San Diego Padres So Far: Distributing the Inaugural Skill and Skunk Awards
Rating a team ten games into the season often seems like a lost cause.
Imagine, for instance, critics panning a movie after watching ten minutes.
What if a teacher wrote you off two weeks into the new semester?
How about rating the Chargers after one game?
Yet ten games of the baseball season still represent more than five percent of the season, and Padres fans can explain firsthand about the difference a few games can make, let alone ten. For further references, I suggest googling the 2010 season.
The only thing we do know for sure so far this season is that it's good not to be the Boston Red Sox.
Other than that, let's consider this little more than an unbiased progress report, as elaborated in strengths and weaknesses.
With that in mind, let's have the drum roll for the first...
... for the Opening Series vs. the Cardinals
Some teams simply seem to have another team's number.
There is no rhyme or reason to it, really. A last place team can lose ninety to hundred games but will take 12 out of 18 from a first place team in any given season. This apparent domination of a team can switch from year to year and more than anything else seems to be contingent on psychological factors as well as auspicious match ups.
Why the Padres' only all-time winning record, for example, in the NL happens to be against the New York Mets remains a phenomenon that can be explained no more than life on Mars or Lady Gaga.
Imagine, then, how frustrating it must be for a team to dominate you virtually throughout your entire history.
Yet this seems to have been precisely the case with the Cardinals. Travel to St. Louis, drop two games, not rarely all three. It's the modern version of Charlie Brown's team vs. Peppermint Patty's, or the croc vs. the antelope at the watering hole.
How good did the Padres have to feel winning the opening series at Busch? What's more, sixteen runs scored in three games were a promising start for the Padres and their lives post Adrian.
for... Padres home games
The Padres are the only team who will show up a half day early at the airport, long before the scheduled boarding time of their charter flight.
They are quite possibly the first people in the history of America's Finest City actually dying to leave Southern California and its perfect weather.
That's how deflating playing at Petco Park can be to the Padres, not to mention their batting averages.
It must be disheartening to return home, win the home opener, only to stink up the joint and drop five of the next six with a grand total of fifteen runs scored. Coming up snake eyes and without a series win against the Giants, Dodgers and the Reds admittedly doesn't help the fans' confidence in the ballclub either.
To give Padres management credit, they have finally realized that stacking the team with power hitters at Petco is as useful as equipping a team of Iditarod dogs with swim vests in order to cross the Pacific.
The conclusion then is to make the Padres a more complete hitting team.
Here they only need to contribute, find the gaps in their spacious ballpark and maybe provide the occasional clutch hit, or sometimes only a groundout or flyball. Then step out of the way and let pitching and defense carry the team.
This still hasn't happened.
Seven years later, Padres hitters are no closer to solving Petco than Mel Gibson is to being invited to a bar mitzvah.
... for the basics
Speaking of fundamentalists, the Padres have certainly not been lacking when it comes to playing solid, error-free, hard-nosed baseball. A payroll at under 40 mil virtually dictates it.
Rarely have the Friars trotted out a double play combination as smooth and automatic as Orlando Hudson and Jason Bartlett.
Look past the middle of the infield and you will find an equally impressive specimen roaming centerfield in Cameron Maybin. You knew Padres management had found a no-brainer to play CF if they were going to part with the son of Mr. Padre himself, Tony Gwynn Jr.
The work on the base paths is equally satisfactory. 12 Stolen Bases again put the Padres near the top. Rather than watch hitters roll ankles and sprain quads trying to pull the ball, Bud Black has reprised the speed game that helped his club bag 90 games last season.
Now all the Padres need to do for an A is to ground out more and strike out less. Bringing in a runner from second with no outs shouldn't be the rocket science that the Padres will swear under oath it is.
... for the hitting
As mentioned, Jason Bartlett has been flashing some pretty decent leather as of late. Sometimes it almost appears as if he'd been born with that glove and never takes it off.
What Bartlett does in his bed and the shower is of little consequence to us. Of course, not removing the leather can be a problem at the plate, where bats are required.
The best plays in the field will not help you if the pitchers hang an oh-fer on you on a routine basis.
With essential players like Bartlett or Venable entrenched near the top of the lineup, you will eventually need to provide some quality at bats for the offense to jumpstart the game, not to mention complement your pitchers' performances.
