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Pitching injuries wrecked the Padres season

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Would you bring MacKenzie Gore to a final outing with the big club?

MLB: San Diego Padres at Texas Rangers Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the season is almost over for the San Diego Padres, and with the pitching staff depleted, could MacKenzie Gore pitch in one of the final games this weekend to gain some trust for next season?

Expected to push for a roster spot soon, Gore bounced around four levels and pitched very limited innings in 2021. He ended his season with Double-A San Antonio, and ended up with a 3.93 ERA in 12 starts across San Antonio, Triple-A El Paso, High-A Fort Wayne, and the Arizona Complex League.

When the Padres had a sizable lead on a wild card spot, the thought was Gore could potentially be a postseason weapon. Now, all that’s left is a chance for Gore to possibly pitch against a team that will play in the playoffs, the Giants.

With Jake Arrieta released, Chris Paddack done for the year, and Blake Snell still trying to pitch this season, leaving only two healthy pitchers from the season-opening rotation — Joe Musgrove and Yu Darvish.

The Padres could conceivably insert Gore into the rotation this weekend if needed, especially if neither Snell nor Darvish pitch in San Francisco. But it doesn’t seem likely, as Gore could still be pitching in Triple-A, but has yet to rejoin El Paso.

It looks like the Padres will end the season with 13 pitchers on the injured list. Six of them are starters or were projected to be starters, which represents over 25 million of the payroll:

  • Blake Snell (groin)
  • Chris Paddack (elbow inflammation)
  • Mike Clevinger (Tommy John surgery)
  • Matt Strahm (right knee)
  • Craig Stammen (undisclosed)
  • Adrian Morejon (forearm strain)
  • Drew Pomeranz (forearm inflammation)
  • Michel Baez (Tommy John surgery)
  • Dan Altavilla (elbow inflammation)
  • Keone Kela (forearm tightness)
  • Jose Castillo (Tommy John surgery)
  • Trey Wingenter (Tommy John surgery)
  • Yu Darvish (Left hip impingement)

The Padres tried to close the gap with the Dodgers by taking chances on too many injury-prone pitchers. Maybe there’s a systemic problem with Padres managing pitchers, as they lost the second-most games to the injured list as of September 22.

This was a loss of 25 WAR, according to Man-Games Lost. A loss of WAR isn’t necessarily a win lost. It’s a measure, and one that we can consistently use across teams to measure the loss. Yes, a team can lose a player, even a good player and have an adequate replacement, but no one has that many good replacements. The Padres were grabbing starters off of free agency over the last month.

No matter how you look at the injury data on the Padres, it’s clear that this team was talented enough to make the playoffs and that it was the injuries, more than any of the other factors, that held them back. It was easy to look at the start of the season and say the Padres seed to be equivalent to the Dodgers. Here we are with a week left in the season and the Padres eliminated from the playoffs, 24 games behind the Dodgers with 25 lost WAR.

Better injury management would have put this Padres team into the playoffs with room to spare.

The organization has been very aggressive, even rushed people in the past, pitchers like Morejon, Baez, and Paddack. The consequences are showing up a few years down the road. Morejon was started and stopped several times, as was Dinelson Lamet, and that inconsistent usage led to problems.

We’ll see who they hire to handle pitchers, but a deep housecleaning is in order across the organization if they want to get better.