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Series Preview: The Padres seem very set in their ways

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Just an uncomfortable amount of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” with these guys.

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It feels like I write “The Padres are supposed to be good this year” in every series preview, so this time around I’ll tweak it a bit:

The Padres are 48-54. They’re supposed to be better than that, given their one big offseason acquisition. But Manny Machado was never supposed to be the thing that put them over the top, he was supposed to be the biggest name in a group of hardly known but extremely talented young position players. That group was supposed to coalesce while the front office figured out how to get the pitching on the same page.

Instead, the offense has scored just 448 runs (25th in MLB) and has the highest strikeout rate (26%) in the National League. By wOBA, they’re just 22nd in baseball (.311) on the season, and if we try to compare them to the Giants’ recent hot streak, they’re still just 16th in baseball (.316) over the last 30 days (the Giants are 6th at .338).

Manny Machado is having his worst season since 2017, but overall, the performance of the Padres’ offense isn’t a tragic underperformance. It’s just a little lackluster.

Their pitching talent has been better of late — the bullpen in particular has been baseball’s second-best over the last 30 days — but the sore spot coming into the season hasn’t really stopped being all that sore. Just over the last 30 days, the rotation has been worth just 0.6 fWAR (28th in MLB) with a 5.47 ERA. This is the biggest reason why the Padres are just 6-13 in July and 18-27 since June 1st.

For the first time in a while, this weekend will be a showdown between the Giants and Padres where both teams are trying to justify their existence. The veteran Giants don’t want to be broken up, the young Padres want to prove they belong.

One of the strangest bits of this matchup involves the home/road splits. The Giants are 27-23 on the road so far this year, the Padres 23-27 at home. In fact, San Diego is on a 7-game losing streak at Petco Park. The Braves swept them two weeks ago and the Giants swept them a week before that (the Cardinals took the finale of the previous series). So, are they due?

It’s hard to imagine that both franchises are waiting for this series to finally land on what they’re going to do at the trade deadline, but that’s what the chatter has suggested. The Padres should probably stand pat, the Giants should probably trade away talent with a secondary aim of acquiring talent that can help them this year and beyond (though, again, that’s secondary to just getting a great return).

Neither team started the year thinking this series would become a showdown of expectations, but here we are, but it’s another situation where the Giants are fighting to stay alive while the Padres are fighting to prove they’re actually good now.

This will be Bruce Bochy’s final series in San Diego against his former team. There’s going to be an on-field celebration before tonight’s game. This really feels like the first big act of his farewell tour: going back to where it all started, one last time.

Hitter to watch

Will this be Hunter Renfroe’s final series with the Padres? His name has most often come up in trade rumors and his low cost plus controllable years makes him an attractive trade piece if San Diego opts not to stand pat and try to add pitching (Noah Syndergaard?). He’s a combined 9-for-27 with three doubles and two home runs against this weekend’s starters (Samardzija-Anderson-Bumgarner), both of those home runs coming off the Giants’ ace.

Pitcher to watch

Unless they trade for Syndergaard, the only confirmed starter for the weekend is Joey Lucchesi on Friday night; so, let’s focus on the Padres’ greatest trade chip should they opt instead to sell: closer Kirby Yates.

Both of the All-Star closer’s blown saves this season have come since June 1st, but over that same stretch, he’s appeared in 15 games and has a 1.05 ERA in 17 innings, striking out 25 while walking only one. Just one. He’s allowed all of two earned runs (five total). He has one more year of arbitration eligibility, so he’ll be highly sought after, even if the Giants can rough him up (though, that seems unlikely).

Prediction

Alex Dickerson’s sole hit in the previous series against his former team was a home run. Provided his back troubles don’t cause him to miss all three games, figure he will have at least an extra base hit if not a home run. Wow, what a prediction, right?

Okay. How about this instead? Sam Dyson will be traded at some point this weekend.