San Diego Padres: Unlikely N.L. West Division Leaders

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San Diego Padres: Unlikely N.L. West Division Leaders
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What on earth is going on down in San Diego? Most every baseball pundit predicted the Padres would be one of the worst teams in baseball and would likely be shipping off their best players at the trade deadline. Instead, the Padres are looking for a durable pitcher as well as a legitimate bat as they are trying to hold their division lead. Selling Adrian Gonzalez or Heath Bell to the highest bidder is not part of the equation that likely involves the team taking on more payroll in an attempt to compete right now.

Why they are winning is kind of a mystery. Their payroll is just over $38 million, the second lowest in MLB. The offseason commitment to adding talent was more geared toward building for the future rather than trying to win in the present. Yet somehow they are leading the NL West by two games at the break and Baseball Prospectus even gives them a 60 percent chance of making the playoffs .

With so many low expectations, where are the Pads exceeding those expectations and winning games they shouldn’t be winning? They only have one regular batting above .300 and three slugging above .400, so their bats are certainly not tearing things up.

Adrian Gonzalez leads the team in batting average, runs scored, home runs, runs batted in, on base percentage, and hits. His team lead in home runs is 10 and RBI is 24, so he’s carrying the offensive load where the rest are just simply spare parts.

Petco Park is well known for being a pitchers park and the team ERA certainly shows that. The team ERA is a MLB-leading 3.25, but the ERA in home games is 2.89. Opponents are hitting .238 against San Diego pitchers in all games and .228 in San Diego. These stats show that pitching is winning games for the Pads.

Injuries have more to do with a team’s successes as almost anything else, and the Padres have only been significantly hurt by the loss of starting pitcher Chris Young . Otherwise, the team has been pretty healthy, which is more than their division foes can say.

All four division rivals have had significant injury problems that have slowed their progress this season. Not that the injuries to their competition is the only reason for the Padres' success this season, but it is one factor. It is as much to their credit that they took advantage of those injuries to rise above their foes.

So what about the future? First baseman Adrian Gonzalez and closer Heath Bell would be welcome on any team in baseball. Starting pitcher Mat Latos is the real deal. Outfielder Kyle Blanks is blocked at his primary position by Gonzalez, but a bat like his will always find a spot in the lineup. Third baseman Chase Headley is starting to live up to expectations. But this team is rather thin after that. It just doesn’t appear to be a team built to win this year or any other in the near future, so don’t build up too many high expectations. The Padres are definitely a greater whole than the sum of their parts.

There once was a team of Padres
Whose players' offense was very passe
But their pitchers were stout
And their faith was devout
That in first place they could stay


Rick Milleman is the head fantasy baseball contributor at DraftBuddy.com . Check his annual player projections included in the Cheatsheet Compiler & Draft Buddy to help draft your championship team.

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