Going to Colorado (without their bats)

I few days ago i wrote that the Padres had glimpsed what they were capable of in a win over the D-Backs. On Friday we got a reminder of just how terrible our team can be when not playing well. Yes our boys were going to Colorado if only in their minds, but unlike a serene James Taylor tune, watching this game was definitely not relaxing.

There is very little to take away from Friday’s performance that could be construed as positive. The padres struck out nine times in the first seven innings while producing six groundouts to third and only lifting a single ball out of the infield. The best at-bats of the day were turned in by Clayton Richard, our pitcher. He worked the count full twice against De La Rosa and is the only player who should not be hanging his head after that game.

Richard did pitch fairly well over seven inning and 102 pitches. He produced a lot of ground ball outs including a sweet double play in the second and a dandy pickoff of Ryan Spilborghs in the fifth.

After i bragged about his dominant relief inning earlier this week Sean Gallagher came in to pitch the eighth inning and laid a HUGE egg. When he gets behind in the count his curveball becomes useless, he left several fastballs over the plate, each of them got hammered.

Aside from that, Friday’s game was like a swift kick in the shorts. Hopefully the Pads use it as motivation, I can;t stand to watch, many more games like that.

Sweet Victory, Our First

The Padres played a nearly Ideal game last night. Chris Young pitched about as well as a man who missed the last 3/4 of a season could. His slider seemed to be quite sharp after the fourth inning or so but fairly below average in the early innings. He worked his trademark borderline-strike high fastball perfectly and induced many weak flies and pop-outs in foul territory. His command however was so-so. At times he seemed to be in complete control but there were a few D’back plate appearances where Young seemingly could not find the plate. He did not rack up much of a pitch count (86 in total 49 for strikes) and i would have liked to see him work deeper into the game, though i suppose there i little sense in riding him hard this early in the season. The one concern I took away from CY’s performance last night was that his velocity does not appear to have improved since the shoulder surgery, (he seemed to be averaging 85-86 on the fastball) to be at his best he will need to climb back in to the 90-92 range

Had Young worked through the seventh however we might not have had to watch Luke Gregerson get flogged. Gregerson was lights out last season (3.24 ERA over 75 IP with 93 K’s) thanks mostly to an unfairly nasty slider. If the Padres are going realize their best case scenario for this season they will need another strong contribution from Gregerson. (h/t Ducksnorts) Last night Luke’s slider had very little bite on it and his command was poor. Don’t see any reason for panic, but we will definitely need better from him moving forward.

Defensively the night was fairly uneventful. Chase Headley’s return to third base though remains a work in progress though. In the early innings Chase fielded a hard grounder well but was unable to make the exchange from the glove and missed an easy out. (his second error in as many games. one more will tie Kouz’s 3 errors overall last season) My man Headley Lamar (HARUMPH!) did make two great stabs on screaming grounders in the fifth though and is deserving of some recognition for making two stellar plays in one inning.

On offense things went about as well as they could have. The thin Gwynn had a hit, a walk, and a stolen base. Headley had two more hits, (four in two days, well done) and looks very comfortable at the plate. He also stole a base when the pitcher seemed to be forgetting about him, very smart baserunning from a guy with average at best speed. Venable and Gonzo both had long home runs, as the middle of our order continues to look solid. Everth Cabrera had a great night at the plate. (a day after i called him raw) He had a double (which could have easily been a triple) and a triple both of which drove in two runs, (all of which came with two outs) to go along with a single. He peppered in his first steal of the season (the first of many we hope) for good measure. Nights like this show us how incredible this kid could end up being.

Adams and Bell slammed the door in the last two innings, as we have come to expect from them. The Padres caught a glimpse of their potential greatness last night, lets hope they keep it in view.  

  

Opening Day (nothing says Padre baseball like a good drubbing)

It was a sweet relief to have REAL baseball to lay my peepers on today. Though I will definitely say that i walked away with a sense of satisfaction, it seemed that many of last year’s frustrations survived the winter. We know a few things about this team: A) Adrian Gonzalez is one of the best first baseman in the game bar-none. B) The jump from A-ball to the big leagues has left Everth Cabrera quite raw, though he continues to get by on talent alone. C) The Padres bullpen is among the top three or four in the league, and we only saw middle relievers and swing-men today. D) This team will live and die with the performance it’s starting pitchers.

