Series Preview

San Diego Padres

The San Diego Padres (18-21) arrive in Cincinnati for a three-game series against the Reds (17-19) beginning today. Although the teams have similar records, the Reds have a positive run differential (+10 runs) while the Padres’ differential is negative (-23 runs). The Padres are 6-10 on the road while the Reds are 10-8 at home. The Padres had an off-day on Monday, after finishing a home stand winning three games in a row against the Miami Marlins.

The only surprise about the Padres’ fourth place standing in the NL West division is that they aren’t in last place, where virtually every pre-season forecast projected them to finish. Oh, and the Padres had a dinosaur throw out the first pitch last week.

Run Production

No one will mistake the Padres lineup for the Colorado Rockies team that just visited GABP. The Rockies ranked first in every offensive category in the National League. The Padres rank 14th in runs scored (Reds #12), 15th in wRC+ (Reds 7th), 15th in OBP (Reds 7th), 15th in AVG (Reds 10th) and 13th in power, whether measured by HR or ISO. The Reds are 9th in home runs and 8th in ISO.

On the other hand, in their last three games against the Marlins, the Padres scored 24 runs, including 5 earned runs in 5 innings against Jose Fernandez. In the previous ten games the Padres had scored 23 runs.

Projected Lineup

Here’s the Padres’ likely lineup, although manager Bud Black moves hitters around quite a bit:

1.  Will Venable (L) RF
2.  Everth Cabrera (S) SS
3.  Seth Smith (L) LF
4.  Jedd Gyorko (R) 2B
5.  Chase Headley (S) 3B
6.  Yasmani Grandal (S) C
7.  Yonder Alonso (L) 1B
8.  Cameron Maybin (R) CF
9

Without a doubt, the hot bat in the Padres lineup is left-fielder Seth Smith (.331/.419/.575; wRC+ 179). The former outfielder for the Rockies and A’s was traded by Oakland to San Diego this off-season for reliever Luke Gregerson. His quick start has been inflated by a lucky BABIP (.386 compared to .308 for his career) and his line drive rate is below average and declining. Before 2014, Smith has primarily been used in a platoon because of his severe R/L split. He’ll face three right-handed starters from the Reds, his best side.

Yasmani Grandal, one of two former Reds who were part of the Mat Latos trade and still on the Padres roster, is off to a so-so start (.218/.313/.425) to 2014. While Yonder Alonso, the other former Red has begun 2014 in a terrible slump (.200/.241/.272).

Chase Headley has been among the best and worst hitting third basemen in the league in the span of two seasons. He returned Saturday after a trip to the DL with a strained right calf and promptly homered off of Carlos Marmol. Headley has been the subject of trade talks since his outstanding 2012 season where he hit .286/.376/.498, with 31 home runs, 115 RBI and 17 stolen bases. Tony Liao suggested Headley as a possible target for the Reds this past off-season, but with the emergence of Todd Frazier’s bat, that seems a remote possibility now.

Outfielder Carlos Quinten has been sidelined all year with a knee bruise and, according to Sports Illustrated, is expected to be reactivated today. When effective, Quinten provides a big bat to the Padres lineup. It’s far from clear if Quentin is ready to offer that kind of a lift right now. He’s struggled so far in his minor league appearances.

Run Prevention

With former pitcher Bud Black as their manager, it’s not surprising that the Padres once again are led by their pitching staff. The team ranks second in the National League in ERA (Reds 8th) and are fourth in xFIP (Reds 11th). Their pitchers are middle-of-the-pack in striking out hitters and are the second stingiest in the league when it comes to walks. And before you assign all the credit to the dimensions of Petco Park, remember the Padres moved the fences in a year ago and now the park rating is only slightly favorable to pitchers at 98, with 100 being neutral. By comparison, GABP rates 107.

