Team Profile – San Diego Padres
On June 1, 2012, the San Diego Padres became the last team in Major League Baseball without a no-hitter in team history. Johan Santana threw one for the New York Mets against the defending World Series Champion St. Louis Cardinals, leaving the Padres as the last team standing. But worrying about a no-hitter should be at the bottom of the Padres’ priority list right now. Currently 15.5 games behind the division-leading Dodgers, San Diego needs to find some sort of success in the day-to-day if it’s going to have even the faintest chance of getting back into the division race.
To say that the Padres have suffered from inconsistency in the rotation would be an understatement. Not only has the team already used nine different starters this season, but four of them are currently on the Disabled List. Cory Luebke, Dustin Moseley, Tim Stauffer, and Joe Wieland are already benched for different injuries, and Jeff Suppan has been designated for assignment, leaving only Anthony Bass, Clayton Richard, Eric Stults, and Edinson Volquez as the current rotation.
Right now, Stults is the top man in the rotation, but that’s not saying much. His ERA sits at 3.00, but he’s only started three games so far. The real veterans of the season are Volquez, Bass, and Richard, who have thus far been healthy for every start. However none of those three are seeing anything in the way of run support right now. With ERAs near or above four, all three pitchers have losing records, with Richard being the worst at 2-6. From the looks of their numbers, none of the Padres’ starters are pitching poorly. It’s simply a lack of run support and losing the control at precisely the wrong moment to get tapped for four and five earned runs. Unfortunately, Luebke was the best part of this rotation, but reconstructive surgery will put an end to the rest of his season.
Injuries abound for the offense as well. Jason Bartlett, Logan Forsythe, Kyle Blanks, James Darnell, Jeremy Hermida, and Mark Kotsay are all injured right now. That’s a big blow, not just because Bartlett and Kotsay are perennial offensive threats, but also because Kotsay was leading the team at the plate before Carlos Quentin became active again. The rest of the team is hitting .270 or below, which won’t exactly scare any opposing pitchers.
But Carlos Quentin is back, and he’s starting things off right. Quentin doesn’t hit for a very high average, but he has some serious power. He hits nearly 30 home runs per year, and the Padres could use a real power threat, even if it is pretty much power or nothing. But it seems like there’s plenty of power to be had. In 12 at-bats this season, Carlos already has three homers. It’s not much, but it’s a start, and a start that San Diego desperately needs if it’s going to get back into things this season.
Losing Huston Street was a huge blow for the San Diego bullpen. Street was 4/4 in save opportunities, had an ERA under 1.00, and was keeping opposing batters to a bare minimum in average. He was a godsend for a pitching staff that just couldn’t find consistency when it needed it. Luckily, he’s starting to throw again, and a rehab stint is fast approaching. To get their closer back would be exceptional for the Padres. In the meantime, Dale Thayer took over the role of closer, but hasn’t had even close to the success that Street was having. While he’s a perfect 5/5 in save opportunities, his ERA is 5.40, which isn’t at all what you want from a closer. Not only does it mean that his saves aren’t going all that smoothly, but it also means that he’s struggling a bit in non-save situations. Hopefully, though, Thayer can keep it together long enough for Street to get back in action, because the other closer candidates weren’t cutting it. Andrew Cashner was 0/3 in save opportunities, while Miles Mikolas, Alex Hinshaw, and Luke Gregerson were all 0/1.
Other than the closer situation, the Padres’ bullpen has been doing quite well. Joe Thatcher, Ernesto Frieri, and Micah Owings (along with Anthony Bass, when he was pitching out of the ‘pen) were leading the charge, and doing quite well. Unfortunately, the Padres’ woes continue, as Owings joined the rest of the pitching staff on the DL, and Frieri was traded to the Los Angeles Angels for second baseman Alexi Amarista. So when four of your top five performers get shuffled around in one way or another, it’s bound to take its toll on things. The rest of the bullpen has been okay, but not great. There have been four different closers who suffered setbacks in that role, driving their ERAs up a bit, and the lack of offense puts you behind the eight-ball as a pitcher, regardless of how well you’re doing. Pressure like that is bound to come with its fair share of trouble.
Keys to Success
Step One is to find an offensive threat. Carlos Quentin is a good start, and having his pop in the lineup is certainly worthwhile. But that’s not going to be enough to give the starting rotation the run support that it desperately needs. Step Two is to get the mediocre starting staff to practice a little bit more and find consistency with its control. Only if the starters can bring down their ERAs (by even a run, each) will the Padres be able to stay in more games long enough for the offense to even think about perking up. But it seems like injuries, trades, and rearranging have caused this entire team more problems than it’ll ever recover from. Even with the Dodgers losing Matt Kemp for a while, 15.5 games seems like an insurmountable obstacle, even with two thirds of the season left to be played. I suppose anything could happen, and if the Padres can get healthy-ish in the second half of the season, they may stand a chance of narrowing the gap. But those are a lot of big ifs right now, and only time will tell if San Diego can turn things around. It may just be time to consider the season a wash, take what wins you can for the rest of the way, MAYBE make a decent trade or two at the deadline, and start preparing for 2013. Here’s hoping that the Padres can get it together.
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