Now before i rant too incoherently, I should give credit where credit where credit is due. Dan Haren pitched brilliantly, as he does basically every time he climbs the hill. Having said that, I would have liked to see the Friars put up a little more of a fight. As far as I can recall the Pads only managed one hits against Haren before the seventh. Considering that Jon Garland took a beating through all four of his innings, one would hope that his teammates would try to pick him up a bit. But again, Haren is among the best in the business. And while the end result was very disappointing, Garland may have had a much better day had the defense behind him been a bit more crisp. (Headley may still be adjusting to his return to third)  The bullpen was excellent behind him however, Mujica was steady (his delivery has been remarkably repeatable in his time here) and hit the corners well. Stauffer provided two quality innings and should make an excellent swing-man. Gallagher may have been the biggest revelation. Many thought he would be a starter but Sean came in and pitched a dominant relief inning while utilizing his best weapon, the curve. I admit that i find it a travesty that Adam Russel didn’t make this team, If Gallagher can pitch like that consistently I will be very pleased. Our great bullpen may be even better this year than it was last year. (provided Thatcher can return healthy) 

Finally, what we know that we didn’t know last year that was apparent today, is that the middle of our order is ready to produce. Blanks has MONSTROUS power, (that homer he hit was to dead center over a 20-30 foot wall) and should be a better protector for Adrian than Kouz was last year. As for Headley, he got two hits off of one of the NL’s best pitchers, and while he didn’t walk today, we know he will be taking many free passes in the weeks and months ahead. Adding in the strong finish from last year, Chase is coming closer and closer to making me a believer with each passing day. Adrian was his typical stellar self. 

    

The World against Mat Latos Pt. 2

Now that we have thoroughly covered the Mat Latos situation in part one of this weeks feature, it is time to turn our attention to the remaining rotation candidates. This year, unlike previous years, the Padres have excellent pitching depth. The fifth starter could and probably will have many faces this season but we will highlight some of the favorites to win that spot (Mat Latos excluded) leading up to opening day. All of these guys saw limited time in the majors last year and had both moments of promise and pain. The man who has the best spring will likely begin the season as the fifth starter, since Bud Black has made it clear that there are NO favorites among this group in a recent interview. One of these men will have to earn the final spot by showing that he has improved since the last October.

Wade Le Blanc: Age: 25 2009  in NL: 9 GS, 46.1 IP, 3.69 ERA, 30 Ks, 19 BB, 1.17 WHIP
                                     2009  in PCL: 20 GS, 121 IP, 3.87 ERA, 95 Ks, 31 BB, 1.16 WHIP

In the interest of full disclosure i will confess that Le Blanc is my emotional favorite in this race. He is a slender southpaw at 6’2″ 180 lbs.  There is just something about a guy who is smart or savvy enough to survive on an 85 mph fastball. What really gives Le Blanc the ability to get outs is not the fastball however but a nifty change-up. When Le Blanc is at his best he commands the fastball at both corners of the plate with an occasional curve and uses the change-up as an out pitch. Doing so he generates a lot of poorly hit balls and a less than occasional strikeout. Therein lies Le Blanc’s biggest problem though, his stuff is never overpowering and when his location is not dead on he gets hammered. At his worst he is basically a batting practice machine. For Le Blanc to be successful he will have to continue to show impeccable fastball command while continuing to develop a cutter and curveball as well as continuing to use his change up effectively. The statistic that most favors Le Blanc is his WHIP, (walk+hits/innings pitched) if he can maintain a WHIP between 1.2 and 1.4 he should be able to have a decent year in the rotation. Odds to make the rotation: 10 to 1

Tim Stauffer: Age: 27 2009 in NL: 14 GS, 73 IP, 3.58 ERA, 53 Ks, 34 BB, 1.44 WHIP
                               2009 in PCL: 4 GS, 23 IP, 2.35 ERA, 16 Ks, 4 BB, .87 WHIP
                               2009 in TEX: 0 GS, 19 IP,  1.89 ERA, 12 KS, 4 BB, .89 WHIP
Stauffer began last season still recovering from Labrum surgery, hence the 14 relief appearances in San Antonio. He was the Padres first round selection in the 2003 draft (fourth overall) but shortly after being selected Stauffer confessed shoulder pain to the Padres and actually accepted a smaller signing bonus. (give the man extra points for honesty if nothing else) So the year after he was drafted Stauffer had his first shoulder surgery. After making a nice pro debut in Lake Elsinore in 2004 the three years that followed were a struggle for Stauffer. It appeared that Stauffer would soon wash out after his second shoulder surgery in ’08 but he came back stronger. When he is at his best Stauffer uses a pretty consistent mix of four league average pitches, with the fastball and slider being his best. He has shown above average control, especially in the minors. which allows him to spot his pitches where they can produce a lot of ground balls. (about 45% of his outs came on the ground last year) When things are going badly for Stauffer his command falters and he has shown the ability to issue a lot of walks when he gets flustered. When the walks start piling up Stauffer leaves his fastball over the plate, and since he doesn’t have the stuff to miss bats consistently, he often gets crushed. When healthy Stauffer has often had a  nice walk to strikeout ratio, and that will have to carry over to the majors if he wants to lock down a rotation spot. He is out of minor league options this year so if the Padres don’t find a spot for him they risk losing him. Odds to make the rotation: 6 to 1

