At 20-20, the San Diego Padres have had an inauspicious start to 2015. While the offense has been better than years’ past, the pitching has underachieved dramatically. At the beginning of the year, the Padres were projected to have one of the top rotations and bullpen in the big leagues. The addition of closer Craig Kimbrel and James Shields (among others) was supposed to strengthen a staff that finished second in the NL with a 3.27 ERA in 2014. However, to the surprise of fans and players alike, it hasn’t worked out that way. The Padres currently are second to last in pitching staff WAR and are near the bottom in ERA as well. According to Fangraphs, their staff is top 5 in both hard hit % and soft hit %. To further build upon the bad news, the team has a 17.2% FB/HR, which is almost unheard of. They aren’t missing many bats at all. In fact, we could say the Padres are lucky to be at the .500 mark with how everything has gone in terms of pitching. Everyone is asking the same question: what’s wrong with the pitching?
Well, if I could tell you that, I’d probably be the Padres pitching coach right now. There have been numerous opinions and articles written all around about the issue….
Some say that having a good offense has caused pitchers to pitch worse (which is ridiculous, if you ask me). The whole argument that the pitching staff thinks they have more room to miss because of the Padres offense might have a little bit of legs, but that doesn’t explain the drastic change in home run numbers and ERA.
Some say the rotation in overrated. Well, we know that James Shields isn’t. The 33-year-old has been nothing but consistent throughout his career, and his strikeout rate this year is higher than it’s been in his career. Tyson Ross was dominant last year and has seemed to steady the ship and truth be told has been probably the Padres second best starter in 2015. Brandon Morrow was great before being placed on the DL (he is scheduled to resume throwing in the next couple of days). Andrew Cashner has had a lot of trouble locating but can get away with some of the stuff he throws because of his high velocity and movement on his pitches. If he can start to locate his pitches better, he can get on track quickly. Ian Kennedy and Odrisamer Despaigne have been big disappointments and are the two that are the most concerning. Kennedy logged more than 200 innings in 2014 with a very solid 3.91 ERA, but has disappointed recently. His last 2 starts ending with lopsided losses and he is now sporting a 6.75 ERA and a 26.7% FB/HR. Despaigne has a really low 3.68 K/9 and also is sporting a 6.75 ERA. He has gotten shelled in his last few starts and looks to be more slated in the long-man role rather than being a starter when the staff stays healthy.
Others say that the Padres strength of schedule has played a big role in the struggles. The Padres enter Wednesday’s game against the Cubs playing the 4th toughest schedule in baseball. Only the Tigers, Indians, and Yankees have played a tougher schedule (based on winning percentage). 2 of the 3 teams who have the best record in baseball have also played the easiest schedule (Astros and Dodgers). There might be some legs to this argument and we will see if it reigns true; as the schedule will get much easier for the Padres after the next 20 games or so.
Treading water this early in the season is not the best thing in the world but definitely is not the worst, either.
Perhaps the staff is just missing location and this is an anomaly? Here’s what Bud Black had to say to MLB.com beat writer Corey Brock, when asked about the staff ERA and overall pitching:
“I think, overall, we’ve been in too many bad counts and too many fastballs and breaking balls left out over the plate. Right now, overall, the first month and a half here, too many pitches not executed. We’ve got to do a better job of making pitches.”
As everyone is panicking about the Padres struggles, let’s hope everything returns back to normal soon. The Padres are in a brutal stretch of 21 games in 22 days and have the Dodgers, Angels, Pirates, and Mets on their radar after they finish up the three game series against the Cubs. The pitching will continually be tested and needs to respond if the Padres want to tread along and stay afloat in the NL West and playoff race.