05 June 2007

Padres Preview: A Sneaky Bad 'Pen

by Joshua Worley

The Padres are 33-23, with a terrific 245-183 run differential. The Dodgers are a half game up on the Padres, but if the win-loss records of the two teams were in line with their runs scored and allowed, the Padres would be 4.5 games up on the Dodgers. That's a five game swing from theory to reality. Thank goodness the Dodgers have been magically scrappy, able to bend reality to their will ... so far. But why have the Padres underperformed their run differential?

The Padres have a great bullpen that has also been a surprising weakness. Their 'pen has a terrific 2.18 ERA, best in the NL. They also have a record of 8-10. I know win-loss records aren't a good way to evaluate pitchers, or even an entire staff. But there is no getting away from the fact that TEN times this year the Padre relievers have turned a tie or lead into an eventual loss. Of the Padres 9 losses since April, SIX of them have gone to bullpen pitchers. Part of the blame for this can surely go to the late-inning offense of the Padres, but the 'pen must bear a lot of blame as well for failing in crucial situations. Not all 'pen innings are created equally. When it really counts, the Padre 'pen has often come up short.

The Dodger 'pen may have an ERA a full run higher at 3.2, but their record is 10-3, thanks in part to magically clutch late-inning offense, but also thanks to great pitching with the game on the line. Maybe the Padres 'pen will stop losing so many games over the rest of the year, and maybe the Dodgers 'pen will start losing more. Just by the numbers the Padres would be a good bet to have the better 'pen over the last four months of the season. But so far the Dodger 'pen has been better when it really counts, and has given the Dodgers a half game lead in the standings.

Before the Dodgers get into the Padres 'pen, they have to deal with their fearsome starting pitching. The Padres send their three best against the Dodger's current three worst, though the Dodger's worst might be pretty good now that Hendrickson and Tomko are exiled. The matchups are Schmidt v Young, Wolf v Maddux, and Kuo v Peavy. Schmidt is coming off injury and Kuo is just begining to start in the NL again, so it's impossible to know what to expect from them. They could be great, or they could be hammered. It doesn't seem likely they can go for more than five or six innings, though, so the Dodger 'pen will be tested in this series. Saito likely won't pitch in the series, so the burden on Broxton, Billingsley and Seanez will be even heavier. If we see Tomko or Hendrickson the game is likely already lost.

Kevin Kouzmanoff -- 3B

age: 25
bats: right

0.205 -- 0.273 -- 0.363

Back in April, I wrote:

He's never hit in the big leagues yet, in all of 112 at bats. I presume he's better than his 0.238 OBP, but let's not have him start showing it against a couple of crappy Dodger pitchers, please.

He didn't start showing he was a better hitter against the Dodgers in that series, as he went 1-11 with no walks and 4 strikeouts. But he did start showing he's a better hitter in the latter half of May, after being benched several times during the first few weeks of May.

April -- 0.113 -- 0.171 -- 0.183
May -- 0.303 -- 0.375 -- 0.576

Is that even the same player? The Dodger pitchers better approach him as if it isn't. Kouz is clearly no longer the automatic out he once was, though it's far too soon to say that he's going to go on to a successful year. But an important part of the Padres nice record of 18-9 in May was Kouzmanoff's surge.

Adrian Gonzalez -- 1B

age: 25
bats: left

0.302 -- 0.369 -- 0.538

I hate the Rangers. I'm glad they're miserably mired in the muck of last place. Why did they have to just give away Chris Young and Adrian Gonzalez to the Padres? Freaking miscreants. What a horrible trade that was, especially for the Dodgers. I'm sick of American League teams basically giving the Padres good young players for free.

Michael Terrance Cameron -- CF

age: 34
bats: right

0.239 -- 0.307 -- 0.390

Here's another Padre who had a great May after an awful April:

April -- 0.192 -- 0.267 -- 0.240
May -- 0.288 -- 0.357 -- 0.548

The rest of his year will likely be more like May than April, though without nearly so much power. Cameron was scratched from Sunday's lineup with a sore hamstring, though he did pinch hit. I'm guessing he'll be ready to go tonight.

Marcus William Giles -- 2B

age: 29
bats: right

0.278 -- 0.349 -- 0.382

Bucking the typical Padre trend, Giles had a bad May with a 0.626 OPS. The Padres Giles attack has been much diminished, with Marcus' struggles and Brian still on the DL with a right knee bone bruise. Brian is eligible to come off the DL for today's opener, but he isn't close to being ready to play yet.

Marcus has been batting leadoff lately. The Dodger absolutely have to keep this slumping player off the bases ahead of Adrian Gonzalez.

Terrmel Sledge -- LF

age: 30
bats: left

0.234 -- 0.348 -- 0.387

He's the regular left fielder now that Brian Giles is on the DL. Sledge was the third player the Padres got from the Rangers along with Young and Gonzalez in that awful trade. Sledge strikes out too much. He also doesn't hit lefties much, so Paul Michael McAnulty and his 0.529 OPS in 31 PA might get the start against Kuo or Wolf. The Padres are very thin in the outfield because of injuries right now, though, so Sledge might have to play against the lefties anyway. I'm not sure what else to say about Terrmel, except that he has a better OPS than Nomar Garciaparra.

Khalil Thabit Greene -- SS

age: 27
bats: right

0.221 -- 0.258 -- 0.428

More than half of his base hits go for extra bases. The problem with this is that he just doesn't get enough hits. He's especially bad at home, where he has a 0.161 batting average. If all goes well Greene will be an escape hatch from tough innings or another easy cog in a 1-2-3 inning for Dodger pitchers. If he ends up with more than one extra base hit in the series, then the Dodgers will have lost their chance to take advantage of his light hitting.

