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In the name of the Padre!

No, seriously, what happened?

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MLB: Milwaukee Brewers at San Diego Padres Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

If you search “what happened to the padres this year” you’ll get a lot of ads and irrelevant search results because Google has broken search and the rest have handed theirs over to AI, but if you spend a little more time searching through the garbage, you’ll come across this absolute gem from just yesterday.

“It feels like we’re doomed,” Musgrove, who also missed time at the beginning of the season with a fractured left big toe, said Monday afternoon. “From the get-go, we just haven’t had any breaks go our way. And down the stretch, when you feel like this is your last-ditch effort to really make a push and get back in it, to be shot down with ‘Croney’ going out and then find out ‘Darv’ is going out.”

That’s hometown hero Joe Musgrove lamenting the fate of the team that was supposed to be second-best in the NL West and one of the best teams in the entire sport this year. It has not gone well for the Padres and the San Francisco Giants now get a front row seat for the next four games for them and us to exam them and see if we can figure out what happened.

Think of it like the NTSB reconstructing an aircraft after a crash.

Was it the pitching? I don’t think so. By fWAR, they’re 11th in MLB. Their team ERA of 3.86 is also #6 in MLB and #2 in the National League behind only the Braves (3.79). Dig a little deeper and they’re in the bottom third for walks per 9 innings (3.43). Still, their FIP and xFIP are better than middle of the pack, so a negatives are hardly conclusive.

Was it the hitting? Hmm. Well, they’re just 16th in runs scored (602), but their team fWAR of 21 is #7 in MLB and #3 in the National League behind the Braves and Dodgers. They lead MLB in walk rate (10.6%) and strikeout about as much as the Dodgers (21.6%). Dig a little deeper and their power is pedestrian: a .169 ISO (14th in MLB) and 168 home runs (13th).

Ah, then it must’ve been their defense and baserunning, giving away runs or something. Well... no. According to FanGraphs, they’re basically an average defense team (+0.1 Defensive Runs Above Average) and their baserunning is fine (+5.7 Base Runs, just ahead of the Braves’ +5.4).

What about... the vibes? Let us assume that “We’re doomed” is the end of a rope and not the first notch. They’ve got Bob Melvin as their manager, but they also have Fernando Tatis Jr. Still, they were 54-55 on August 2nd. They have a healthy run differential right now (+54!). They have also had (at least) four postgame meetings in the clubhouse to sort things out. Not good. Not at all. Not what you want. Don’t want Juan Soto saying stuff like this, either:

After Soto said something he has often said about the need to play like a team and “grind every at-bat,” I followed up to make sure I understood what he was saying. I asked if he meant that was not happening.

He replied, “It’s been really inconsistent. Some days we do, some days we don’t. We gotta do it every day. Days like this series, we just give up. Like literally, we just give up instead of keep grinding, keep pushing. We’ve got to forget about yesterday and keep moving.”

So, the vibes are not immaculate. They’re not even trending positive. Add that into the mix with weird stuff like this:

  • The Padres are 0-11 in extra innings this season:

Obviously there are many small changes to the park from year to year that can change park factors, but there’s no record of a change in the lights in San Diego, and other batters’ eyes have been shown to be sources of park factor quirks in the past. This new ivy may indeed be having an impact on the same level of the unpainted metal bleachers in San Francisco reflecting back into the eyes of the hitters, or the new stands in Houston’s center field that are fairly close to where low-slung lefties release the ball. In fact, there’s some statistical evidence of this in San Diego as well.

There’s an extra bushy, more dappled mix of ivy near the bottom of the eye. Take a look at batters’ results versus pitchers in Petco by vertical release point over the last season and a half, and you’ll see that perhaps those release points come from where those bushes are.

  • They have the 2nd-worst batting average on balls in play in the NL and 4th-worst in MLB (.278) — is it the ivy?
  • Juan Soto, Xander Bogaerts, and Manny Machado are having career lows in on base and slugging — again, the ivy?
  • They’re 2-8 against the Dodgers and 6-7 against the Diamondbacks, two teams they were supposed to be neck-and-neck with; in fact, they’re 41-56 against the National League (and 27-39 on the road) while being 21-16 in interleague.
  • This is nothing new.

They went all in on the offseason and for most of the past five months they’ve been punished for it. The Padres are a cautionary tale: free agency is bad. Stay away at all costs. And don’t change your hitting backdrop in a way that makes your hitters worse.

Meanwhile, our scrappy little Giants, always the big stinky loser in free agency, are going to try their darndest to hit at Petco Park against a team they’re 3-3 against on the year (having been outscored 41-30). This will be the team’s first and only trip to San Diego this season which is a little weird even when you remember that the Padres had two “home games” in Mexico City — for a series we must never speak of again. We’ll see if the hitting background helps or hurts them. I mean, they couldn’t be much worse than they’ve been the past two and a half months, right?

