No matter how the Diamondbacks are doing, I do my best to keep an eye on the rest of the NL West. Part of this is scoreboard watching as a D-Back fan, but mostly it's just honest curiosity. I'm generally far more interested in the other teams in the division than the rest of the league.
Except for the Padres. I'm pretty sure I haven't given the Padres a second thought since the series in mid-April. I don't know their team strengths or weaknesses, I don't know if they've had bad luck with injuries, I don't know if they've been traded to the NPB in place of the Nippon Ham Fighters. If I've seen their record or watched a Padres highlight in the last month and a half, I can assure you it was entirely coincidental. No, really, I honestly don't know anything about the 2012 Padres. Please don't ask me.
With that in mind, let's talk about the Padres for the next 1,000 words or so!
The Padres are...uh...give me a second while Baseball Reference loads...the Padres are still in the NL West, which is a good first sign. They're also right where we left them: last in the division. Not only are the last in our division, they're last in every division, as their 17-35 is currently the worst in baseball. They aren't exactly trending upwards either, having lost their last six games, including all three against the Cubs, who are the second-worst team in baseball.
What the Stats Say (According to Fangraphs):
Don't look now, but the Diamondbacks have stumbled across a team who they're significantly better than in all three facets of the game. As bad as the Diamondbacks' offense has looked this year, the Padres offense is simply on another level. The Padres have the second-worst slugging percentage in baseball, which sort makes sense because of Petco. But Petco Park doesn't explain the Padres' OBP of .301, which is third-worst in MLB. The Padres have a team ERA of just under 4, which seems respectable until you realize that every pitcher begins games at Petco Park with negative three runs. I'm pretty sure that's how park effects work. Don't look it up, just take my word for it.
Last year, the Padres were a last-place team that had a bad offense and mediocre pitching. Whereas the current Padres seem to be a last-place team with a bad offense and worse pitching. On the whole, there doesn't seem to be much of a difference. If I had known how easy it would be to pretend to know things about the Padres, I probably wouldn't have led with two paragraphs admitting I don't know anything about the Padres.
For those of you who remember last year's previews, pretty much all I could talk about when I previewed the Padres offense was how underrated Hundley was and how annoying it was that the Padres got Maybin for a couple of relievers. This year however, with the two of them producing OPSes of .516 and .607, respectively, that's all been reversed. Now what am I supposed to write about, Padres?
It took a while, but I was finally over the Carlos Quentin trade last year. So of course, that meant it was time for him to show up in our division and wreak havoc just as an unfriendly reminder, a la Carlos Gonzalez. He's finally healthy, and has one of the most awesome small sample size lines I've ever witnessed: .583/.643/1.583 for an OPS+ of 504 in his first 14 at bats. Probably sustainable.
Yonder Alonso has been solid in his first full season in the majors, with an OPS+ of 111. Will Venable has made a career out of being a pretty garden-variety outfielder, but he's had a nice season so far, with an OPS of .800. And third baseman Chase Headley continues to improve as he enters his prime, with a OPS+ of 129 that would stand as his best season to date.
Insightful Commentary: Not many Quality Starts begin with a pitcher giving up 5 runs in the first three innings, but that's exactly what happened for Miley his last time out, as he went six innings and gave up five runs, only three of which were earned. Perhaps the biggest problem for Miley right now are his strikeouts, which have disappeared of late. He has garnered only five in the last two games, but facing a weak-hitting lineup in a pitcher's park, I expect Miley to be aggressive and rack up a few on Friday.
It's not that Richard has been awful, but his numbers have gotten worse every year he's pitched for the Padres, leading up to this year, where he has been exactly replacement level so far. This is not exactly what the Padres had in mind when they traded away Jake Peavy for a package with Richard as its centerpiece. Actually, this is a good time to mention that the Padres traded away a Cy Young Award winner with a career ERA of 3.29, and had a choice between Richard and a young pitching prospect named Daniel Hudson. They chose Richard. Don't ever change, Padres.
Saturday: Daniel Hudson (1-1, 5.48) vs. Edinson Volquez (2-3, 3.46)
Insightful Commentary: We've been using injuries as an excuse for this team essentially since the last Padres series in April. But with Hudson back, it's really not something we can complain about any more. With Hudson making his first start since the beginning of the season, the Diamondbacks' last turn through the rotation featured everyone at full health. During that stretch, the team went 2-3. I'll save the panic about Hudson's ERA and FIP for another start or two if it doesn't improve, but his return does force us to confront a more general fear: that this team is simply not that good, injuries or not.
Technically, Volquez has scaled back his walks this year, as his BB/9 is under his career mark. This moves him into "Jonathan Sanchez" range, whereas previously he was in "Jonathan Sanchez if Jonathan Sanchez suddenly lost control of his motor functions" range, which counts as an improvement. Unfortunately, he is also striking out fewer batters this year, which negates much of the advantage.
Sunday: Trevor Cahill (2-5, 3.96) vs. TBA
Insightful Commentary: Look, I really want to like Trevor Cahill. We've seen his sinker work in a few games, and it's almost Webb-like when it does. But Webb in his prime could throw quality games even when his sinker wasn't at his best, while Cahill is beginning to look Kirsten-Stewart-level one dimensional in his starts. If Webb's sinker wasn't sinking, he would throw his changeup. If Cahill's sinker isn't sinking, he throws his sinker, and that leads to a lot of hard-hit balls.
This spot in the rotation has belonged to Jeff Suppan so far this year. Wait, what? How is Jeff Suppan still a thing? Anyway, the Padres haven't named a starter for Sunday, suggesting that they might finally be tired of watching a 37-year-old with a 5.28 ERA starting for a losing team.
Final Verdict: The Diamondbacks haven't played well this season, as you are all perfectly aware. However, even in this diminished state, they are still noticeably better than the Padres. It doesn't mean they'll win the series, of course, but it means they should win the series. Diamondbacks two games to one.
Gaslamp Ball is the place to go if you want to know more about the Padres than I do.
(Stats from Baseball-Reference and Fangraphs)