The Ups and Downs of Padres Baseball

Mandatory Credit: Nick Wosika-USA TODAY Sports

Mandatory Credit: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports

Memorial Day marks an invisible line in baseball. As Yogi Berra would say, it’s “getting late early.” Before the season began, the San Diego Padres were one of the darlings of prognosticators, destined to make the playoffs and possibly the World Series.

Surely, adding Xander Bogarts to a loaded lineup, including Fernando Tatis Jr. (finally), Manny Machado, and Juan Soto, would improve the offense over last year’s tepid performance. Surely Yu Darvish and Joe Musgrove would eat innings and win games, and Blake Snell would improve.

No one expected the Padres to be in fourth place in the National League West behind the Arizona Diamondbacks (35-25), the Los Angeles Dodgers (35-25), and the San Francisco Giants (29-30) with 28 wins and 32 losses at the beginning of June. No one expected the team to be eighth in the Wild Card race. No one expected that the unheralded Michael Wacha would be the staff’s ace, while Blake Snell would have a record of 2-6 and an ERA of 4.06.

According to FanGraphs, the odds that the Padres will reach the playoffs have fallen to 58.3 percent.

The return of Fernando Tatis Jr. after two long years has undoubtedly helped offensively. He’s batting .263/.311/.509 with wRC+ 123, leads the club in home runs (11), and is tied at the top with Juan Soto in RBI at 27.

Also, Manny is back on the field. His absence (due to a small fracture of his left hand) definitely hurt the offense. He was responsible for three of the five runs in the victory against the Chicago Cubs on Monday.

Manager Bob Melvin cannot be blamed for the Padres’ lack of consistency or for the underperformance of the batters. He has years of experience as a player and a manager–unlike his predecessors.

Credit: AP Photo

One glaring deficiency has been getting runners in scoring position home. Ranked 20th last year (.343), the team hasn’t improved in 2023. The players seem incapable of playing small ball, of moving runners instead of trying for the big fly and striking out an average of 9.00 per game.

The pitching staff hasn’t performed as expected either: Yu Darvish 4-4 4.10 ERA 1.12 WHIP; Joe Musgrove 3-2 4.71; 1.38 Blake Snell 1-6 4.50;1.50 Ryan Weathers 1-4 5.09 1.53. A relative unknown, Michael Wacha, has the best record so far–5-2 3,48 WHIP 1.15. Sunday’s starter, Weathers, lasted just 1.2 innings and gave up seven hits, one walk, and four earned runs in a 7-1 loss to the Cubs (28-32).

In August last year, Jim Bowden of The Athletic gave the Padres an A+ rating for deadline deals. However, the trades of CJ Abrams, Robert Hassell, James Wood, MacKenzie Gore, and Jarlin Susana have downgraded the talent in the minor leagues. There are no up-and-coming prospects to save the day on the field or to use as trade bait.

Melvin recently vented in frustration- “I know everybody says it’s early, but we’ve got to go now. We can’t wait until the end of the season.”

In the past, poor performance could be at least partially be blamed on a lack of monetary commitment. However, Peter Seidler has provided the cash–$249 million—that should yield better results.

General manager and club president A. J. Preller did add catcher Gary Sanchez for his bat, not his glove. In his nine-year career, he has batted a cumulative .226/.311/.44.68 (WAR 14.4), definitely an upgrade over Austin Nola–131/.244/.178 (WAR 0-9). Neither are defensive wonders (DRS Sanchez -8, Nola -11).

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Despite the Padres’ mediocre results, Preller recently insisted that “Our belief in the talent of the guys on the field and in them as people … 40 games into the season, that hasn’t wavered one bit, and I think we feel like we’re a really talented group that is capable of playing really deep into October.

“Obviously, we just haven’t played great overall, especially in the last couple of weeks. And I think we’re constantly looking to see how we can change that, and we expect to play better here as we get going.”

On Monday, the Padres answered the call. Snell lasted six innings in a 5-0 win, giving up just two hits and three walks, with eight strikeouts. Machado had three hits in four at-bats and scored three of San Diego’s five runs.

In the next five games, San Diego will be facing two teams with losing records, the Seattle Mariners (29-30) and the Colorado Rockies (26-35)—a perfect opportunity to get back in the hunt.

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