Series details

Who: San Francisco Giants vs. San Diego Padres
Where: Petco Park, San Diego, California
When: Thursday (6:40pm PT), Friday (6:40pm PT), Saturday (5:40pm PT), Sunday (1:10pm PT)
National broadcasts: Thursday – MLB Network simulcast

Projected starters

Thursday: TBA vs. Pedro Avila
Friday: TBA vs. Michael Wacha
Saturday: TBA vs. Blake Snell
Sunday: TBA vs. Seth Lugo

Where they stand


Record: 62-72 4th in NL West
Run differential: +54, 5th in NL
Postseason standing: 22.0 games back in division, 7.5 games out of Wild Card
Momentum: 2-game losing streak; 3-7 in last 10 games


Record: 69-64 2nd in NL West
Run differential: +3, 7th in NL
Postseason standing: 14.5 games back in division, third Wild Card as of 8/31/23 a.m.
Momentum: 1-game losing streak; 5-5 in last 10 games

Padres to watch

Fernando Tatis Jr.: Since the Padres’ 14-3 win in Detroit against the Tigers on July 22nd (wow! what’s it like to score that many runs there — or even win a series?), he’s hitting .204/.281/.307 in 153 plate appearances (35 games) with just 8 extra base hits (5 doubles + 3 home runs) and a 3:1 strikeouts to walk ratio. As he goes (went), so go (went) the Padres. Also, Kyle Harrison faced him in the minor leagues (walked him twice); and, I wonder if Harrison and Kade McClure got to be friends while in Sacramento together:

Manny Machado: His 22 career doubles against the Giants are the most he has against any National League opponent. He’s also homered 14 times against them and has a career line (347 PA) of .290/.349/.513. In six games this season, he’s 9-for-24 with 3 home runs, but two of those came in Mexico City. It’s been a down year for him, but he’s usually Peak Manny Machado when he gets to face the Giants.

Trent Grisham: This guy... it’s not quite the case that he’d have no career were it not for the Giants, but his career .797 OPS against them is certainly one of his better matchups. His 48 hits against them are the most he has against a single opponent. This year, despite an overall line of .200/.312/.357 (.669 in 479 PA), he’s hitting .333/.417/.381 (.798 in 24 PA) against the Giants — on top of his typical stellar defense. I know using a .gif is olds behavior, but still:

Juan Soto: It won’t happen but it’d be nice if the Padres poor performance this year coupled with the RSN bankruptcy issues compels the team to try to flip him in the offseason — I’d like to see the Giants try to get in on a three-way trade for the guy, even if it’s just for one season before he hits free agency. He does so many things better than any Giants hitter could ever hope to do. This year, .524/.643/.1000 in 28 plate appearances against the Giants including 3 home runs and a double.

Giants to watch

Kyle Harrison: Yessss let’s put the team’s rising ace up against a division foe. Harrison v. Soto will be quite a matchup, I think. Harrison vs. Machado could replicate this moment:

Joc Pederson: His power is gone (.395 slug in August), but outside of Oracle Park, (22 career home runs), Petco Park is where he’s done the most damage (10 home runs, .523 slug). I don’t think he’s going to do very much, but that’s why I think you should watch for his at bats in case I’m wrong.

Wade Meckler: The Giants have the chance to use their most Padres-est player against the Padres to dink, dunk and annoy and already ticked off team and fanbase. His last six games have been supercharged by a .750 BAbip, but let’s see if he and the Giants can let it ride on a .462/.611/.539 go over his last 18 plate appearances.

Ross Stripling/Sean Manaea: There’s a chance we see Big Stripper return from the IL this weekend, in which case we’ll see if the Giants decide to match him up against a team that that’s second in hitting flyballs (39.7% FB%) to only the Los Angeles Dodgers (41.7% FB%) — and/or maybe we see Sean Manaea bulk it out again against the team he took a scary liner off of in Mexico City (terrifying). In the second half, he’s walking batters at a rate of 9.75%, which is a jump from the first half (9.13%); meanwhile, the Padres’ lineup has the highest walk rate in baseball (10.6%). Something’s gotta give, or maybe the hitting backdrop with the ivy will be enough to distract San Diego’s hitters...

Prediction time


Giants @ Padres - how will it go?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Giants sweep
    (24 votes)
  • 2%
    Giants swept
    (4 votes)
  • 29%
    Giants split
    (41 votes)
  • 11%
    Giants lose series
    (16 votes)
  • 38%
    Giants win series
    (54 votes)
139 votes total Vote Now