Jeff Suppan turns 40 today, which was all it took for me to go back and relive his brief stint with the Padres. I swear I'm not a masochist, it just sort of happened. It starts with an innocent enough question ("That was 2012 that he was a Padre, right?"), then minutes later I have a half-dozen open tabs because I have far too much interest in the most mundane and inconsequential things. If I could care as much about things that matter as much as I'm engrossed by the last six games of Jeff Suppan's career, I'd probably be remotely successful. Or at very least I'd have clean towels.
But instead of doing laundry or bothering to go through all the effort of eating food, here I am poring over Jeff Suppan's last set of game logs, along with various Gaslamp Ball posts from his four months in the Padres organization. It's a sickness.
Suppan was over a year removed from his last major league action when Padres GM du jour Josh Byrnes signed him to a minor league deal on February 8, 2012. He had spent all of 2011 with the Royals' AAA affiliate in Omaha, and started the 2012 season back in AAA. He was hit early and hit often in two starts with the Tucson Padres, allowing nine earned runs in less than seven innings, but got the call up to San Diego on May 2 to fill in for an injured Cory Luebke. Well, the injured Cory Luebke. "An injured Cory Luebke" makes it sound like there were two or three injured Cory Luebkes, and Suppan was filling in for one of them.
His first start for the Friars was more than could have been expected, or even asked, of him. Suppan, who didn't reach four innings in either of his AAA starts, scattered four hits and two walks over five shutout innings on a somber day in San Diego. As impressive as his comeback game was, it took a backseat in the big picture as the city -- and the world -- was still reeling from the loss of Junior Seau. Even though the game weirded Dex out, he still ranked it number one game of the year up to that point.
Suppan's second outing was more of the same. As he did in his first game, he allowed four hits and two walks over five innings, but this time he permitted a run to score. He still picked up his second win as the Padres beat the Rockies 3-1, and Dex wasn't weirded out anymore.
That there was a really happy win.
Like it makes me happy to see Rockies team.go out there, all old as sh_t, and fill in for these fragile youngsters and dominate a hard hitting
After those two successful starts the Padres stuck with Suppan, then the smoke started to clear and the mirrors began to break. His third start wasn't what you'd call bad, but he was starting to look more human and actual trends were emerging. He gave up six hits over six innings and was charged with two of the three runs allowed on his watch. He struck out one batter, matching his tally from his previous game, giving him a grand total of four in his 16 innings of work. On the encouraging side, Suppan didn't allow a single free pass, let alone the two he gave up in each of his first two games. San Diego lost 3-2 to Cole Hamels and the Phillies, with Suppan picking up his first loss of the year, but Dex saw it as a moral victory and his logic behind that was unimpeachable.
Honestly, I've said it before, but Jeff Suppan was not supposed to be here. Regardless of how down on this team you may be, you were not expecting Jeff Suppan to be pitching games for us in May and yet here he is holding things down like a boss.
Would we have won this game with one of the other half a dozen options that were supposed to be here before Jeff Suppan?
Probably not. Maybe yes. But probably not.
There were no moral victories to be found in Suppan's fourth start. Despite jodes wishing him well before the game by way of modified Weezer lyrics, the old man did not get back to the good life. He gave up four runs (all earned) on six hits and five walks over five innings and, for the first time all season, he failed to strike out a single batter. The Angels were victorious, and Suppan's record went to 2-2. The only silver lining of this game was that although he pitched poorly, he looked good doing it. This was the day the club wore the 1978 throwbacks in which he is pictured up top, 812 unnecessary words ago.
The fifth and penultimate game of Suppan's season didn't go any better. This time he allowed five earned runs on eight base hits and four walks in 4.2 innings. A season-high in baserunners in a season-low amount of innings is never a good combination, so Suppan was awarded his third loss accordingly. He did manage to strike out one batter, bringing his total to five over 25.2 innings.
Despite his recent struggles, Suppan was afforded one more opportunity by the Padres, essentially for the lack of another warm body more adept at pitching. On Memorial Day, in the same game in which Carlos Quentin made his Padres debut, Suppan was knocked around one last time. In what proved to be Suppan's final pro game of any sort, the Cubs laid six earned runs on him in five innings. He didn't walk any batters but five of the six hits he allowed went for extra bases. Although his performance was the sort of thing that usually merits a capital-L next to someone's name in the paper, the Padres' offense had an oddly strong showing and bailed him out.
After that disastrous showing, Suppan's season stats reached their terminal. His ERA of 5.28 jibed with his FIP of 5.61. He had put up worse numbers in each category over much longer seasons, but the way he got to those numbers was more telling. Most glaringly on the surface, he walked nearly twice as many batters as he struck out (13-7). Perhaps more telling is the consistent decline in results from start to start. After pitching five shutout innings in his Padres debut, Suppan allowed more runs in each start than he had in the one before it. Observe:
Part of me wishes they had let him go out there a seventh time just out of sheer morbid curiosity whether he'd allow seven or more runs but, alas, it was not to be. Suppan was designated for assignment a couple days later to make room for Yasmani Grandal's arrival, and Jason Marquis was summoned from San Antonio a few days after that to take Suppan's spot in the rotation. There are many parallels between the two, but I probably shouldn't get started because then I'll get carried away even more than I already have. I fully intended this post to be two short paragraphs, and look at where we are now.