Sean Gallagher: Age: 25 2009 in NL: 0 GS, 5.1 IP, 0 ERA, 4 Ks, 5 BB, 1.88 WHIP
                                    2009 in PCL: 11 GS, 42.1 IP, 2.35 ERA, 31 Ks, 12 BB, .92 WHIP
Obviously Gallagher didn’t pitch a whole lot last year. He spent the early part of the season rehabbing his right knee with what is known as platelet-rich plasma therapy. When he finally did come back Gallagher got some starts in Sacramento and Portland before being used as a reliever with the big club. San Diego is Gallagher’s third team in as many years (he was drafted by the cubs) which seems to indicate that he has above average talent but has also seen his share of struggles. Sean uses a slightly above average fastball mixed with an above average slider and an excellent curveball. When Gallagher is at his best he uses the sinking fastball effectively while getting a lot of mileage out of his breaking pitches. When he’s at his worst however he tends to issue a ton of walks and seems much more comfortable pitching from the wind-up as opposed to the stretch. Gallagher is out of minor league options this year so the Padres will have to find either a rotation or bullpen job for him if they want to keep him. Strikeouts will be key if Sean is going to stick in the Majors. During his best stretches in the minors averaged a little more than a strikeout per inning, if he can make that translate to San Diego he should be fine. Odds to make the rotation: 4 to 1

Aaron Poreda: Age: 23
I will let you take a look a Poreda’s stats for last year on your own (just click on his name) since he played for five different teams across five leagues. Poreda was the 25th overall pick in the ’07 draft by the White Sox. He came to San Diego last year as what many considered the centerpiece of the Jake Peavy trade. Of all the candidates we have covered, Poreda is the only one who can approach the upside of a Mat Latos. Aaron is a 6’6″ 240 pound southpaw who looks like he was bred to pitch. His natural size and talent have blessed him with an excellent mid 90′s fastball that has late life to it. Poreda’s biggest problem however, has been his inability to develop a worthy secondary pitch. His command suffered after being traded last year but he did to a lot of work with Darren Balsley to clean up his delivery and make it more consistent. At his best Poreda can blow away any batter, though at the moment he is essentially a two pitch guy. He can rack up strike outs quickly and has flashed plus command in the minors, as well as the ability to severely limit the power of opposing batters. At his worst (which is basically what we saw while he was in San Diego) Poreda has a sloppy delivery and looks like he can barely find the plate. He is however, still very young, and has plenty of developing still to do. So if he makes the rotation great, if not, he will go back to AAA. Odds to make the rotation: 10 to 1.

Well thanks for checking out part two of this weeks feature. As always feel free to comment or email me dandy_charger@hotmail.com. Harumph and goodbye.

Thanks to: theb
aseballcube.com, fangraphs.com, XX 1090 am San Diego.  
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Mat Latos against The World (or several young padres)

One of the biggest questions for the Padres, as for many other teams entering spring training, is who will fill the ever-in-flux fifth starter position. For a large portion of Padre fans and anaylsts, it seems that Mat Latos is a forgone conclusion as the fifth starter. For me however, it is a much more complex issue. While Latos had a couple excellent showings during his brief appearance in the majors last season, (4-5, 4.62 ERA, 10 GS, 50.2 IP, 39 K, 1.30 WHIP) he also appeared vulnerable at times. Looking at his minor league numbers (12-8, 2.49 ERA, 35 GS, 184.2 IP, 216 K, 1.06 WHIP)  it is easy to assume that he can improve greatly upon his Major League numbers when given the chance. Those minor league numbers (among other things) also give one reason to think that Latos may not be the best option to open the season in the fifth starters spot as opposed to AAA.

