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Series Preview: Both the Padres and Giants will be represented in the All-Star Game by their closer

Who’s better? Kirby Yates or Will Smith.

San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

Let’s answer the question in the lede right up top. Who’s the better closer: Kirby Yates or Will Smith?

Well, it’s Yates by a mile. Or, whatever the SABR equivalent of a mile is. A win? By that metric, Yates has a full half win of bWAR over Smith (1.7 to 1.2) in just an extra inning of work. Yates is also 27-of-28 in saves. Smith is 21-of-21, but those six extra saves certainly do matter. The Padres, after all, are playing for something.

Will Smith is by far the Giants’ best trade chip as we make the turn into the final trade deadline of the regular season and after yesterday’s news, he’s scheduled to be the Giants’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Cleveland next week. But Kirby Yates is the Padres’ lone representative, which is very odd, wouldn’t you agree?

Not Manny Machado.

Not Eric Hosmer.

Not Hunter Renfroe.

Not Franmil Reyes.

Not Wil Myers.

Not Fernando Tatis Jr.

Kirby Yates. And only Kirby Yates.

How did that happen? The Not bunch above have combined for 9.2 FanGraphs Wins Above Replacement (fWAR), with Tatis Jr. leading the way with 2.6 fwins’ worth. That’s 28th-best in MLB despite just 200 PA on the year, 16th in the National League.

Was there room for him or any of the aforementioned Padres on this NL reserves list (fWAR coming into play on June 30th in parenthesis)?

C: Yasmani Grandal, Brewers (3.0)
C: J.T. Realmuto, Phillies (2.5)
1B: Pete Alonso, Mets (3.4)
1B: Josh Bell, Pirates (2.3)
2B: Mike Moustakas, Brewers (2.6)
3B: Kris Bryant, Cubs (3.1)
3B: Anthony Rendon, Nationals (3.2)
SS: Paul DeJong, Cardinals (2.8)
SS: Trevor Story, Rockies (2.9)
OF: Charlie Blackmon, Rockies (2.1)
OF: David Dahl, Rockies (1.4)
OF: Jeff McNeil, Mets (2.3)

It looks close, but it’s still remarkable. Tatis Jr.’s 200 plate appearances, injury time, and the Padres’ arbitration clock shenanigans with him probably contributed to his omission. Hunter Renfroe’s .300 or so on base percentage might’ve actually worked against him. On the other hand, we’ll never fully understand why there are so many Rockies listed.

Alternatively, DeJong is the only representative for St. Louis. Some of that factored into this, too. Tatis Jr. and the rest of the Padres might not have built up enough of a reputation in the league to get the benefit of the doubt: Blackmon, Dahl, and Story have all missed time with injury and there numbers still don’t quite match up with a lot of the Padres.

But the Padres are also just sorta coasting. They’re 42-41 with a Pythagorean record around .500. Their team wOBA is just .315, tied with the Pirates for 18th in MLB. Offense from the catching and second base positions have been well below league average for most of the season. Their pitching fWAR of 6.3 is also tied with the Pirates, but for 17th.

The bulk of their pitching value has come from their starting staff, and all of their reliever value has come from Kirby Yates. Check it out:

That’s -1.5 wins from over a third of the bullpen’s innings. Were it not for Yates, the Padres’ bullpen would be an absolute graveyard and the sorest spot on the team. It’s still pretty bad, but again, as with all things San Diego this year, it’s only somewhat bad. It’s still sorta coasting and the team is, for the most part, just pretty average.

Given that this is still a rebuilding team, that’s not so bad, is it? In the last Padres series preview I wrote:

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.

That’s still the case! The Padres are maybe 50-65% of the way through theirs while the Giants are just getting started.

Pitcher to watch

One of the more remarkable parts of this Padres’ rebuild — you know, beyond getting Fernando Tatis Jr. in exchange for James Shields — has been their almost weekly debut of a new starting pitchers with top of the rotation-like stuff .

After facing the likes of Chris Paddack and Nick Margevicius, it’s now lefty Logan Allen, 8th round pick of the Red Sox in 2015, who became part of Boston’s trade for Craig Kimbrel that same offseason.

He made his debut on June 18th against the Brewers and shut them out over seven innings with five strikeouts. It wasn’t some diminished Milwaukee lineup, either, and the 22-year old made it look easy. His last start was in Baltimore against the Orioles. He gave up just two runs in six innings and struck out five more.

He has a 5.15 ERA in 57.2 Triple-A innings this season, but one thing that really stands out about him there is his 9.5 K/9 and basically 3:1 strikeouts to walk ratio. But it’s not about overpowering stuff. He features a 92-93 mph fastball with not really great spin. Same with his slider and changeup. So, it’s not about stuff with him, it’s about sequencing and location. His changeup has a 41.2% whiff rate across two starts. Think of him as a left-handed Chris Paddack: fastball-changeup combo primarily.

The Giants will face him tonight.

Hitter to watch

It’s very hard to not pick Fernando Tatis Jr. for this spot. He’s made up for missing all of May due to injury with a 1.000+ OPS in June in 94 plate appearances. He has a batting average on balls in play of over .500. He’s seeing the ball very well, and he’ll get to face Jeff Samardzija, Tyler Beede, and Shaun Anderson over the next three days.........

Prediction

Manny Machado signed a $300 million contract in the offseason and the previous offseason they signed Eric Hosmer to a $144 million contract. Those deals are both working out just fine. They’ve both been well above league average with their bats and gloves this season, so they’re not the cause of this Padres... malaise? Disappointment? Averageness? But what is this team’s problem?

I will not understand the Padres’ outfield situation no matter how much detail gets put into an explanation. Hunter Renfroe, Wil Myers, and Franmil Reyes can’t really play center field, but apparently, neither can Josh Naylor, which just leaves Manuel Margot who can’t hit and now, according to DRS, can’t really field, either; so, the Padres intentionally hobble their lineup by mixing and matching Reyes (141 OPS+), Renfroe (138 OPS+), Myers (94 OPS+), Margot (71 OPS+), and Naylor (60 OPS+). It’s inefficient and might even be standing in the way of the Padres’ offense really breaking out.

It looks like they could use an average-ish defender in centerfield with a little bit of offense...

Oh, but a prediction? Alex Dickerson will hit a home run in one of these three games.