Sure, the Giants are objectively better than the Padres and as bad as the Giants have been over the past two seasons (and even when you stretch back to 2005-2008 when the Giants were “Not Rebuilding, But Rebuilding”), they’ve never been quite as bad as the Padres, who are, like the Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and perhaps the Cincinnati Reds, one of those teams that are constantly rebuilding.
And given that the Giants are still trying to win, this two-game series in San Diego is crucial to their playoff run. If you’re in San Diego this week, StubHub has tickets for both games, including ones as low as $15 for the Taco Tuesday game ($2.50 tacos at Petco Park). But they also have tickets starting at $6 when the Giants return home next week to face the World Champion Houston Astros next Monday night. That team, you’ll recall, devised an executed a single, severe rebuild scheme that happened to payoff handsomely.
In this version of their rebuild, the Padres are playing a lot of interesting young players and letting them figure it out. They’re also trying to add talent as though they were “in this thing”. GM A.J. Preller is definitely following the advice “fake it ‘til you make it.”
Literally two days ago:
Sources: Rays and Padres continue to discuss Chris Archer, and one source says they've made progress. TB has shown a greater willingness than in past to deal him, teams say, but the price remains high, and SD is balking for now. As @jcrasnick said, other teams involved, too.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) July 28, 2018
They need a pitcher like Chris Archer because they need a pitcher like Chris Archer. Their 4.44 team ERA is 21st in MLB, their collecting pitching fWAR of 8.3 is 19th and largely attributable to their bullpen.
In fact, the Padres’ bullpen has an fWAR of 5.6, #2 in MLB behind only the Yankees’ 6.7. They traded away 92.2 of their bullpen innings a week and a half ago, moving their closer Brad Hand and gangly right-hander Adam Cimber to the Cleveland team in exchange for catcher Francisco Mejia, rated the #5 prospect in all of Major League Baseball and the #1-rated catching prospect, ahead of only our soon-to-be-cheered Joey Bart.
This suggests a team that’s willing to rebuild, reload, and retool on the fly, and it’s this versatility/unpredictability that seems to give the Giants fits. The Padres have scored fewer runs than the Giants (400 to 433) and allowed way more runs (517 to 464), they’re in the midst of a 5-game losing streak, have posted a 5-18 record in July, but you can never take one of these series, however brief, for granted.
The last time the Giants saw them was a month ago, when they came into SF for a 4-game series at 34-42. Somehow, the Giants won that series. It was a series that featured an odd mistake/ploy by Andy Green:
The Padres reported Lyles had forearm tightness just before the start of the game and the box score indicates that the Padres turned in a lineup card with him listed as the pitcher and Strahm literally replaced him on the official scorecard for the game itself and not before, so the idea the TV broadcast floated that this might’ve been some sort of gamesmanship by the Padres’ Andry Green doesn’t really hold up under scrutiny —
and followed a game where Green made a bunch of pitching changes in a single inning as though he was managing an elimination game in the postseason.
He might be a thorn in the side for years to come (he’s extended through 2021). But he’s not alone:
The Padres at least appear to have a good thing going at the top of the order. Manuel Margot is hitting 313/.378/.448 in July. Myers' line for the month is .300/.363/.675.— Dennis Lin (@dennistlin) July 29, 2018
And the Padres do have plenty to celebrate following Trevor Hoffman’s induction into the Hall of Fame yesterday. They haven’t done well lately, but they’ve got plenty to be happy about and plenty to look forward to if they can matchup some pitching talent with their lineup talent
Hitter to watch: Just to circle back to the team’s offensive output: in addition to scoring only 400 runs on the season, they’re dead last in wRC+ at 82. That’s in the entire sport. The Giants are 20th at 93, but still, the Padres are last, and their lineup is generally considered to be “promising” and filled with upside. It’s just that the Padres seem willing to bite the bullet and get through the pain of some of these guys figuring it out.
Their only great hitter in the starting lineup is Wil Myers (141 wRC+), who’s spent a lot of time on the disabled list this season (he’s played in only 41 games), but in July has hit .302 / .362 / .663 (1.024 OPS) in 94 plate appearances with 7 home runs.
Pitcher to watch: As tempting as it is to go with a reliever, I’ll go with tonight’s starter, lefty Eric Lauer. Mainly because he’s left-handed, which immediately bones the Giants, but also because in two starts against them this season, he’s struck out 11 in 11 innings, walked three, and surrendered 4 total runs. Both starts were in San Francisco and depending on how you look at it, he’s either pitched a little bit better at Petco (3:1 strikeout to walk ratio) or not much better at all (7 home runs allowed in 37.1 innings compared to 5 in 44.1 innings; 27 earned runs on the road, 21 at home). But, again, he’s left-handed, throws 92, and pairs his fastball with a changeup and slider.
Prediction: This is the last series before the trade deadline. In fact, the deadline will have passed before first pitch of tomorrow’s game. There’s a nonzero chance tonight is Derek Holland’s final start in a Giants uniform, which means it might be considered a showcase. Dereck Rodriguez looked shaky against a hot lineup, but held the line. How will he fare against a ramshackle offense that will feature Eric “I Hate the Giants” Hosmer? Giants win 1, Padres win 1. Maybe not in that order.