This feels weird to be sitting here and writing this. I wanted to write this the week the season ended when everything was still fresh in my mind. So, I did. A few paragraphs in and I hated it. Didn’t seem right.
Something seemed off.
I took a day to figure it out and sat down again.
About 4 paragraphs into my post, I deleted it again. Still wrong.
I tried again a few more times and ended up with the same result.
I did not want to be writing this post.
For over half of the 2015 San Diego Padres season, I spent a little time writing up Series MVP posts to give an award of sorts to Padres players who shined brightest in a 3 to 4 game span. And yes, there were some series’ that were dark.
But that’s going a bit far, don’t you think?
Why was I having such a problem writing this post? One that would cap off this season.
But, that’s just it.
A post to cap off the season.
The final piece to the puzzle.
And I got to thinking about something I said to jbox during a game this season.
"It's like we've got all the right puzzle pieces but they're from different puzzles" - @FriarFever #Padres— Gaslamp Ball (@gaslampball) June 16, 2015
And I bring this up now because before I started to write this post, I made a list of candidates for Season MVP.
7 names and 5 of those players weren’t on the Padres last October. In the offseason, A.J. Preller acquired all those pieces, but the puzzle was what they needed to find. Whether the Padres figure out the right puzzle for the pieces is what we’ll wait to find out. But with Upton possibly gone, the Padres lose a piece and may need to find another from a different puzzle.
I don’t know about you, but all this puzzle talk has me confused. Just as confused as I was when I made the puzzle statement at the Padres game. So, let’s get to the matter at hand. The Padres need a season MVP. This is where I ran into the most trouble when writing this post.
All these players made a difference. A huge impact. Some more than others as would be the case between the three pitchers. Tyson Ross had a great year, but it wasn’t even his best one. I’d say last year was his best career year. But in a season where pitching league-wide was a hot commodity, the Padres pitching staff was somewhat behind the curve.
James Shields was 2015’s big pitching pick-up that for some of the season was a bit of a let-down. Now, don’t get me wrong. Shields was a much needed workhorse for the Padres in a season that could not have a 5th pitcher stay healthy or reliable the entire year.
The bullpen was a bit of a surprise this year as well. For years, the bullpen was the stranglehold of the staff. This year, things were not as expected. Granted, things didn’t start as expected with MLB Opening Day trade of Craig Kimbrel and Melvin Upton Jr. to the Padres.
Craig Kimbrel held his own in the bullpen when it came time to get the save. But those non-save situations he found himself in? Those weren’t as great. And they hurt his stats overall. In his 5th season with over 60 appearances, he had his career highest ERA, highest HR allowed, second highest hits allowed, 2nd highest earned runs allowed, lowest strikeouts, and lowest career saves. It was also the first time in 5 years that he did not go to the All-Star game. So, we have to turn our heads away from the pitching staff and look to the offense for our season MVP.
Of the 4 players left, the biggest surprise to me was Yangervis Solarte. Never did I expect to see him return to what he had for a brief moment in time while he was with the Yankees before being traded to San Diego for Chase Headley. In May 2014, he had 5 home runs for the Yankees with a .298 batting average which caused his stock to rise, but soon after, he fell off. Fell far enough to be traded for Chase Headley. The rest of the year, he just kind of stayed afloat enough to avoid relegation. 2015 started the same way for him. Just staying afloat.
Then July came.
In July, Solarte had 3 home runs and a .282 average. In August, he doubled July’s home run output. He became a player that you had to watch. His offensive output became a focal point. And that surprised me. He came through when he needed to. He broke out when the Padres needed him. He had the 2nd most hits in 2015 with 142. Maybe 2016 will be his MVP year.
Derek Norris was another surprise for 2015. His catching abilities kept the Padres in the games by throwing out runners. Norris threw out 44 runners on the basepaths. Unfortunately, runners were constantly testing him because 84 runners were able to steal bases as well. The only catcher who had to face that many runners in 2015 was Francisco Cervelli of the Pirates who threw out 29 runners while allowing 101 to steal a base.
