Brian Hiro is a sports reporter for the North County Times and Yankees fan since the mid-80s. He kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the coming Padres season. Keep in mind, our only other interview experience was at a hot dog tasting with a girl who claimed to be a Pad Squad member. Thankfully, Brian was very gracious and didn't think we sucked.
Dex: Which is more likely to occur: Nady fixes the hole in his swing, or Burroughs starts putting power behind his?
Brian Hiro: I'd say the former. Nady has looked very impressive at the plate this spring, putting into practice the swing adjustments that Dave Magadan suggested in the offseason. His swing appears much less "loopy" and he has been driving the ball well. Also, this year he should finally get the at-bats necessary to develop a rhythm at the plate. Burroughs may well start to show power, but I doubt it will be reflected in a much higher home run total. If anything, I'd expect him to increase his doubles total by 10 or 15 from last year.
Dex: What's the most underrated aspect of this team that will surprise people this year?
BH: Probably their baserunning. Sure, it's not particularly exciting, but it can make the difference between a win and a loss, and the Padres have been emphasizing it this spring. It starts, of course, with Dave Roberts, whose speed will give the team a dynamic it has lacked in recent years. His pestering of pitchers on the basepaths could have repercussions throughout the lineup and lead to significantly more runs without the Padres needing a lot more power. Expect Bruce Bochy to be more aggressive with sending runners, hit and runs, etc.
Dex: Pitching is considered a strength for us. Where do you rank our bullpen and rotation against the rest of the NL West?
BH: The bullpen, I think, is definitely at the top. Granted, one or more could fall off, but no team has a trio like Hoffman, Otsuka and Linebrink. Plus, there's depth with Hammond, Seanez and Reyes. And with the injuries and question marks in the Dodgers rotation, the Padres' staff would have to be right near the top, too, depending on how Darrell May fares in the fifth spot. When your No. 4 guy (Lawrence) won 15 games the year before, that's a good sign. If Jerome Williams and Noah Lowry continue to progress, the Giants could also lay claim to the top spot.
Dex: Two part question: Part I: What one thing has to go right for the Padres to achieve fortune and glory? Part II: What one thing could happen that would make the season spiral all to hell? (Besides major injuries. That's obvious.)
BR: First part: They must play better at home. Numerous players have said that they sometimes dreaded coming off the road last year because they knew their momentum would be slowed at Petco Park. That can't happen again. Home field is supposed to be an advantage, and the Padres have to start playing that way. They should be at least 10 games above .500 at Petco to make the playoffs.
Second part: Their young starters or setup men take a step back. The Padres proved last year that they can win with an average offense because their pitching is so strong. It needs to stay that way. If Otsuka and Linebrink start getting hit regularly, or Peavy backslides or Eaton can't curb his inconsistency, that spells trouble.
Dex: Finally... This was our first real interview. Was it obvious? If so, did it suck?
BH: No, the interview didn't suck. That's a compliment, right? (Oh, thank goodness...)
So what did we learn? First off, that our interview didn't suck, which is awesome. I believe Brian when he says that, because seriously, a Yankees fan will have no qualms about telling you if you suck.
Second, for baseball fans who enjoy small ball and good pitching, the Padres are going to be your team.
And third, when the Padres are at home, the 10th man needs to step up. The Pad Squad can help by giving little treats to people like jbox so that he's happy and rooting, instead of sad and sulking about little kids getting the little treats instead.
Man, I'm getting psyched for the season. Thanks again to Brian for taking the time to put up with us!