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Series Preview: San Diego’s offense is no better than it was a year ago

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... but they’re .500 because of the pitching.

MLB: Washington Nationals at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres are 33-33. At this point last season, they were 30-36 and were hitting .234/.300/.375. By virtue of hitting 37 more home runs, they’re slashing .232/.295/.410 right now, which is 30 points better by OPS, but a .300 wOBA that’s just 20th in MLB (10th in the NL). So, despite the additions of Manny Machado (.313 wOBA) and Fernando Tatis Jr. (.396), San Diego hasn’t transformed into an offensive juggernaut.

But they can pitch a little bit, and the secret to their meager success in that area looks to be a staff walk rate of just 6% (second-best in the NL behind the Dodgers). The rotation’s ERA- (the league-adjusted stat that accounts for the current run environment) is 97, meaning it’s three points better than the league average, too. They just don’t give up many walks or even hits (1.17 WHIP — also second-best in the NL behind the Dodgers). That’s remarkable for a rotation featuring five pitchers all 27 or younger.

It’s the bullpen that’s dragging them down. The rotation’s 1.35 HR/9 is in the top 13 of baseball, but the bullpen’s 1.55 is fifth-worst. Their 107 ERA- ranks them 22nd, ahead of the Dodgers (111), but well behind the Giants (92).

So, for the moment, it appears the Padres are a little wobbly. They’re 3-6 so far in June, but 2-2 since Fernando Tatis Jr. returned after missing all of May with a hamstring strain. Is the return of one player the key to unlocking the Padres’ potential? Is that where they’re really at in their competitive window? There’s rebuilding, then there are growing pains, then there’s being established and losing a star player.

It’s tempting to think of the Padres as having finished their rebuild and now just scuffling a bit because they’ve lost one of their best players, but rest assured: the Padres are still rebuilding. They’re just much better than the Giants.

Pitcher to watch

Chris Paddack is the dude in the header image and although he’s not formally the ace of their staff, he’s the second-best pitcher on the Padres at the moment — his 1.1 fWAR trails only closer Kirby Yates (0.96 ERA in 28 IP; 1.9 fWAR) — and he’s doing it thanks to a 5.5 K/BB (66 K : 12 BB) and 2.97 ERA (17th-best out of MLB starters).

He’s largely a fastball-changeup combo pitcher, with a perfect 10 mph average difference between the pitches (93.8 mph on the fastball, 83.8 mph on the changeup).

His debut came against the Giants. A 5 innings, 7 strikeout beauty you probably scrubbed from your brain or simply forgot amidst all the other losses, but the Giants aren’t the same team as they were on March 31st. They’re much... well... hey, Paddack didn’t have to face Mike Yastrzemski. Or Kevin Pillar. Or Stephen Vogt! So... you know, we’ll see if he’ll be just as successful.

Hitter to watch

Fernando Tatis Jr. is back. Manny Machado is still in the lineup. Hunter Renfroe is slugging .602, but I’m going to draw your attention back to the beast, Franmil Reyes, who is formally nicknamed The Franimal. He’s only slugging .858, but when he hits home runs, they’re terrifying.

He also hit that game-winning home run off of Reyes Moronta the last time the Giants were in San Francisco, so, this two-game series should feature a rematch.

Prediction

The Padres will annoy.