Probable Starting Pitchers

The key, which includes the current NL average for starting pitchers, for the stats in the charts:

  • ERA (average number of earned runs given up over nine innings, NL: 3.59);
  • xFIP (expected fielding independent pitching, assumes normal BABIP and home runs based on fly ball rates, scaled to ERA, NL: 3.60);
  • SIERA (skill-interactive ERA; further refinement of xFIP taking into account hit-ball percentages, weights strike outs, NL: 3.68);
  • K% and BB% (percentage of strikeouts and walks per plate appearance, NL: 20.4% and 7.1%);
  • SwStr% (percentage of total pitches the batter swings and misses, NL: 9.2%)

The Reds will face the top three pitchers in the Padres starting rotation.

Tuesday, 7:10 pm

Tuesday copy

Andrew Cashner, the Padres presumed #1 pitcher, began the season with four excellent starts, including a 1-hit shutout of the Detroit Tigers in a game where he struck out 11. This prompted a short-lived boomlet in opinion that the Padres may have actually won the unusual trade with the Cubs back in 2012 where the Cubs swapped Cashner one-for-one for first baseman Anthony Rizzo. But the 27-year-old Cashner hasn’t made it past six innings in any of his last four starts and his walk and strikeout rates are returning to their past levels. You can see from his well-below-average SwStr% that his fastball velocity doesn’t translate into many swings and misses.

Wednesday, 7:10 pm

Wednesday

Ian Kennedy has performed like the real #1 pitcher for the Padres. His strikeout and walk %s are nearly the same as Johnny Cueto’s this season, producing a comparable set of forward-looking overall metrics (xFIP and SIERA). Kennedy previously pitched for the Yankees and Diamondbacks. He was part of the three-way trade between the Yankees-DBacks and Detroit Tigers that included the names: Curtis Granderson, Max Schurzer, Austin Jackson and Edwin Jackson.

After a promising season with Arizona, when Kennedy went 21-4 (xFIP 3.22) and finished fourth in the NL Cy Young balloting, the 29-year-old has slumped severely, being sent from the DBacks to the Padres last year at the trade deadline as Arizona was in search for relief pitching down the stretch. Kennedy’s career has been revived with the Padres.


Thursday, 12:35 pm

Thursday

The 27-year-old Tyson Ross is in his first year of arbitration with the Padres under Super 2 status. He’s coming off an outstanding season with the Padres (xFIP 3.20). He’s somewhat of a strikeout pitcher, with a well-above-average swinging strike rate, fueled mostly by his slider. Ross is basically a two-pitch starter (fastball-slider) but his second pitch is one of the best in baseball at achieving whiffs. Think of Ross as a solid #3 or #4 pitcher.

Bullpen

The Padres bullpen has been a team strength in 2014. Their ERA (2.13) and FIP (3.01) are both second in the NL. The Reds are 14th in both categories (4.70 and 4.51 respectively). But they are due for a major luck correction as their BABIP (.264) and LOB % (80.6%) and HR/FB (5.5%) are all due for corrections toward the frowning side of the scoreboard.

Huston Street (30) is the Padres closer.  Street has amassed 245 saves over his career and has converted 11 of 11 this season. The Padres’ key set-up relievers are RHP Joaquin Benoit, RHP Dale Thayer, RHP Nick Vincent and LHP Alex Torres. Benoit, who closed for the Detroit Tigers for a good part of last season, has continued to pitch well for the Padres.

Conclusion

On paper, this series sets up well for the Reds, who won 2 out of 3 when San Diego visited Cincinnati last August. The Reds start this week six games behind the Brewers and a half game behind the Cardinals. With a sweep of the Padres, Bryan Price’s team could make up some ground on the division leaders.

With Cueto pitching the second game and the fading Alfredo Simon (Mat Latos, we need you…) pitching the third, Mike Leake’s start in the first game may hold the key to a series win. Leake was born in San Diego and went to high school at nearby Fallbrook Union.

