What is going on in San Diego?

Have you heard of San Diego? It’s in California. I’ve never been there, but it sounds lovely. Did you know that they have a baseball team? It’s true! They’re called “The Padres”. You probably don’t pay much attention to the Padres, because not many people do, but if you had been paying attention, you would see that the Padres are doing some interesting things. How interesting? Well, that depends on your standards of interesting things. My standards are quite low, so I would classify what the Padres are doing as “quite interesting”. Don’t worry. I’m not happy about these last few sentences either.

Here is the San Diego Padres record by month:

W L RS RA WP
April 7 17 75 99 0.292
May 10 18 92 129 0.357
June 12 15 104 123 0.444
July 15 11 123 99 0.577
August 18 10 119 109 0.643
September 5 4 54 48 0.556

Take a second to peruse those numbers, and you’ll see that the Padres started off the season quite terribly. Up till the end of June they were 29-50, and had been outscored by 80 runs. Not great. But not unexpected. The Padres were largely predicted to finish in, or near, the basement in the NL West. So they were performing about as expected. Maybe a little worse, but not a lot worse.

Then July came about, and since then the Padres have gone 40-25, while outscoring their opponents by 40 runs. How did the Padres turn it around so abruptly? Let’s start by looking at their hitters performance by month:

Split PA R HR BA OBP SLG OPS BAbip
April/March 883 75 11 0.215 0.299 0.331 0.631 0.269
May 1049 92 15 0.232 0.303 0.357 0.660 0.291
June 1015 104 19 0.249 0.317 0.372 0.689 0.301
July 1012 123 22 0.249 0.326 0.392 0.718 0.295
August 1035 119 26 0.264 0.328 0.409 0.736 0.306
Sept/Oct 372 54 12 0.296 0.369 0.454 0.823 0.354

Well would you look at that. The Padres team batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage have each increased in every month of the season. I doubt that this has happened too many times. I would look it up, but I don’t know how.
Now let’s look at their pitching by month:

Split W L ERA IP H R HR SO/9 SO/BB
April/March 7 17 3.53 214.1 177 99 22 7.9 2.01
May 10 18 4.36 247.2 243 129 26 7.1 1.86
June 12 15 3.84 237 218 123 32 8.3 2.15
July 15 11 3.57 232 210 99 23 7.1 2.61
August 18 10 3.79 247 226 109 27 7.2 2.33
Sept/Oct 5 4 4.79 82.2 93 48 12 8.3 3.04

Not really too much of a trend here. The Padres’ pitching has stayed far more consistent over the course of the season than the hitting. It was worse in May and June, when they were a combined 22-33, but it was really good in April, when they were 7-17. It’s almost as if – if your hitters are terrible, it doesn’t matter how good your pitching is, you’re still going to lose a lot of games.
How about some individual performances? I’m going to split the season into two halves, April-June and July-present. Here are the players that played the majority of the games at each position over for the Padres over each period, and their slash lines:

April-June Pos AVG OBP SLG July-Sept Pos AVG OBP SLG
Nick Hundley C 0.166 0.226 0.259 Yasmani Grandal C 0.260 0.372 0.435
Yonder Alonso 1B 0.259 0.333 0.346 Yonder Alonso 1B 0.278 0.350 0.425
Orlando Hudson 2B 0.211 0.260 0.317 Logan Forsythe 2B 0.296 0.374 0.397
Everth Cabrera SS 0.246 0.331 0.381 Everth Cabrera SS 0.240 0.313 0.291
Chase Headley 3B 0.271 0.369 0.415 Chase Headley 3B 0.294 0.366 0.565
Chris Denorfia LF 0.289 0.353 0.428 Carlos Quentin LF 0.238 0.335 0.455
Cameron Maybin CF 0.204 0.282 0.292 Cameron Maybin CF 0.302 0.354 0.423
Will Venable RF 0.259 0.324 0.434 Will Venable RF 0.269 0.364 0.455

Lot of improvements here, starting off with actually having a catcher that can hold a bat. Grandal has been pretty good since coming up in July, putting up 1.6 fWAR in only 161 PAs. At first base, Alonso has increased his power numbers in the second half; and while they’re still low for a first basemen, they’re much improved over the first half. At second, Forsythe has hit quite well in the second half after taking the starting job from Alexi Amarista, who took it from Orlando Hudson.

Chase Headley has started crushing the ball in the second half, with 19 HRs since July 1. He’s certainly been a big part of the Padres resurgence, probably leaving many Padres fans happy that he wasn’t traded at the deadline. In left, there actually hasn’t been much of an improvement, as Quentin put up his best numbers  just after he came off the DL in late May. He’s cooled in the second half. In center, Maybin has really turned it on in the second half after a terrible start to the season. His contract isn’t looking nearly as bad as it did for the first few months of the season. Venable’s play in right has improved as well, with his walk numbers up significantly in the second half.

All in all, the Padres have taken a big step forward in the second half of the season. Their lineup will always have to deal with Petco, (unless they move the fences in), but as of right now, things are looking much brighter than they did at the start of the year. If they can lock up Chase Headley, the next few years could be relatively exciting for the Padres. Because you also have to remember nearly their entire starting rotation was injured this year, leaving them to run out Jason Marquis and Kip Wells. When those starters return, and more of their deep farm system makes it to the majors, the Padres could certainly have the potential to play for the wildcard in the National League. Now I really want to go to San Diego.

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