Norris’ offensive output was some of the best in his career. However, that was aided by the fact that he appeared in 20 more games than he ever had. His batting average was 20 points lower this year but that was due in large part to June when he hit half his home runs but also batted .168. I think people use the term "feast or famine" to describe that kind of showing. Hopefully he can carry his offensive and defense to greater heights in 2016.
And then there were two.
Both Justin Upton and Matt Kemp were surprising acquisitions. It can’t be denied. No matter who out there was saying "I can see Kemp being a Padre" or "Upton is going to be in San Diego, trust me", it was not believable to even those prognosticators. I think it was because we didn’t know the possibilities.
A.J. Preller was still new. The front office gave him the keys to the car and he said "I like how the light hits it in the garage. I’ll just keep it here." A little while later, he ordered some air fresheners online for when the time was right.
But, really….when he popped open that garage, pulled the car out and went for a spin, Preller started picking up anyone that could fit in the car. He was pulling into everyone’s driveway to see who wanted to go out. That’s how he got the two heavy hitters to join him for the ride that was 2015.
I remember seeing the Justin Upton trade happening very early in the morning. I thought I was still asleep.
"Wait, the Padres have Upton? But, what?"
But, when the dust settled, I could see how the trade got done. And that only lead to rampant speculation.
"He’s so gonna hit for like eleventy homers and a boatload of runs batted in, mannnnn"
The dreams were becoming part of our lives. We were scripting our playoff run in our hearts and minds. Frankly, Upton did everything he could to keep the Padres competitive in my eyes. He did have a couple tough months though. June and July destroyed his batting average after a great start to the season. He batted under .200 for two straight months midway through the season and while he was able to recover in the last two months, it wasn’t enough. But, I remember the big hits.
Most notably, the 3 run homer in the top of the 9th in New York while the rain was trying as hard as possible to stop the game 1 day before the Trade Deadline. That was the dagger. Well, it was supposed to be the dagger to the New York Mets, but obviously all it did was energize them and lead them to the World Series now. At least that’s how I see it.
Justin Upton did that.
But would that win the Season MVP for the Padres? No.
So, that leaves 1 man.
And I’m sure some of you might be thinking I’m wrong. And I might be.
But, am I?
Matt Kemp started out the season slowwwwwww, but not really. It’s because our expectations were skewed. When he was the first big acquisition of the Preller Party Bus, we were ready for big things. Bigger than we should have been allowed to imagine. So when Kemp started out the first two months of the season hitting only 1 home run, it was time to fold. Game’s over. Busted. We lose for eternity. Typical Padres.
But, it changed.
The power came back.
He just needed a kickstart.
Kemp went on to hit 22 homeruns in the last 4 months of the season. He finished the season with 100 RBI and led the Padres in hits with 158. However, only 4 of those hits truly meant something.
A home run.
Alone, they are just hits. Happen all the time. Together, they make history.
That’s the Big One.
That’s the crown for a season of lost hopes and broken dreams.
And I’m glad.
Glad we have that.
Glad we no longer have that "Never a cycle" cloud looming over our head. Still got that no hitter thing but that’s coming soon.
Matt Kemp gave us something to hold onto about 2015.
And with that, I proclaim that Matt Kemp was the Padres 2015 Season MVP.
After the puzzles, the trades, the surprises, the Preller Party Wagon, it’s all over.
Like I said before, I didn’t want to write this post. Even as I sit here now, nearly 3 weeks after I wanted to do it, I still don’t want to finish it. I don’t want to publish it and make it a part of our history. Yet, it’s too late for that. It’s already there.
I just needed to confirm it.
Needed to say "It's over."
In closing, I just wanted to thank you all for reading/commenting/ voting (when I’d let you) in my Series MVP posts throughout the season. I appreciate you taking the time even if you didn’t think I should be writing them at all for some of those series’. Hopefully I’ll be able to write more posts that involve winning the series in 2016.
If only to make you, the reader, happier.