by Joshua Worley
The Dodgers start a critical 3 game series against the Padres in Petco Park in San Diego tomorrow. Depending on the result of tonight's Padres-Diamondback game, the Dodgers will either be 3 or 4 games back of the Padres going into the series. Winning the series with the Padres will be essential; sweeping would be divine.
Here is the lineup the Padres have used the past three days, along with Petco OPS:
B Giles -- 0.735
Cameron -- 0.738
Bradley -- 1.023
Gonzalez -- 0.727
Greene -- 0.648
Kouzmanoff -- 0.646
Bard -- 0.568
Blum -- 0.822
Petco is just a really tough place to hit. The Padres have a team OPS of 0.770 on the road, 0.677 at home. This is not a bad offensive team, but at home they look like one.
Milton Obelle Bradley -- LF
0.342 -- 0.443 -- 0.640
The above stats are only from his games in San Diego. When healthy, he's been spectacular for the Padres. Unfortunately for them, he's having his usual trouble staying in the lineup. He's played in just 32 of 54 games since the Padres acquired him. He started his tenure with the Padres on the DL with the oblique injury that scuttled the trade sending him to the Royals, and then he was out for a few weeks in early August with a strained right hamstring. He seems to be healthy now, but he could go down at any moment. Even though he's apparently fully healthy I give him about a 20% chance of missing time this weekend with a new or re-aggravated injury.
That seems high, right? Well, he's been on the DL 4 times this year, and when he missed almost two weeks in August he apparently didn't go on the DL, so that's 5 separate injury stints this year. He's played 51 games this year, so by a naive reckoning he has about a 10% chance of being injured in any given game he plays in. His chance of getting through tonight's game with the Snakes and then all three Dodger games without injury is 0.9 to the fourth power, which is about 0.66. According to this admittedly crude method, Bradley actually has a one third chance of missing time this weekend. Maybe 20% is a conservative estimate!
The Padres are hoping he's over his fragile phase for this season, at least. I wonder if they'll want him back next year? He's been such a good hitter this year for them --- he even has a 1.023 OPS in Petco so far. This is a small sample size, of course, made even smaller because of his injury problems. The problem with a player who only plays in half your games is that no matter how good he is when in the lineup, his replacement likely isn't very good, so you average out to something less than you were hoping. If Bradley puts up a 0.900 OPS for half of 2008, and his fourth outfielder injury replacement puts up a 0.700 OPS, then you're left with on average an 0.800 OPS in a corner outfield spot. It's probably better to just go after a durable 0.820 OPS kind of guy than someone like Bradley.
And that's a shame because Bradley is such an exciting player. But who knows, maybe he'll be mostly healthy next year. If so, I hope it's not with the Padres! Bradley shows no signs of wearing out his welcome in San Diego yet. If the usual pattern holds his team will tire of him after two years.
Whatever the future holds for Bradley and the Padres, the fact is that he's healthy now, and mashing the ball. He's probably the best hitter coming into this big weekend series. He's not striking out very much, about 14% of the time with the Padres, and with them he's hitting a home run every 11 or 12 at bats.
Adrian Gonzalez -- 1B
0.279 -- 0.347 -- 0.491
The Padres' Gonzo has 23 home runs and 37 doubles. He's certainly capable of hitting the long fly ball. After a July and June swoon he's been hitting well again in August, with a 0.989 OPS. Bradley bats third, he bats fourth. That's a brutal pair to have to face in the middle of the lineup. Forget about Broxton being the eighth inning guy --- I think Broxton needs to come in whenever these two are going to be up late in a close game. Leave the Blums and Bards to the likes of Beimel and Proctor instead.
Gonzalez isn't as interesting as Bradley because he's never injured. I give him a 1% chance of missing time this weekend.
Brian Stephen Giles -- RF
0.298 -- 0.383 -- 0.432
Giles has rediscovered his power stroke! Giles has just two home runs through July, a shocking total from the man who averaged just over 37 a year over a 4 year stretch in Pittsburgh. It's true that his power has been steadily decreasing ever since he came to San Diego, but still ... 2? Well, no more. He's hit 6 home runs in August, to take his total to 8. And may it stay there for awhile. Giles has an OPS of 0.979 in August. Does every stinkin' Padres hitter have to be blazing hot? Maybe all that heat will screw with Bradley's hamstring ...
Now, Giles still only has 1 home run in Petco. So the main thing with him is still just to keep him off the bases. Don't walk him. He's the Padre leadoff hitter these days, and it would be tragic if he got on base in front of Bradley and Gonzalez too often.
Michael Terrance Cameron -- CF
0.255 -- 0.335 -- 0.452
Cameron has been very hot and cold this year. In August he's been --- guess what? --- hot. Of course. OPS of 0.923 in August. I bet even the Padres pitchers have OPS's above 0.900 in August. Fortunately the Saturday and Sunday games are in September! So all of the hot August hitters will suddenly have to rebuild their hotness from zero in a brand new month. That's how it works, right?
Cameron's weakness is strikeouts. He typically bats second, so it's going to be important for the Dodger pitchers to make him a non-factor in this series.