Newsflash to Padres batters: matching the zeroes thrown up by your own pitchers is not a skill.
The San Diego Police has been contacted multiple times since last season regarding the possible theft of a bat belonging to one Ryan Ludwick. A reward is offered for the safe and, if possible, immediate return of the lumber, since the Padres offense depends on it. So far, no clues have been submitted.
There have been the rare occasions when the Pads' bats have suggested that they can string together a series of hits to play their necessary brand of small ball to account for the run(s) needed. With a team batting average barely above the Mendoza Line, this has happened as often as roiders' heads in baseball shrinking.
Then again, nobody can turn the number four or five pitchers of a staff into Koufax and Drysdale more quickly than the Padres. After ten games, the Padres offense has already been shut out twice, putting them on pace for a solid 36 shutouts for the season.
You thought a scoreless draw in soccer couldn't be more yawn inducing? How about watching this batting order trying get a runner home from third with less than two outs?
... for Aaron Harang
Two starts, two victories, both against division foes, the Dodgers and the Giants.
The quickest way to a Padre fan's heart is through a division opponent's stomach after a well-placed stomp (or beanball) to said midsection. If this doesn't happen, a simple win will do. In that regard, Harang has delivered.
Of course, both of these wins have been at Petco, so the jury is still out about Harang and whether his stuff can prevail in the Wrigleys or the Coors Fields.
... for Tim Stauffer
Although you can't honestly judge a season after ten games, you certainly can judge a game after one inning.
Too bad that's been Stauffer's mantra throughout the years and quite possibly one of the reasons he's never lived up to his first round draft billing.
Stauffer losing games in the first inning is the Padres' answer to the Chargers' Special Teams blowing games in the first quarter.
It's frustrating how little Stauffer's modus operandi has changed. The fans can a) expect Stauffer to give up a couple of runs in the first inning and b) watch the Padres offense play catch-up, which is often as futile as placing money on Wile E. Coyote trying to chase down the roadrunner.
Here the fans might as well save the price of the ticket go to the beach instead, unless Stauffer deems it important enough to show up for the first inning.
... for Nick Hundley
For years, Nick Hundley and Chase Headley used to be known as Hundley and Headley, the Hitless Brothers.
It looks like Headley has lost a family member this season.
Of course it helps that Hundley has been around for a while, and his experience of hitting at Petco seems to finally be paying dividends, while Headley still sports the most unproductive .260 average ever.
Hundley has been absolutely unconscious following his promotion to lone starting catcher, a force the Pads have needed since losing Gonzalez.
Can we expect more beyond ten games?
... for Brad Hawpe
Padres management suspected there might be a question of how much was left in the tank of one of the National League's once most prominent longball hitters.
So far, it looks like air in the tank.
Worse yet, Colorado air.
Welcome to sea level, Mr. Hawpe.
Hitting at Petco Park can be a daunting task in itself, yet Hawpe at times has resembled Tony Gwynn's statue behind the plate, but unfortunately with just as little bat speed.
This is not a situation where the Padres can afford to wait like they would on a promising prospect.
For Hawpe to retain his spot on the roster, he will have to produce at least pinch hitters' numbers. The next roadtrip should be more telling about where the Padres will stand with their cleanup hitter.
When even the San Diego rain delays this season have the scoreboard on Hawpe and his RBI total, it's time to worry.
... for the Bullpen
This is as surprising as the seals showing up at the La Jolla Coves.
Aside from Luebke's epic implosion against the Reds, the Penitentiary is as impressive as ever. Rarely has a starting pitching staff been as sheltered in Bud Black's demands.
The formula is quite clear: pitch five or six innings, keep your team in there and then send in the relievers with the chain and padlock.
These guys at times make the Reds' Nasty Boys look like N Sync.
for... the Padres bench
I love a good discussion about roster moves, the platooning of players and controversies over who should and who shouldn't be starting.
Too bad there isn't any this season.
Which also means that we are stuck with the Punch and Judy hitters we currently have. Not a good idea, considering more than half of them are hitting less than their own weight.
Of course, that isn't too say that a Denorfia can't start hitting like he did last year or that a Jorge Cantu can't reclaim his earlier form. Alberto Gonzalez is the closest thing resembling a starter.
Other than him, I just don't see the depth the Friars used to have.