15 thoughts on “San Diego Padres

  1. Whoops…”The Reds start this week six games behind the Brewers and five games behind the Cardinals.” I think you are giving the Birds way too much credit. The Reds are only a half game behind the Birds and started the week just one game behind the Birds.

  2. Wow, I feel much better about the Reds plate discipline after reviewing the Padres:

    OBP
    .255 #1 Venable
    .286 #2 Cabrera
    .211 #4 Gyorko
    .241 #7 Alonso

    • I think that is misleading. They simply haven’t hit:

      Pads BB%
      7.1%, Venable
      3.7% Cabrera
      6.1% Gyorko
      5.3% Alonso

      Reds BB%
      4.5% Hamilton
      4.0% Phillips
      3.2% Cozart
      5.1% Heisey

      I actually think all 4 of the Padres you listed will end up with higher OBPs than the Reds 4 guys, which is weird!

  3. The game against Fernandez was a prelude to Fernandez’ trip to the DL and probable TJ surgery. That wasn’t the CY caliber Fernandez.

    • Mitch Williams bugs the crap outta me but he called it. During that game he said that Fernandez was killing his elbow and risking serious arm injury by using the slide-step from the stretch. He said it was only a “matter of time” and he needed to “ditch it” … Looks like Mitch may have been right on this one. He’s right from time to time, especially about pitching.

  4. This is like a series against the Cubs. If the Reds don’t win the series, they’re likely giving up a “permanent” game to the rest of the Central, because it’s highly likely neither the WLB or the MiluakeeDrunkards will lose a series to the Padres.

  5. Given the high hopes for the two position players we traded for Latos, anyone surprised on how poorly they have done since the trade?

    • Grandal looked good offensively prior to his PED suspension. He is hitting for some power and taking some walks but isn’t hitting for average. I think he’ll hit better as the season goes on, but I can’t stand him behind the plate. He’s just well below average defensively.

      As for Alonso, I wasn’t as high on him as many were. I thought he’d hit for a decent average and take his share of walks though. So far this year, he’s gotten off to a brutal start. I don’t know what’s going on with him but he’s a better hitter than he’s shown this year. Overall, I’ve been happy with the trade since day 1 and am still happy with the trade.

    • To expand on LW’s comment from the Old Cossack’s perspective…

      Both Grandal and Alonso are off to atrocious starts this season. Over the past 2 seasons, both have put up pretty good numbers (Grandal-.271/.380/.429 & Alonso-.276/.345/.384). I think the Padres got what they expected in the deal over the prior 2 seasons. No one anticipated the PED issue with Grandal and that could impact him going forward. Alonso does not have HR power and for the SD park, HR power never worked until after they moved the fences in after the trade was completed. From the Reds perspective, Latos was a high upside young pitcher with some issues and question marks about his ability to attain that upside.

      I believe it was a good trade that happened to work out to the Reds’ advantage at this point.

  6. This should be a series the Reds win 2 or 3 of the 3 games. They have to score some runs early and give their SP’s a little comfort to pitch from.
    Get those bats going. Leake and Cueto should be strong. This will be the start that shows if Simon can bounce back and be a real SP or a pretender.
    Reds have to also watch out for SD’s 2B, and WV native, Jedd Gyorko. His bat is finally starting to heat up. 2 HR’s and 6 RBI’s on Sunday.
    It might be Mike Leake’s time for a no-hitter.

  7. I really love BP moving Votto to the 2 hole but I really hate Votto at 4. I can’t think of any good reasoning other than creating a more “balanced” lineup, which in my opinion, is a bunch of nonsense since its taking ABs from Votto. Can anyone defend this decision?

  8. Jay Bruce taking batting practice with Cincinnati and Devon Mesoraco taking batting practice with the Bats tonight. Things are moving along in the right direction for the good guys.

  9. I just watched another 2-1 loss. I can’t take this waste of time any longer. Explain to me haw we can have 8 or so one run losses and not be shopping pitchers or even Votto who is 30 and clearly peaked already……?

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