in the remainder of the season. In fact, the final two weeks include a three-game series against the Giants in Petco Park and a trip to Dodger Stadium for the final three games of the 2021 regular season.

6 thoughts on “The San Diego Padres and the stretch run

  1. Another good article Diane!

    I’ve been more than vocal about the poor job Preller has done. I’ve also eaten my words when he acquired three starters worthy of praise last off-season. None of our trade deadline players are having a great impact on our play. Why lose prospects for mediocre players that duplicate what we already have? While Frazier can hit and play the infield… so do a few other guys already on the team. I honestly thought he’d flip him in a trade for an impactful pitcher.

    I cannot believe getting a quality starting pitcher wasn’t a high enough priority that he didn’t/couldn’t close a deal. It will mean the difference between us making the playoffs or not. It might not mean anything if we get to the playoffs as a strong three pitcher staff can go far. We have to get there though. With what we see that was paid for some of the players we sought… I cannot understand how we were out bid. Take all the prospects we paid for Frazier, Hudson, and Marisnik and give them to one team for a starting pitcher. That would have paid more and better dividends than the three we got.

    Preller teams are consistently overpaid while they underperform. Who’s fault is that? Are we going to constantly change out the manager and hitting coaches? Or, is it the players who aren’t motivated or whatever it is that holds them back? Is Wil Myers still upset and he still isn’t happy so he can’t focus on how to hit? Is Machado that lackadaisical or is he so great that he is great without showing interest? Maybe he’s just cool and I need to accept some great plays and let the other 80% go. I think he he actually put 100% effort into his job, he’d truly be the star he thinks he is.

    We were thought to be one of the top teams in baseball. We have clearly shown we are not. It’s disappointing to say the least. Will Clevinger be a difference maker next year? Will we have a bunch of pitchers go down to injury next year? We have too many mediocre players on this team. We have a GM who has emptied too much of our farm system for current return on investment that hasn’t produced.

    Will we replace AJ? I doubt it. We’re too close to disrupt what’s currently going on.
    Is Tingler the issue and a different manager would get different results?
    Someone is to blame unless you want to call it the perfect storm and SD is jinxed and we should just settle for “supposed to be good”.
    Maybe we need one more off-season of “tweaking” to balance this team into a true contender. AJ, Tingler, or players need to be replaced if they cannot prove they deserve to be on a contender through their excellent effort and results.

    Pitching staff needs to get healthy for next year. I’d like to see Profar, Pham, and Myers elsewhere next year. Versatility is great in some instances. Get outfielders who can play the outfield with arms that are capable of throwing out runners and with bats that are more consistent.

    1. Hello Tony,
      Thanks for your very detailed response to my latest. I certainly share your frustration. Of course, bad luck plays a part in the inconsistent results for the Padres. But, Preller has indeed made decisions that defy logic. As you point out, the Padres desperately needed at least one starting pitcher at the trade deadline but couldn’t land any starter. To make matters worse, the Dodgers ended up with Max Scherzer and Trea Turner!
      Speaking of Turner… Instead of taking the time to really evaluate the team he took over, Preller traded most of the players away including Turner. Huge mistake.
      Preller is very good at identifying young talent like Tatis Jr. He’s also found diamonds in the rough like Jake Cronenworth. However, he’s come up short putting together an actual team.
      I think Andy Green was a huge mistake especially since Dave Roberts and AJ Hinch were involved with the Padres at the time. Tingler has done a good job of navigating through the short season last year and trying to keep up with the changes this year.
      Now it appears Preller is panicking and just throwing stuff against the wall to see what sticks.

    2. There’s one thing none of you brought up or decided to give your opinions on… Do you all think the Padres have a chance to go all the way…? I know there underdogs but if you had to throw out a percentage, what would it be? I’m all for the underdog especially one that’s come this far and could make history for San Diego and Padres fans. I’m one to say stop looking and individual players states, actually all stats, and let them play for themselves and there fans, go out there and play like we’d do for fun but with actual talent. I’m not saying don’t be serious but still come to every game to play and win as a competitor and be competitive but don’t lash out and let the competitiveness mess up your game. I dont know, I believe they’re going to come out and surprise a lot of people and the Padres are going to be out of that hole they’ve been stuck in for so long.

      1. Hello Todd,
        I wish I shared your optimism! This season has been such a roller coaster ride it’s as if two different teams were playing. Of course, the injuries don’t help.
        Although the Padres still have a good shot at the wild card, their play has been so inconsistent that the degree of difficulty keeps going up. The record against abysmal teams is particularly troubling.
        Thanks so much for reading and commenting,

  2. Nice article. Preller will never be held accountable. He was given a blank check for seven years (what GM is afforded such unlimited abundance?), yet he still can’t put a successful team on the field. They are talented, yet massively underachieving. All teams have injuries, yet he acquires an unusually large amount, especially pitchers. He also has more than his fair share of excessively bloated contracts. He also hires bad managers, and lacks the guts and/or competence to fire Tingler (and perhaps save this season). His performance at the trade deadline was beyond horrible. He gave up more for Marisnic (who is not good at all) than the Giants gave up for Bryant. Frazier is not bad, but does not move the much, if at all. Yet Preller could have used the assets used for these guys on much better players (eg Gallo). The list goes on and on, yet few dare question the horrible decisions by the “genius.”

    1. Hi T,
      I always enjoy and appreciate your input. Preller has most definitely been given a blank check so far with very disappointing results until last year. However, it’s impossible to extrapolate from the pandemic shortened season. Was it a fluke?
      He did manage to nab Darvish, Musgrove, and Snell. The latter has been disappointing, but we can’t blame Preller for that. The team is weighed down by Eric Hosmer’s inexplicable contract in particular. Scott Boras must be giggling to himself…
      The moves at the deadline defy logic, as the most pressing need–starting pitching–was not addressed. Worse, the Dodgers made out like bandits.

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