The winning streak has quelled a lot of the Fire Buddy Black sentiment that I never really supported. This quote after last night's win got a little in my crawl: "Over the last month, we have played better fundamental baseball," manager Bud Black said.
The arguments of those in that camp did bring up that Bud might be too much of a players coach who never holds players accountable. While it is possible that this might be done behind closed doors, there seems to be some evidence of this. The start that the Padres had with the exasperating number of errors and injuries seems to indicate that the Padres were not ready for the season coming out of the gate. I know Black held BBQs and other team building events to get to know the new faces but the sheer number of errors based on routine plays was and is unacceptable. It was/is a problem that goes beyond Hudson and Bartlett. Venable have six and Maybin with three in the outfield before the All-Star break is ridiculous.
Secondly, this team seems completely unaware of the possibility of a sacrifice fly. The Padres have 12 in the entire season! First place teams like the Dodgers and Pirates have 24 and 23 respectively. Runner on third with less than two outs and the Padres have less than a 50% success rate. The situational hitting is still piss-poor. Headley who moved the runner to third by pulling the ball to the right side last night is probably the best at it, and he has his issues. I do not how many times the #3 hitter is trying to walk in a run or caught looking at a pitch that was close enough to ring him up - you're suppose to be a run-producer. Last night, Alonzo failed to score Headley after his triple. Another runner on third with less than two outs situation.
Finally, bunting needs to be better. Would it kill the team to practice it? Richard last night striking out after missing three bunts? Amarista's bunt was right at the pitcher who luckily airmailed 3rd base but that was once again a fundamentally poorly executed baseball play. If you are under six feet tall, are light-hitting, possess negligible power, and are a pitcher, you should know how to execute a sacrifice bunt. On the Padres, this means everybody except maybe Carlos Quentin.
The Padres are suppose to be built on pitching and defense to fit well at Petco. This makes sense but is not being executed. Bud is right that the Padres would win more games if they played fundamentally better. It is a little better but not good enough to be contending. These issues need to further emphasized and even though we are winning, they are not improving fast enough. Before more talk of bringing in fences comes up, the Padres need to control what they can control on the field defensively and in situational hitting. This is what made them contenders in 2010.
With little power and given all the injuries, the Padres do not have much room for error. It is exciting to see the young bats energize the lineup but as a young team they need to be taught how to play the game the right way and they shouldn't need a David Eckstein or a Mark Kotsay telling them how to do it - that is the manager's job.