Six months ago, the Padres made so much sense as a dark horse pick. Starting at the end of June, they went 48-30 the rest of the way without anyone noticing or caring.
The only thing keeping them from being better than that was a rotation featuring Jason Marquis and Kip Wells for large stretches because of all the injuries. Surely that couldn't happen again, right? And every major contributor on the offense was under 30 and surprisingly good. It all just made so much sense.
However, in assuming this, I neglected to remember that the Padres are, in fact, the Padres. They do this every year. Here's a fun time line:
October 3, 2012: Season ends. Padre fans look forward to an offseason of big spending, probably featuring star Chase Headley receiving a new contract.
November 7, 2012: Yasmani Grandal suspended 50 games for violating the league's substance abuse policy. Welp. Yasmani Grandal was a 23-year-old Catcher with an OPS+ of 142 last year. Less than a week after the World Series, the Padres are already finding ways to make their team both worse and less interesting.
November 16, 2012: San Diego Padres step boldly and decisively into the trade market, trading a couple of fringe guys for Tyson Ross. Tyson Ross will not start in the majors unless something goes wrong.
December 1, 2012: Chase Headley still not signed to a new contract.
December 3, 2012: Padres re-sign Jason Marquis. Jason Marquis will not start in the majors unless something goes wrong.
December 5, 2013: Andrew Cashner lacerates thumb in hunting accident, will miss three months. I mean, it looks dumb, but it happens, and just because one of their young pitchers won't be available doesn't mean that we're going to see the same thing we saw in 2012.
January 30, 2013: Chase Headley signs new contract!!! For one year, at least...
February 28, 2013: SP Joe Wieland placed on 60-day Disabled List, will not be ready for the start of the season. Okay, fine, two pitchers but that doesn't necessarily mean--
March 31, 2013: SP Cory Luebke placed on 60-day DL. You've got to be kidding...
March 31, 2013: SP Casey Kelly placed on 60-day DL. So yeah, looks like we're seeing Tyson Ross and Jason Marquis after all.
This is how the Padres steadfastly continue to be the Padres.
What the Stats Say (Courtesy of Fangraphs):
When everyone was busy making their Petco Park jokes, San Diego actually built a pretty decent offense. That wRC+ is right in the middle of the pack, but Headley and Carlos Quentin have both missed chunks of time, so the fact that they're able to hang in there without their middle of the order bats is impressive.
The pitching, though...
The Padres' relief corps hasn't been great. Their collective 3.13 ERA looks shiny, but it's belied by 4.24 FIP in Petco Park. Don't trust it.
But the starters have just been a disaster. You have to go out of your way to put up a 5.58 ERA in Petco, even with the new dimensions. Only Tyson Ross has an ERA under 4 among the starters, and he's out with a shoulder injury, because that's a thing that happens to Padre pitchers.
San Diego Padres
What if I told you that the spirit of Randy Winn was alive and well in the vessel of Chris Denorfia? While he's a perfectly serviceable corner outfielder with some pop against lefties against every other team, he magically transforms into Manny Ramirez in his prime when he plays the Diamondbacks. The only reason he isn't universally loathed at Chase Field is because it's hard to hate a such a quintessentially Padres player that much.
Chase Headley was the proud recipient of the 2012 Hipster MVP Award. The HMVP goes to the player that all "baseball people" realize is incredibly good, but who won't receive mainstream credit until about two years later or until he gets traded to a big-market team, whichever comes first. Until that happens, I'd imagine the Padres would settle for another year of 144 OPS+ like they got in 2012.
Yonder Alonso looked suspiciously Justin Smoak-like until about July of last year. Since then, he's been one of the more promising young First Basemen in baseball. The team has high hopes for top prospect Jedd Gyorko at second. Will Venable and Nick Hundley are filling in for starters Cameron Maybin and Yasmani Grandal while they recover from an injury and a suspension, respectively.
