The Padres are set to take on the New York Mets this weekend in the Wild Card series. It is a best-of-three, with all games being played at Citi Field in New York.
How do the Padres match up with the Mets? Where are the Padres vulnerable? Let’s dive into the strengths and weaknesses of this team.
Running the bases well can absolutely come into play in the postseason. One extra base, one extra run, might be the difference between being eliminated or moving on closer to a World Series title. Even something as simple as getting to third base from first on a single and setting up a possible sacrifice fly can prove critical. According to FanGraphs’ BsR metric, which turns stolen bases, caught stealings, and other base running plays (taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases, etc.) into runs above and below average, has the Padres as the ninth-best base-running team. Notably, the Mets check in at 25th.
As a whole, most believe the pitching staff is solid (unless you are writing for MLB.com and ranking the pitching staff of all the playoff teams). The top three starters, in Yu Darvish, Blake Snell, and Joe Musgrove, are as deep and as capable as just about any top three around baseball. While they might not send shivers down opposing hitters’ spines like New York’s dynamic duo of Max Scherzer and Jacob deGrom, they are still deep. The Padres rank 11th in team ERA as a whole staff. They rank ninth in bullpen FIP. Josh Hader is still one of the most feared closers in all of baseball. He finished strong, with ten straight scoreless outings, with 13 strikeouts to one walk. The staff also does a good job keeping the ball in the ballpark, with the eighth-best home run rate allowed. This could be a key factor in winning playoff games.
Even before Juan Soto, the Prince of Plate Discipline, arrived, the Padres were a solid team in the strike zone at the plate. According to FanGraphs’ O-Swing rate, which displays how often a team swings at pitches outside of the strike zone, the Padres were the sixth-best team in all of baseball and second to the Dodgers among National League playoff teams. This team knows how to wear down pitchers and get into the underbelly of the bullpen. This will be a key skill as they face the likes of Scherzer and deGrom in New York. In fact, the Padres’ game plan should be to make these two aces work to high pitch counts before the seventh inning.
There is no question the Padres possess the talent in their lineup to make a long run into mid-or-late October. With Juan Soto, Manny Machado, and Jake Cronenworth, the Padres have plenty of threats. It’s a matter of multiple guys clicking at once. For the most part, that has not happened this season. This weekend is do-or-die.
The Padres rank 22nd in slugging as a team. Singles will not cut it against the Mets. The Padres need extra bases. They need power. At times, that disappeared from the San Diego lineup this season. They cannot afford to let that happen this weekend. The Mets pitching is too good to let a few singles and walks hurt them. The Padres must take advantage of opportunities with extra-base hits.