Tuesday, May 29, 2012

San Diego Padres: Could It Get Any Worse?

The San Diego Padres have not set themselves up for success so far this season, and it’s not something that’s exactly shocking to anyone. The Padres didn’t exactly go out of their way to become a better team this past offseason, and have made it a habit to trade away top talent for prospects and/or youth and cost certainty. While they’ve been able to compete on and off, it’s certainly an “off” year so far, and they look to be spending the season at the bottom of the division for the 2nd consecutive time under Buddy Black. Looking at their rotation it becomes quite obvious why they’re not competing this year, and look I shall!

Jeff Suppan has actually given up more runs in each consecutive start than he had in the previous start all May. Suppan’s struck out a grand total of 7 batters to his 13 walks over 30 & ⅔ innings. So there are a few things that can be said immediately, Suppan isn’t eating innings, and after his 3rd start has also stopped helping his team compete. The biggest question is why. He’s giving up walks, sure, but he’s also getting ground balls like never before, so far over 50% for the first time in his career. 80% of plate appearances are ending with the ball in play, which is admittedly high, but with a consistent groundball rate, that shouldn’t totally kill him. He is also walking near 10% of batters so far, which means in 93% of situations (home runs aren’t counted in balls in play) he’s giving batters the opportunity to run the base paths. He’s not giving up line drives though at only 15% of balls in play. His BABIP doesn’t suggest this is luck though sitting at .273, which is below both the league and his career marks. Suppan is actually giving opposing batters so many chances to put the ball in play that he’s being beaten into submission purely by the volume of opportunities he’s giving opposing batters. If Suppan can’t figure out how to turn those walks into strikeouts, he’s not going to fare any better over the course of the year.

Joe Wieland has been underwhelming so far though his season looks uglier than it may really be. He’s only had 2 bad starts in his 5 turns, so in under 30 innings of work, the young man’s not exactly providing an excellent sample to work from. Wieland is on the DL at the moment, but should have already started his throwing routine to get himself back on track. He’s getting strikeouts fine, and he hasn’t been wild, so aside from concerns that he’s given up 5 homers so far, he looks capable of contributing upon his return. Wieland is preventing line drives well (14%), which could indicate positive things for the young pitcher. He’s certainly pitching home games in the right park to forgive a few mistakes here and there, and could well prove that he’s better than his rough starts indicate. He has however not touched the 7th inning so far, and could do to try to work a bit more efficiently as the season progresses.

Eric Stults has so far made 3 starts on the season, one for the White Sox who, for reasons unbeknownst to me waived him after providing a 6 inning 2 run effort and ⅔ of an inning of scoreless relief. The Padre’s managed quite the coup in snagging the 32 year old off waivers. His start today will be the 28th of his career, and while he’s not exactly a strikeout artist he has shown a knack for limiting damage so far, and is a bit better than 50% ground balls so far. He may be getting a bit lucky overall, as he seems prone to giving up a lot of line drives (24% this season) but he also hasn’t given up a homer so far. Stults may not be the answer to the Padres’ pitching woes, but right now he’s the hot hand, and that can be just as important at times. I wouldn’t look for Stults to continue his homerless streak for the season, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he managed to provide value for the Padres in one capacity or another for the season.

Cory Luebke got off to a hot enough start, and in the midst of building on his strong season last year, will be sitting out the rest of this season after reconstructive surgery on his pitching elbow. Luebke won’t be contributing any more for the Friars this season, but I’d look for him to come back strong and prepared to pitch next season.

Anthony Bass has eaten 58 & ⅓ innings so far for the Friars, and aside from an ugly start against the Mets in his most recent turn, Bass looks to have the ability to provide quite a bit of quality for the Padres. Bass has been able to strike out batters pretty effectively so far, with 55 Ks so far to his 21 walks. He’s keeping batters on top of pitches about ½ of the time, and he’s not getting hammered for line drives (18%) when they do lift one. Bass certainly earned himself a spot in the rotation after last year’s 48 & ⅓ inning audition, and so far hasn’t disappointed. Bass seems to be pretty solid all around, not putting a ton of men on base, and pitching smartly and efficiently more often than not. He’s still just a kid at 24 so some faltering isn’t unrealistic, but so far he’s looking to contribute in a big way for the Friars this season

Clayton Richard is currently the only contributing piece of the Friar’s trade of Jake Peavy and has been able to eat 64 & ⅓ innings so far though he’s done so in relatively unspectacular fashion. He’s been able to provide quality games but he’s far from an ace for this staff. Richard’s biggest value is going to come from his ability to eat innings, whether he’s battling or not he seems to be able to chew up innings without much issue. He’s providing an overall sustainable line, not striking out a large number of batters, but he’s keeping hitters on top of the ball more than ½ of the time, and he’s limiting line drives to 17%. He might be a bit better than his 4.76 ERA indicates, but he’s likely to show up and be any more than back of the rotation innings.

Edinson Volquez has put together 65 innings of slightly better than average ball. He’s not the ace that he’s been advertised to be but he is eating innings well enough. He’s striking batters out at a fair clip with 55 strikeouts so far, though he’s striking out about 1 less per 9 than last year, and 2 less than the year prior. With that he’s walking batters at an unreasonable clip, having walked 34 already, though that’s nothing new with Volquez. The one thing Volquez is doing well above all else is limiting home runs, which he most certainly should be doing, having only given up 1 round tripper at home so far and 3 total. He is garnering ground balls, though less than he has over the 2 most previous seasons. Volquez is also limiting line drives to 13% which is less than he has ever managed in the past, but not too far off of his last 2 seasons. Overall Volquez probably isn’t going to impress anyone more than he already has, and if he can’t get his walk rate under control his annually diminishing strikeout rate isn’t going to make him look better. He’s serviceable, and probably just a bit lucky, given that he’s usually good for about a homer per 9 and has been providing value at half that rate in Petco.

The Friars are worse than middle of the pack across the board, 10th of the 16 NL teams for staff ERA and despite being 2nd in stolen bases, are 15th in team batting average, on base percentage, and runs scored. They aren’t looking like a competitive team, and so far haven’t been this season. I’d say they’ll be sellers come the deadline, but I’m at a loss for what they’ll be able to sell that won’t further cripple their team for next season. They lack a power threat in their everyday lineup, and while Carlos Quentin might help out when healthy, their rotation, pen, and lineup are all subpar and that will assure them of a disappointing season again this year to give them their 4th sub .500 season in the last 5 years.

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