Friday: Wade Miley (2-0, 2.37) vs. Jason Marquis (2-2, 4.20)
Insightful Commentary: Miley saw how much some of the people on here were missing Trevor Bauer, and decided to do his best Bauer impersonation in his last start. He had as many walks (seven) in his 4.1 innings as he did in his first four starts combined. He got through the abbreviated start without allowing runs, but wow. Give that it was so different from anything else Miley has done in the past year and change, I'm inclined to just dismiss it as an anomaly.
It's tempting to think of Jason Marquis as a formerly good starter who has fallen off as he's aged. This obscures the fact that he hasn't had an ERA below 4 since 2004. He also has a career K/9 of 5.32, which is well south of Brandon McCarthy. The miracle isn't that Jason Marquis is still around, it's the fact that he made it this far in the first place.
Insightful Commentary: Dating back to the last start of last season, Corbin is riding a streak of six straight Quality Starts, which is full-fledged 2010 Barry Enright territory. But unlike Enright, Corbin actually has the raw stuff and the peripherals to continue his success. Hopefully.
Richard, AKA the White Sox pitching prospect who the Padres asked for instead of Daniel Hudson, has been largely decent but rarely great since coming to San Diego in 2009. His K% has risen for the past three years, however, and he's been generally unwatchable this year. He's given up six home runs already, and he has more walks than strikeouts. Even on a team as pitching-starved as the Padres at the moment, Richard's days may be numbered.
Insightful Commentary: Another one of those starts where Kennedy didn't seem to have good command, but gutted through to give the team seven innings his last time out. It seems like this happens a lot, where Kennedy is fighting his stuff for long enough to give the team a long but not particularly great start. It's useful, because it saves the bullpen and we all know how much the team needs that right now, but it sure would be nice to see a start where Kennedy can command all of his pitches, just to remind us what it would look like.
A weird start from Volquez, who has made his name as the Jonathan Sanchez of San Diego. His much-maligned BB% has gone down noticeably so far this year, but his K% has dropped off a cliff as well. PitchFx suggests that Volquez is using his curveball more this year, which might account for some of the change. Moreover, he's lost a bit of velocity on the fastball and slider, which may be contributing as well.
Five Pressing (?) Questions:
So what's the latest on Chase Headley's contract situation? New ownership sort of talked themselves into a corner by announcing that they would spend more money, and then failing to lock up their best player. He won't be a free agent until after 2014, but as it stands now, Headley will make over $8 million, which is a lot to give to a player on a losing team who ownership isn't willing to keep around. It looks like the Padres are gearing up to make an offer though, so we'll see what happens.
Are we still obliged to hate Carlos Quentin? This question should probably be addressed to Jim, given that hating Quentin was built into our site guidelines at one point. Other than his (admittedly pretty awesome) 2008 season after he got traded to the White Sox, Quentin has been robustly average to below-average as a regular. He's been worth 3 total fWAR over the past four years and change.
He's consistently injured, is awful in the outfield, and is making almost $10 million as a 30-year-old. He isn't terrible overall, but the Diamondbacks currently have about four outfielders who I'd rather have for the price than Quentin.
I felt like I was supposed to hate Everth Cabrera for something, but I can't remember exactly what? Here you go. I don't even have an opinion on Mark Reynolds any more, but I'm still angry on his behalf when I watch this. Also, Heath Bell sighting at 0:30!
Is "Jedd Gyorko" the most Padres name ever? Pshaw. It's up there, but it's probably not even in the top five for the last decade. Terrmel Sledge, Blake Tekotte, and Callix Crabbe all take the cake. Especially Callix Crabbe.
What's the most hated suburb in Greater San Diego? As crowd-sourced by a bunch of people I know from San Diego, that would be Santee. A friend swears he saw a guy chuck an empty beer can out his window into the bed of his pickup truck while driving on the freeway in Santee. Which is awesome, but still.
Padres Blog: Gaslamp Ball.
(All numbers from Fangraphs or Baseball-Reference unless otherwise indicated.)