San Diego Padres Pitching Staff: Can They Duplicate 2010 in 2011?

M.T. RobinsonCorrespondent IFebruary 17, 2011

San Diego Padres Pitching Staff: Can They Duplicate 2010 in 2011?

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    Latos leads the Padres into 2011Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    San Diego was picked to finish dead last in 2010 by every major writer and scribe in the world, including myself. Just goes to show ya that the game is more than stats. The Padres were nothing short of amazing last year, and nearly captured the N.L. West title.

    Pitching wise, this was one of San Diego's best seasons, with Mat Latos and Clayton Richard leading the way. Combined with the best bullpen in baseball most of the season, and the slam the door shut policy of closer Heath Bell, the Padres took the Giants right to the wall before conceding the division.  

    Even though the Padres have lost 3 of the starters from last years rotation, namely Jon Garland, Kevin Correia and Chris Young, San Diego still looks strong,  adding  former Cincinnati Red and SDSU alum Aaron Harang to a young and hard throwing staff.

    What follows is a reasonable extrapolation of what I feel will be the players who break camp and hit the show come the end of March.

Padres Starting Pitchers: 1: Mat Latos : The Illustrated Man

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    Lats Tats Break Bats...Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    It is a rare pleasure for me as a lifetime Padre fan to see someone called up from Triple A who looks like the real deal. I cant tell you how many players i have seen called up in my 35 Padre seasons who were wasting time.

    Mat Latos has the look of a winner, much like a young Phillip Rivers, you can just sense the potential for greatness. What the Pads have needed is a return to swagger mode, as if Rickey Henderson were back out taunting Cardinal fans in the playoffs.Latos and his youthful bravado are a step back in that direction. When Latos pitches, people pay attention.

    I just heard the radio squawking about Latos signing a ball last week stating "I hate San Francisco" on it over his name- That's who I want here- players who are happy to be Padres and NEED to beat the opposition.

    Trust me, we don't root for San Francisco teams around these here parts, any more than we would for Los Angeles teams...

    Given time and a carefully structured pitching regimen from Bud Black, Latos should develop into a potential 20 game winner. I

    The flaw in this thinking is that when Latos becomes due to be PAID like a 20 game winner, off to the Yankees or Red Sox he will be a going, and the whole process of developing prospects begins again.

    Until then, Latos will toil here for a handful of Padre beans, so try to enjoy this while it lasts...

2: Clayton Richard: The Chicago Kid

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    Richard deals southpaw style...Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Here is a perfect example of the develop and trade philosophy employed by the Padres, and most other second tier income baseball clubs. Jake Peavy was a Cy Young quality arm, but he and his contract were shipped to the Chicago White Sox for Richard, Adam Russell and 2 other minor league players.

    Clayton Richard has been as good as one could hope so far as a Padre, posting a nice 19-11 record as a starter over a season and a half. I like his potential to win 15 this season, which would give the Padres a solid one-two punch at the top of the rotation.

    Winning series is the way to the playoffs, and I have seen the Padres do this time and again when cashing in the division title. A series loss in April can take you down in September.

    Richard and Latos should provide a good foundation for taking 2-of-3 or 3-of-4 from most teams, especially at home in the spacious confines of Petco Park (the Grand Canyon of the National League).

    I see the "Chicago Kid" racking up 15 wins in 2011, while we all watch what Jake Peavy and his overworked shoulder do this season in the Windy City...

     

     

     

3: Tim Stauffer-: The Survivor

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    By gum, I am throwin a STEERIKE...Jeff Gross/Getty Images

    Tim Stauffer has been haunting Padre spring training and regular season games since 2005. That is a long time to develop, especially in today's win or else mentality. Stauffer just seems to keep on keeping on, so to speak.

    Penciled in as the number 3 arm on the Friar pitching tree, "The Survivor" has the job to lose entering spring. Stauffer posted a stellar 1.71 ERA over 7 late season starts in 2010.

    Stauffer has bounced up and down from AAA to the show several times with San Diego since his debut in 2005. His staying power has outlasted a hundred fellow pitchers who have moved on to other teams.

    I think 12-14 wins is a possibility, or we might see a complete meltdown in power friendly Philadelphia, where Padre pitchers ERA's take an annual beating.

