The San Diego Padres played seven games, going 4-3, and now are in St. Louis for their first road trip of 2019.
The first weekend was a blast which was then followed by a series in which the Padres returned to earth against the Diamondbacks. Overreactions were made, positive and negative, which is to be expected in early April.
Let’s take a look at three things we did learn about the 2019 San Diego Padres in the first week’s worth of games.
1. This team will be solid defensively
The Padres signed Manny Machado for $300 million for several reasons, one of them being his Gold and Platinum glove at third base. Even though he has started sluggishly at the plate (until Wednesday), his glove is in no such slump. He already has a +2 Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) while making some incredible plays which are par for the course for him.
— FOX Sports San Diego (@FOXSportsSD) March 31, 2019
It seems to have rubbed off on the entire team. The Padres as a team are at +8 DRS, which is second-best in the entire league and are 9th-best in errors committed. Fernando Tatis Jr. seems to be modeling his mentor at shortstop as he also as a +2 DRS and also has made some fantastic plays, one of them being perhaps one of the best catches so far this season.
The biggest surprise is Wil Myers also has +2 DRS, tied for the team lead, in left field. Moving to the outfield, perhaps specifically left field, seems to have paid dividends so far for the right-handed slugger. It certainly didn’t hurt his hitting, as he leads the team with a 193 wRC+and a 1.136 OPS. He has also displayed his strong arm, gunning down a runner trying for a double off of a hit against the wall.
— San Diego Padres (@Padres) April 3, 2019
Even when they are not flashing the leather that would be featured on Web Gems, the Padres have been playing solid defense. Ian Kinsler is turning into a sneaky-good signing at second base. He has a +1 DRS and is a reliable double-play partner for Machado and Tatis.
Austin Hedges makes a difference behind the plate with his pitch-calling, framing, and presence. Even if all the things he does cannot be quantified, the pitching staff is noticeably different with him behind the dish.
All in all, it’s still very early, but the returns thus far have been positive on the defensive side. Half of the battle to win games is preventing runs, and the Padres have prevented plenty already. This should be a strong suit for this team all season.
2. Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack belong
As mentioned, Tatis’ defensive abilities cannot be questioned. It’s a lot harder for the glove to go into a slump like a bat can. Tatis has the glove ability and the arm to play shortstop for the Padres for a very long time.
At the plate, he has already had some growing pains, but he also has started faster than he did in Double-A just a season ago. After seven games in Double-A to start last season, he was hitting .200 with zero home runs and a measly 22 wRC+ and .300 slugging percentage. Through his first seven major league games, Tatis has a 67 wRC+ with one home run and a .360 slugging percentage.
Fernando Tatis Jr with his first career home run ? pic.twitter.com/PyzH0z8nLq
— Baseball Lifestyle™ (@BsbLifestyle__) April 2, 2019
These numbers are not great, or even average, but Tatis is currently the youngest player in baseball, and he is getting a chance to learn and grow on the fly at the game’s highest level. It helps that Tatis is batting lower in the lineup with guys like Machado, Eric Hosmer, and Myers ahead of him, taking the pressure off.
His bat will steadily improve. The number two overall prospect has never given a reason to suspect otherwise.
Chris Paddack soared up prospect boards last season, and he finally reached the pinnacle of major league baseball this season, earning an Opening Day roster spot. He did not disappoint in his debut against the Giants on Sunday. He pitched five sparkling innings while striking out seven, allowing just two hits and one walk. Although early season stats can look downright foolish, his 0.73 FIP after one start is better than Masahiro Tanaka, Trevor Bauer, and Stephen Strasburg.
Chris Paddack, Wicked 85mph Changeup (K'ing the Side) and Pitching with Emotion. ? pic.twitter.com/Vq0EZBWjIP
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) March 31, 2019
Hall of Fame pitcher Pedro Martinez was very complimentary of Paddack:
“Chris Paddack has pitch-ability, and you don’t see that often nowadays. He doesn’t seem to be intimidated on the mound; he’s poised and ready to attack hitters. I love that he has quiet mechanics and great presence on the mound.”
That is evidence enough that Paddack belongs in the Padres rotation for years to come.
3. The pitching might be a roller coaster ride
The first two games of the Diamondbacks series was a rude reminder that, although this team looks more confident and fun than previous Padres teams, they still have a ways to go before they become one of the best teams in baseball. The Diamondbacks outscored the Padres 18-8 in those first two games.
Matt Strahm had a nightmarish debut as a starter in 2019 after he allowed five earned runs on eight hits and three walks in just 2.2 innings. Robbie Erlin came in and did not fare much better, allowing three earned runs in 2.1 innings. Then Eric Lauer came back to earth after a solid Opening Day start to allow four earned runs on nine hits in his second go around.
In their three losses, the Padres have allowed three, ten and eight runs.
With all that, the Padres still rank 10th in Major League Baseball in team ERA. The starting pitching ranks better (11th) than the bullpen (15th). This pitching staff is bound to have its ups and downs, with how young and inexperienced they are. No one can deny that the pitching has been surprisingly good for the most part.
Posting this gif of Robert Stock – @RobertStock6 – striking out the side last night for a few reasons:
1) 100.6 mph FB is the fastest velo for a four-seamer so far this year
2) His SL is pretty sick
3) He seems like an awesome dude and I want to know what he's reading pic.twitter.com/GybgvIx8LN
— Alex Fast (@AlexFast8) April 2, 2019
Joey Lucchesi has started the season about as great as one can, with 10.1 scoreless innings and two wins, with 11.3 strikeouts per nine innings. Kirby Yates has three saves and almost a 16 strikeout per nine inning pace. Robert Stock out of the bullpen had one rough outing but otherwise has been dominant, with five strikeouts in 2.2 innings.
Pitching was the glaring weak point of this team on paper when the season started. It may very well still be true, but the early returns suggest it might not be as bad as it seemed.
This Padres team feels different. They still have a long way to go to contend for a playoff spot, but they are also putting what they have been for years in the rearview mirror.