The San Diego Padres had a very slow start to their season.
This coming after a disappointing end to their 2010 campaign where they came up just short of the eventual world-champion Giants in the division.
The season is only half over, however, and they could still win the division if they just do these few simple things.
The beginning of the Padres season was plagued with injury. That changed for the most part when Gold Glove second baseman Orlando Hudson came off the DL for the first time in nearly a month after having spent much of his season there.
Since Hudson's return, the Padres have had an unprecedented consistency in their lineup, the likes of which have been rare in the last few seasons. San Diego has become a far better hitting team since their lineup has been a consistent unit.
The Padres need to continue this streak of health and consistency if they're going to have any chance at winning the NL West.
The Padres have been known for a dominant bullpen dating back to their days under skipper Bruce Bochy. Current manager Bud Black has continued that tradition.
The San Diego bullpen is currently No. 1 in the MLB with an ERA of just 2.84. The bullpen is anchored by up-and-coming setup man Mike Adams and devastating closer Heath Bell.
Heath Bell will become a free agent at the end of the season and the odds of the Padres paying him what he's slotted to make are slim to none.
As such, the trade rumors where Bell is concerned seem endless and it's very likely that he'll be dealt before the deadline. In the event of such a trade, keeping Adams is vital.
Mike Adams is ready to step up from setup to closer with seventh-inning man Luke Gregerson stepping into his vacated role. A similar transition happened seamlessly after the 2008 season when the Padres let all-time saves leader Trevor Hoffman walk in favor of the younger Bell.
The bottom line is that the bullpen is really the shining light for the Padres, and they have to hold on to one of their dominant late-game presences for it to survive.
As stated in the previous slide, Heath Bell will likely be on the move at the deadline. Along with Bell, leftfielder Ryan Ludwick has been the subject of many trade rumors.
Will Venable and Chris Denorfia have been platooning right field for most of the season and Denorfia could easily replace Ludwick defensively in left, but not offensively.
In dealing Bell and or Ludwick, San Diego should look for someone who can provide some power as well and maybe a solid starter to shore up their rotation.
With starting catcher Nick Hundley on the DL for awhile, signing a solid power-hitting catcher to a short-term deal could be effective. Former Padre Ramon Hernandez is currently in a backup role in Cincinnati and could be a very intriguing option.
The Padres have had a long, storied tradition of interesting deadline trades. San Diego often makes trades that result in losing great players for a handful of mediocre prospects that rarely pan out in the pros. That is a situation that can't be repeated for the Pads to compete now.
A team's home ballpark is meant to be a sanctuary from the long, hard road season. As such, it is expected for a team to post a winning record at home. This concept was apparently lost on the Friars.
The Padres play at Petco Park, a stadium known for being tough on power hitters, with home runs routinely coming up short.
Many would see this as being a primary cause for a weak home record. However, San Diego isn't exactly known for power hitters in recent years. Therefore, if anything, it should help the Padres chances.
San Diego is 19-27 at home, eight games under .500, not exactly a recipe for success.
If the Padres are to accomplish anything this season, they've got to improve their play at Petco.
So far this season, the Padres have been a paltry 13-16 in divisional play.
In the simplest terms, you can't win a division if you can't go plus .500 against them.
The NL West is one of the weakest divisions in baseball. Other than the division-leading San Francisco Giants and second-place Arizona Diamondbacks, the entire division can be decided in a single series.
The Padres have taken advantage of the weakness of the division in the past and must do it again with a very strong second-half push to be contenders.
Even if the Friars do everything right, the odds of them winning the division are still stacked against them.
San Diego need to win some and need others to lose some. It's going to take some luck.