    Albert Pujols getting several looks at Stauffer also rears its head for the potential offensive fireworks that match up could bring. Here's hoping The Survivor can hold down the number 3 slot, it is essential to the Padres chances...

4: Aaron Harang: The San Diego Kid

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    Harang will harang the opposition at PetcoDilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

    Ya gotta love it when a local kid makes good.

    That's Aaron Harang, who has finally made the trip from Montezuma Mesa to Petco Park. Born in SD in 1978, the same year that I moved out here to live, Harang is a San Diegan right down to his DNA. 

    Harang has been one of the best pitchers in the National league for several seasons, although he has seen his overall numbers decline in the last 3 seasons. San Diego signed Harang as insurance while the younger starters develop, and could be a steal if he finds Petco's fly ball-eating alleyways to his liking.

    Expecting Harang to strike out 200 again is unrealistic. Black needs to turn him into a Petco pitcher, whose best friend is that 411 foot sign in right center.

    SDSU and USD both have top flight baseball programs here, and have sent many great players over the years to the Majors, Harang was just one of many predecessors to Stephen Strasberg, including Padre manager Bud Black, himself a former Aztec.Tony Gwynn also comes to mind...

    If the Kid can win 10 to 12 games , he will have filled in the four spot nicely.

     

     

     

5: Cory Luebke: The Enigma

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    Luebke hopes to make a name for himself...Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

    Even I don't know that much about Cory Luebke, who came up for a cup of coffee at the end of 2010.

    Luebke has moved up quickly through the minors, sporting a 21-5 record there. "The Enigma" is positioned to take the five spot in the rotation with a good spring, and has all the upside in the world.

    At 6'4" and 215 pounds, Luebke fits the Padres profile of big pitchers.The question is, can he make the jump to the big time?

    Pitching well at Portland is one thing, but pitching to Chase Utley is a whole other animal. It should be interesting, but all I ever ask is five innings and to keep it under four earned runs.

    I think Luebke can win 8 games, maybe 10 tops, his job is not to let a losing string get past his starts.

    Waiting in the wings is Wade LeBlanc , who alos is a work in progress. At least the Padres are bringing up players who actually have a shot- I will take that every time.

The Bullpen Of DOOM: Closer Heath Bell : The One That Got Away ( From The Mets )

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    For Whom The Bell Tolls...Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

    Rollie Fingers. Goose Gossage. Mark Davis. Trevor Hoffman.

    I DARE any team to beat a list of closers like that from the last 40 years.

    Heath Bell is merely living up to his role. The Padres are after all, home to the all time saves leader, as well as two Hall of Fame closers in Fingers and Gossage.

    All Mark Davis did was win a Cy Young award in 1989 while closing for the Pads.

    After watching the Padres supply virtually every championship team a vital part of what was once our line up, it feels good to know other teams make mistakes too. The Mets used Bell in a mop up role, but i remember seeing him pitch against us.

    When the Padres picked him up, I viewed it as an immediate upgrade.

    Bell spent two seasons under Hoffman's guidance, and when handed the closer role in 2009, Bell posted 42 and 47 save seasons.The baton had been passed almost flawlessly from the best closer of the last two decades to one who should be the best closer of the next two.

    A two-time All Star in his time here in San Diego, Bell should be good for yet another 40 saves and a trip back to the that very same All Star game. 

    Bell Needs a good song to call his own, so feel free to post any suggestions below.

    Personally, I pick "Gonna Raise Hell" by Cheap Trick.

The Bullpen Of DOOM: The Young Jedi (Setting Up Bell)

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    Luke, you will go to Diegobah...Jacob de Golish/Getty Images

    Here lies the Padres true strength, a never ending supply of good arms designed to get three or four outs when it matters most. You have to give former Padre GM Kevin Towers credit. He may never have won a title here, but he knew a good arm when he saw one. Jed Hoyer has seen the blueprint and found it sound.

    Luke Gregerson, Mike Adams and Joe Thatcher form the middle relief corps, whose job it is to get the game into Bells hands. Based on last years performance, one can advise the opposition to have a lead by the sixth inning or it may be a long night.

    With former Yankee Dustin Moseley and rookie Ernesto Frieri also ready to contribute, any offense at all for the Padres should keep them in most games.

    I think that covers the pitching here in SD, and next up will be a Padres lineup rundown. Stay tuned!