Knuckleballs

Unpredictable, rare, and occasionally effective…but always entertaining.

Your 2010 San Diego Padres

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I predicted these guys would be terrible.  I dismissed their hot start.  After today’s games, they are a half-game behind Atlanta for the best record in the National League.  So why am I so dumb?

The Padres are 41-29 (23-16 at home and 18-13 at home) and have outscored their opponents by 60 runs.  They’ve scored the sixth-fewest runs in the league but have allowed the fewest.  Adrian Gonzalez continues to pace the offense; he’s hitting 0.310 with 15 home runs and a 0.409 on-base percentage in 70 games.  Their position players have combined for 11.1 WAR so far, over 3 of which have come defensively.  Referencing UZR, Gonzalez, Tony Gwynn Jr., David Eckstein, and Chase Headley have all played terrific defense to this point.  Only one regular (Nick Hundley) shows a below-average UZR.

Both the starting rotation and the bullpen have been worth about 4 wins (the 19 total WAR would put them at about 39 wins given the proration of a 46-win replacement team, so it’s not far off).  Mat Latos and Clayton Richard have pitched very well, each maintaining a FIP around 3.60 through roughly 80 innings.  Both have decreased their walks and home runs, and while Latos has had a little BABIP luck so far, he’s also increased his strikeout rate to more than 8 per 9 innings.

The bullpen is where the Padres really shine though.  So far 17 relievers have been worth at least 0.9 WAR; the Padres have three of them.  Heath Bell and Mike Adams both have been superb (0.9 WAR each), giving up only 2 home runs between them in 61 innings.  Each has struck out more than 10 batters per nine innings and more than 3 times as many hitters as they’ve walked.  The real star though has been Luke Gregerson (1.4 WAR).  Before landing on the DL, he had pitched 35.2 innings, giving up one home run, striking out 35, and walking only 3.  This comes from a guy who walked almost 4 batters per nine innings last year; it all adds up to a 1.42 FIP and 2.16 xFIP.

The fact that the position players have 11.1 WAR, 3 of which have come defensively and 9 of which are “replacement” means that they are a win below replacement with the bats.  All told, they’re not as bad as I might have thought, but they are walking a very fine line.  They rely heavily on their pitching staff, and in particular, their bullpen to win games and don’t have much margin for error.  An improved defense (roughly -1 WAR in 2009) appears to have greatly helped the pitching staff.  That said, what they’ve done to this point is no fluke; they’ve earned their position atop the standings.  The question is whether they can keep it up through the summer; with each passing day, the answer looks more and more like a “yes,” but I’d feel more confident saying that if they found a bat to add to the heart of their order.

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Written by Dan Hennessey

June 22, 2010 at 10:00 PM

Posted in Uncategorized

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