Joshua David Bard -- C

age: 29
bats: switch

0.264 -- 0.333 -- 0.372

Bard was suspended for three games after an altercation with umpires over a home run call, but he'll play against the Dodgers while the suspension is appealed. He's really had trouble at Petco this year. Outside of a few players, the Padre lineup isn't that tough, especially at Petco. The Dodgers and their middling offense have scored more than the Padres: it's the pitching that is the Padres true strength. It should be noted that given park effects, the Padres probably do have a slightly better offense than the Dodgers.

Jose Luis Cruz Jr -- RF

age: 33
bats: switch

0.274 -- 0.348 -- 0.459

Cruz has missed the last three games with back spasms, though he's supposed to be able to return for tonight's game. If he can't, McAnulty or Bocachica will be forced into action. The Padres are really short on outfielders right now, which is why they had to acquire Dodgerama favorite Hiram Bocachica in the first place.

As Cruz's playing time in May has gone up his stats have gotten worse, down to a 0.585 OPS in May. Cruz is a nice fourth outfielder to have around but he's not really an everyday starter.

Hiram Gabriel Bocachica -- OF

age: 31
bats: right

0.077 -- 0.138 -- 0.308

While in Oakland, Hiram had one home run and two walks in 20 plate appearances. The home run was his only hit. Hiram was designated for assignment after Bradley came off the DL, and the Padres grabbed him. With San Diego he's hit one home run with no walks in 9 plate appearances. Again, the home run is his only hit. He's like the second coming of Dave Kingman! I hope he starts all three games in the series against the Dodgers and adds to his out total.

Christopher Ryan Young -- P

age: 28
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
2.42 -- 67.0 -- 60 -- 26 -- 3

Young is a fly ball pitcher who isn't giving up home runs. Last year he gave up 28 in about 180 innings, while he's on pace to only give up 9 this year. I have a feeling Russ Martin may have something to say about his ridiculously low HR rate.

Young is the real deal, though. The last time he gave up more than 2 runs in a game was April. He gave up only 5 runs in all of May. Peavy was the NL pitcher of the month for May, but it just as easily could have been Young.

Young's worst start of the year came against the Dodgers, when they chased him after 2 innings while scoring 5 runs. It was the 5 walks allowed that really undid him against the Dodgers that day; the Dodgers have to be patient, work the count and foul off pitches to be successful against him again. With Nomar and Kent in the lineup, that may be hard.

Gregory Alan Maddux -- P

age: 41
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
3.92 -- 66.2 -- 41 -- 9 -- 4

What a treat it was to have Maddux pitch for the Dodgers, even if for only two months. I'm not upset that the Dodgers didn't sign him, not at all, but I am a bit sad that it just wasn't meant to be.

There will be lots of balls put into play when Maddux pitches, and the Dodgers fortunes will be determined by how many hits fall in. Maddux strikes out a decent but not great number of batters, and walks almost no one. The Wednesday night game will be one time when first pitch hitting by guys like Kent and Nomar might be the way to go, since working the count likely won't yield anything. But Maddux is so smart --- surely he knows guys like Kent and Nomar will be hacking early, and not give them anything to hit early in the count.

Even though Maddux doesn't walk people, the Dodgers should still try to work deep into the count to get his pitch count above 70 or so, after which he is no longer as effective. Or they might try hacking in the first inning, when Maddux often struggles. Early or late, that's the time to get Maddux.

Jacob Edward Peavy -- P

age: 26
throws: right

ERA -- IP -- SO -- BB -- HR
1.68 -- 80.1 -- 92 -- 21 -- 1

All hail the master! The Dodger's only hope Thursday might be for Mariano Duncan to get into Peavy's head again.

Peavy gave up just 4 runs in May; he beat his teammate Young by one run allowed and so won the pitcher of the month award. His ground ball to fly ball ratio is 1.4 this year, the most skewed toward grounders it's ever been.

Kuo has to be perfect against Peavy on Thursday night. The good news is that Kuo only has to match Peavy for a single game, not a whole year. Anything can happen in one game.


At this point I'm just hoping the Dodgers aren't swept, and to see Kuo and Schmidt pitch well. My only prediction about the series is that it will be very good to hear Vinny calling the games again. Truly, all hail the master.

1 comment:

Griffster said...

I will be watching the series in full-blown nip mode until the Dodgers win a game. Because them winning a game at least means that the Padres doesn't go three up on them.

I don't have any hopes of them actually winning the series!

As for picking a game they might win, that is very hard. Today's game might have been a slim possibility, but with the Dodgers flying into San Diego very late and with the team's habit of just mailing in performances after a bad travel day ( see day game earlier this year against the Padres, for instance ) that hope is out the window. Not to mention that Schmidt is so very much a complete unknown, coming off injury.

The middle game, against Maddux, may be the best hope. If Maddux has one of those games where every hit seems to fall in and he bleeds off 5 runs just like that, usually on singles ( and boy, do we have the single-hitting lineup or what ) we could pull that game out.

The game against Peavy? Just chalk it up to a loss already, and be glad that we get to save our two best guys, Penny and Lowe, for the next series.

Or maybe Kuo will be lights-out and the team gets a run or two it can make stand up, and we scamper out of San Diego giddy with a pinched series win or series sweep. That's the beauty of baseball, the 3-0, 2-1, 1-2 and 0-3 possibilities are not and cannot be determined ahead of time.

Dodgers, let's go. And let's not get swept.