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Padres Midway Round-up 08/24/20

More like “Sweep” Diego, amirite? Anyone?

Houston Astros v San Diego Padres Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images

Good morning, all, and welcome back to another week of Padres Baseball! Our Friars are at the halfway mark of this “season,” checking in at 18-12 on the year, and good for 2nd place in the NL West (but are in first place as the most fun team in MLB by a mile). With a day off today and fresh off sweeping the state of Texas, I figured I’d do something a little different than my usual round-ups. I decided to dust-off one of my tried and true military frameworks, and apply it to the team as they look toward the 2nd half of the season. I identified a series of “Sustains and Improves,” things the team should keep doing, and things they need to address going forward before giving you the usual updates/links around the web. So! What y’all say?

All right then, let’s get to it:

Improve #1: Win on the Road.

Now, our Padres may currently stand at 18-12, but a big part of that was 1. the aforementioned 7 game winning streak they’re on, all at home. The team has something of an issue when they travel, as they’re only 7-8 on the road. Now, a big part of that is where they’ve traveled to in that time: San Francisco, Colorado, L.A., and Arizona, all when those teams were playing better than they are now (and the bullpen was, let’s say, still working out the kinks). But suffice to say, the team will need to improve its play on the road. As of now, the team has 1 of the 2 guaranteed playoff spots out of the west, but play 9 of their next 12 on the road, including a 3-game set against the best team in the AL, the Oakland A’s.

Sustain #1: Keep being the Most Entertaining Team in Baseball.

I’m not going to lie, I love watching this team right now. The team is clearly having a ton of fun, as seen by the celebrations, the dance competitions, the laughing and joking, all of it. It’s bled over onto the field, and has made the team clearly one of the easiest to watch in all of MLB, and that was before they set an MLB record. Add in the fact that the team leads the NL in steals and sits tied for 2nd place in home runs, and you’ve got a team that keeps fans glued to the screen inning to inning.

Simply, the team needs to keep this going. Despite only have 30 more games, the rest of the season will remain a grind, with few off-days to give anyone struggling or hurting a chance to catch up. Fun may be an intangible, but I firmly believe it’s what allows a team to hang through tough times, instead of folding down the stretch.

Improve #2: Figure out the Bullpen.

Success in the last two games notwithstanding, the Padres bullpen has been uncharacteristically volatile so far this year. There are many possible explanations for this: an interrupted spring training, followed by a shortened prep period making for a lack of conditioning; a number of new faces figuring out new roles; injuries to what were supposed to be key members, forcing guys who were either fringe roster candidates or alt site members to play far more than intended, etc. But the team will need the bullpen to tighten things up, and quickly. Currently, the team’s bullpen sports a 5.45 ERA and a FIP of 5.00, both good for 23rd in MLB, and failed to hold leads in multiple games so far on the season. Now, they did do incredible work over the weekend, covering multiple innings, including extra innings twice, so maybe things are turning around right before our eyes. But suffice to say, the team will need a little less drama out of its ‘pen going forward.

Sustain #2: The Play of the Comeback Players of the Year.

Back in Spring Training, I was working on a article about who I thought would be the team’s comeback players of the year, guys I thought were going to bounceback and play well in 2020. Then COVID hit, and I forgot it/lost it until about a week or so. Guess who I had on it?

Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, and Garrett Richards.

Yeah, I know, I can hear you all calling BS on me. But seriously, those were the guys I thought were primed for an improved year in 2020, for a variety of factors. I figured Hosmer mainly because he couldn’t have gotten much worse, and the team had more/enough talent around him to ensure he got some better pitches to hit. Machado dipped in his first year with the team, and like Hosmer, with more talent around him, was primed to produce again. Richards had a full off-season to prepare after returning early from Tommy John surgery, so he was set to return somewhat to form this year and be solid as he took the ball every 5th day.

What they’ve done so far has far exceeded my expectations. Hosmer is finally elevating the ball, and it’s helped lead to the 2nd highest OPS in his career so far. Machado is producing as well, swinging the bat like he’s back in Baltimore. Despite a rough start on Saturday, Richards remains solid, sporting a 3.52 ERA and allowing just under a home run per 9 innings, right in line with what he’s done previously. These guys are producing, and that helps the team immensely.

Improve #3: Cut Down the Mistakes.

Not so fun fact: despite Fernando Tatis Jr. not making an error so far this year, the Padres are still currently tied for 4th most errors in MLB right now with 20, and are tied for 1st with 30 GIDPs. Thankfully it hasn’t comeback to haunt them much overall, but if the team wants to make the playoffs, these kind of mistakes need to be kept at a minimum. Double plays kill rallies before they start, and errors lead to opponents posting multi-run innings. The team put an emphasis on eliminating these kind of mistakes in the off-season and put in a ton of work, especially in the field. Additionally, the team is among youngest team on average in MLB, so it stands to reason that the team could improve its play as it gains more experience. Still, though, the mistakes may not matter much, because...

Sustain #3: KEEP. MASHING.

Seriously, this has been the best part of 2020 so far. After YEARS of posting bottom of MLB-quality offenses, the 2020 Padres can just flat out hit the ball. The Padres lead MLB in several key offensive advanced stats, like barrel percentage, exit velocity, and all the stats that supposedly measure batting skill, like expected/weighted averages and slugging percentages. The traditional stats back it up as well: like I said earlier, not only are they 2nd in MLB in home runs, they’re also 7th in OBP, and 4th in slugging percentage. Credit to the team for instilling and actually carrying out a more disciplined plate approach; they’re 4th in MLB in pitches seen, and 5th in MLB in terms of swings in the zone, while tying for the lowest chase rate in MLB at 22.3%. This has allowed the team to outwork opposing pitchers, and then feast on when they finally get their pitch. As I noted back in January, teams that post solid offensive numbers tend to produce, no matter where they play, including in the playoffs.

So that’s my list. Feel free to add your own in the comments. As for news and notes:

  • posted a profile of prospect and bullpen piece Luis Patiño. The article posts a brief scouting report, and chronicle’s Patiño’s rise through the Padres system. Well worth you time.
  • The Padres will roll with Chris Paddack on Tuesday against the Mariners, and follow him with Dinelson Lamet, Garrett Richards and Zach Davies. With no game today, all four will be pitching on an extra day of rest, which only leaves the question of who will be the team’s fifth starter when they need one on Saturday in Colorado. Barring a trade for an arm or arms (which the team is reportedly pursuing), or calling up a pitcher from the alternate training site, they’ll probably continue doing what they have been doing and send out LHP Adrian Morejon (who will hopefully produce a bit more than last time), or call back LHP Joey Lucchesi, who’s been pitching 4-5 innings at USD.
  • Shout-out to these 2 dedicated Padres fans (and anyone else who joined in), who decided the Astros had been getting off easy for long enough:

That’s it for today. Go Padres!