In three professional seasons Latos has thrown less than 200 innings. (2008 was mostly lost to injury) Last year, Latos accumulated 123 innings across three levels.(lo-A,AA,NL) Obviously that more than doubled the number of innings he had ever pitched in a year.  The increased workload for Latos could put his arm at risk, as documented in an article by Tom Verducci. (more on this later) Aware of these facts, Jed Hoyer said in a recent radio interview that Latos would be limited to about 150 innings this year. In that same interview Hoyer also said that Mat might “have the highest ceiling in the organization”. It is clear that Mat holds tremendous value for the Padres moving forward. Hoyer will be tasked with maximizing that value over Latos’ entire career with the team, not just this season. This begs the question of what the best way to maximize that value in the coming years.

As covered in the first paragraph Latos has less than 200 innings (one good season for an MLB starter) in the minor leagues, and none at AAA. As promising a young talent as Latos is, and as dominant as he has been in the minor leagues so far, he still has some developing to do. His change-up is still a work in progress and he has yet to display control as precise as that which he showed in the minors. (4.1 majors/2.3 minors BB/9 innings) His fastball and slider can be devastating to opposing batters and there is little doubt that Latos can help the Padres win some games with them. Two major concerns are raised by his lack of experience though. Principal among those concerns is the health of Latos’ arm.

Tom Verducci at Sports Illustrated wrote an article recently detailing the top ten candidates for what he call’s “The Verducci Effect“.  Essentially “The Verducci Effect” is a statistical metric that tracks large increases in pitching workloads on a year to year basis for young pitchers, and calculates the likelihood that said young pitchers will suffer injury during the coming season as a result. Obviously this is not a fool-proof statistic. I think we can all agree that trying to predict where and when pitchers will get hurt can be very inaccurate (and depressing) and cause as many problems as it abates. (see: the Joba rules) It is however, an ominous sign for Latos. Given the fact that he will be on a pitch count this year to further develop and strengthen his arm while reducing risk of injury, it seems that he may be better suited to begin the year in Portland.

The second factor that indicates Latos would serve the Padres better by starting the year as a Beaver, is his arbitration clock. Almost every player who gets drafted enters into a six year major league agreement with the club they are drafted by. For the first four years of Major League service time (except in Super Two cases) the players salary is determined by his ball club. (that salary is usually very near the league minimum 400k) In the final two years (or three years in super two cases) of said agreement, the player becomes eligible for salary arbitration. During salary arbitration, if the player and his club cannot reach an agreement on a salary similar to players with comparable statistics and service time, the two sides submit salary figures and an arbitrator determines whose salary is more appropriate. (no room for compromise once arbitration has begun) This is where young players will typically land a long term extension (see: Justin Upton’s or Tim Lincecum’s recent extensions) or go year to year in hopes of earning large one-season contracts. (see: Ryan Howard’s record setting 10 million dollar arbitration win) Having covered all of that, I think it becomes clear that the Padres would be much better served by letting Latos begin the year at Portland. There he can build his arm strength, refine his mechanics, improve his pitches and won’t have to worry about costing the ML club a win when he is pulled from a game early to protect his pitch count. In short I would much prefer to have Latos enter the rotation when he is a bit closer to being a finished product, and is unrestricted by pitch counts, before beginning the march toward arbitration.

To conclude part one of this week’s feature lets review:  Mat Latos is a brilliant young pitching prospect. Anyone who has watched him pitch can agree with that. In a financial and organizational vacuum he is an easy choice as a fifth starter. When one examines the details however it becomes clear that he may, in fact, not be the best fit as the Padres fifth starter. Given the fact that the Padres are unlikely to compete for a playoff spot this year, I believe it would be prudent to allow Latos to spend more time developing and improving in the Minors coupled with a September call-up. (which will not affect his arbitration clock) As opposed to starting him out in San Diego and shutting him down for a third of the season when he reaches his innings limit. Thus he will provide maximum value during the subsequent three years when the Padres are likely to be more competitive. 

Coming tomorrow: THE WORLD (or the other fifth starter candidates, specifically Wade Le Blanc, Sean Gallagher, Aaron Poreda and Tim Stauffer)

Thanks to: Thebaseballcube.com, SI.com, Tom Verducci, 1090am XX Sports Radio,  

 

And so it Begins…. Spring Training Preview

Hello Padre fans, I am pleased to be making my first blog entry and have been looking forward to doing so for quite a while now. I have been procrastinating for what feels like forever, but when i saw that two young girls (Unfinished Business and Perpetual Padre Saga) were maintaining high quality blogs about MY favorite team, I decided to join the party. I am a long range Friar fan living in Colorado but I follow my team closely on mlb.tv and other online sources. So congratulations to Kaybee and Hyun Young , you have inspired another Padre blogger. (And after all isn’t that what the world needs now? Oh wait that was love sweet love…)