Khalil Thabit Greene -- SS
0.248 -- 0.285 -- 0.451
If the Padres are smart, and unfortunately they often are, they will look hard for a shortstop replacement next year. Thabit has turned into a bad habit in the Padre lineup. He's making way too many outs. He does have more home runs than anyone on the Dodgers, but he has a worse OBP than Juan Pierre. He doesn't walk a lot. The Dodger pitchers really need to make him prove that he'll take a pitch out of the strike zone before they challenge him.
Michael Patrick Barrett -- C
0.248 -- 0.286 -- 0.381
I don't understand why the Padres wanted him. Yes, he put up good numbers in Chicago the last three years. But this year he's falling off, and it may be more than just bad luck for a 30 year old catcher. He's been even worse since he left the Cubs for the Padres. There's also his bad team chemistry issues. I normally don't care too much about team chemistry, but I make an exception for catchers. Don't they need to at least get along with their pitchers? How soon until he and known hot-head Peavy get into a fight?
Bard has been better this year, which has worked out just fine for the Padres while Barrett has been out from a concussion. But Barrett is on a rehab assignment right now, and may come back sometimes in the series with the Dodgers. I'm guessing he might play in one game, maybe Saturday. Does a fight with Peavy loom? Probably not.
Joshua David Bard -- C
0.268 -- 0.351 -- 0.381
Bard has some gnarly home-away OPS splits. 0.569 v 0.901. His left v right splits are as strong: 1.006 v 0.633. Good thing Wells isn't facing him away from Petco, eh? Bottom line is the Dodgers pitchers ( except for maybe Wells ) can look forward to getting a lot of outs from the catcher, whoever he is.
Kevin Kouzmanoff -- 3B
0.243 -- 0.296 -- 0.422
Only 23 walks, with 82 strikeouts. Maybe he's not the long-term answer at third base. It's not as if he's only 22 or 23. Future utility infielder? One can say that his year-long stats are being dragged down by his hideous April, and that's true, but since his good May he hasn't had a month where he cracked an 0.800 OPS yet. It is too early to give up on him, though.
Third base is another weak offensive position for the Padres. They do well in the outfield and at first base, but everywhere else they make too many outs. One big difference between the Padres and Dodgers is that the Padres weak hitters do tend to hit a fair number of home runs. Kouzmanoff is no exception, with 14. Who are the weak hitters on the Dodgers? Pierre, Nomar, ( when healthy ) Furcal ( borderline ) ... none of them hit home runs.
Geoffry Edward Blum -- 2B
0.249 -- 0.318 -- 0.354
While Marcus Giles is on the DL with a knee injury, Blum is the regular second baseman. Maybe Blum should be the regular at second anyway --- as bad as his stats look, they're better than Marcus'. And he does well in Petco!
Blum is the exception to the Padres bad hitter rule, as he only has 3 home runs on the year. I've now gone through the likely Padre starters this weekend, and the bottom of the lineup looks pretty bad. The Dodgers have more lineup depth, with fewer low OBP hitters. The Dodgers can't match the combination of Bradley and Gonzalez, though. ( yet --- Eithier, Kemp and Loney are on their way ) The Padres have more power, and their overall offensive stats are skewed by playing half their games in Petco.
Name -- batting side -- position -- OPS
Terrmel Sledge -- left -- OF -- 0.700
Craig Leo Stansberry -- right -- IF -- 3 AB
Morgan Paul Ensberg -- right -- IF -- 0.724
Robert William Mackowiak -- left -- OF -- 0.728
Pierre-Luc LaForest -- left -- C -- 0.987 ( 25 AB )
Seems like a decent bench to me. Short, though. I geuss LaForest will be gone if Barrett comes back.
Overall the Padres have a strong bullpen, as they have all year. The win-loss record of the pen is still sort of middling, at 25-22. One would think such a strong 'pen wouldn't have so many losses. In comparison, the Dodgers 'pen is 22-13.
7+ K per game
name -- throwing arm -- ERA
Heath Justin Bell -- right -- 2.36
Kevin John Cameron -- right -- 1.42
Wilfredo Jose Ledezma -- left -- 5.68
Bell is the Padres' best reliever, and their primary set-up man. Ledezma may get the start Friday.
6-7 K per game
Trevor William Hoffman -- right -- 2.63
Olise Claborne Meredith -- right -- 3.53
4-6 K per game
Justin Michael Hampson -- left -- 3.21
Joseph Thatcher -- left -- 0.00 ( 5 IP )
Chris Young is making his return to the rotation tonight against the Snakes. Friday's starter for the Padres is still undetermined. It could be Ledezma, or maybe Hampson, or maybe they would call up Jack Cassel from AAA Portland. Wells goes for the Dodgers on Friday.
Jake Peavy pitches Saturday against Derek Lowe, and Justin Germano pitches Sunday against Chad Billingsley.
If Wells can rediscover his Petco magic, the Dodgers may have a slight advantage Friday. The Padres should have the edge Saturday, and the Dodgers should again be slightly favored on Sunday. This series will be low-scoring baseball at it's finest! More on each matchup the day of each game.