This entry will be my Spring Training dark horse coverage. The 25-man roster seems more or less set at this point but there are a few names who could hit or pitch there way to a role with the big league club.  So buckle in Friar Faithful, this could get interesting…

Matt Stairs: I am not completely sure if the rotund Canadian really counts as a dark horse. I imagine that Bud Black is more or less counting on Stairs to make the team as the primary pinch hitter. But he is a non-roster invitee, so he is far from being guaranteed a position. A season removed from hitting five homers for the Phillies in a pinch-hitter’s role, Stairs is a year older as of today (not that 41 is necessarily a big improvement over 42 as far as a GM is concerned) but reportedly 30 pounds lighter thanks to Nutrisystem. (Stairs and Heath Bell should write a book on health and wellness for the modern man) So conceivably, we could expect an IMPROVED performance from stairs over last year, given his improved physique. Stairs has an excellent reputation as a professional hitter and great clubhouse presence. Judging by his Padres.com and XX 1090 AM interviews, Stairs seems excited to have a chance to be a part of this young team.  In the best case scenario Stairs becomes for the Pads what Jason Giambi was for the Rockies last year, a lefty bat off the bench who dictates bullpen match-ups, FORCES opposing managers to gameplan for him, and tears the cover off when he runs in to one. Worst case scenario includes Stairs not making the team as he discovers that most of his home run power came from Canadian bacon and Molson XXX.

Radhames Liz: Liz was picked up on Waivers from the Orioles this winter. Coming from Baltimore, (same division as the Red Sox for those of you keeping score at home) I imagine that Jed Hoyer has a pretty good feel for what the kid is capable of, thus the waiver claim and a spot on the 40-man roster. Liz turned 26 this year, so he really doesn’t fall into the “promising young prospect” category anymore but there is still TONS of upside to him. He is a tall, lanky fellow with very long arms, an ideal build for pitching. (according to legend his fingertips hang past his knees when standing) Interestingly enough, despite playing baseball since a young age (he grew up in the Dominican Republic) he only started to learn how to pitch in ’03 and ’04. His biggest weapon is a mid 90′s fastball which has helped him punch out a lot of batters. ( He averaged more than 10 k/9 in his first three years as a pro) His biggest weakness, as is the case with many young fireballers, is walks. His mechanics are known to be a little shaky but his stuff is undoubtedly electric. Best case scenario happens when Darren Balsley figures the kid’s mechanics out, gets him pitching instead of throwing, (a la Kevin Correia last year) and he becomes a mid-rotation starter with awesome stuff. Worst case scenario for Liz is much like that of Luis Perdomo, if he can’t find the handle he becomes a so-so middle reliever who “could have been”.

Matt Antonelli: What can be said about Antonelli that has not alreadry been thoroughly covered in the blogoshpere? (especially considering that Antonelli himself maintains a blog, and a pretty good one at that) Well nothing really, but i do feel that this year will be a continental divide in his career.  Which is to say that it will determine the direction in which his career path will flow. With David Eckstein entrenched at second and Jerry Hairston Jr. backing him up, Antonelli would need a near legendary spring to even earn himself a bench spot on opening day. What Antonelli really needs is to find a way back to his ’07 self (.314/.409/.499 in 347 AB’s in Lake Elsinore,.294/.395/.476 in 187 AB’s at San Antonio) in Portland so that he will be ready if and when a Padres infielder gets hurt and or traded. In his latest blog post Antonelli talked about trying to add too much muscle in recent years, at the apparent expense of his contact and power numbers as well as his quickness. With a return to a leaner body and consequently improved flexibility and quickness, (we hope) there is reason to be optimistic about Antonelli this year. And I, for one, am. My best case scenario has Antonelli returning to form in Portland batting around .300 with a .380 OBP, filling in admirably as a back up if/when an injury or trade occurs. Then having a nice September call-up to cement himself as the favorite at 2B for 2011. Worst case scenario is another injury riddled, below average season in Portland.

Thanks to any and all who happen upon this humble blog and read it. I would greatly appreciate you recommending it to other Padre fans (or non-fans for that matter) on my behalf. I plan weekly entries at minimum along with some brief thoughts on most games once the season begins, so please check back often. Harumph and Goodbye.

Thanks to: thebaseballcube.com, baseballamerica.com, padres.com, 1090 AM sports radio San Diego  

 

   

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