Padres & Snakes
In looking into the San Diego Padres recent 10-game win streak, snapped last night in Arizona, I found wisdom where I would not ordinarily think to seek it. Save some insidery commentary about the sort of effect Petco has on visiting hitters that didn't seem to make a whole lot of sense, John Kruk was spot on in his analysis of San Diego's recent winning ways and what the implications are for the rest of the season:
People might want to make a big deal about the San Diego Padres winning 10 consecutive games, but I don't think it's that great a story yet. Their 9-7 win against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Monday snapped an 11-game road losing streak, and was only the fourth time this month they had scored six or more runs.
The Padres are beset with offensive issues much like their NL West rivals, the San Francisco Giants. The Padres are anchored by an impressive 1-2 punch at the top of their rotation in Chris Young and Jake Peavy, while the back end is held down by closer Heath Bell. All they really have on offense is first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who has quietly become one of baseball's best players.
That sounds about right. They cannot win on the road, they have one guy on the team who can hit and their starting pitching cannot muster any consistency. In Heath Bell, Luke Gregerson and Edward Mujica they seem to have found a core of reliable arms to build around in the bullpen but beyond their relief pitching, there are no discernible strengths on this club.
As good as he can be, Jake Peavy still has not regained his once dominant form. He has allowed 3 earned runs or more in 6 of his starts in 2009. Compare that to his Cy Young campaign of 2007 when he yielded 3 or more earned runs just 10 times all season long. His peripherals look sound and he has been excellent in May, however. He is still a bona fide, top of the rotation hurler but let's see how long he remains in San Diego.
As for the rest of the rotation, well, have a look for yourself.
IP H BB K K/9 K/BB ERA
SP ex Peavy 197.1 191 90 137 6.3 1.5 4.98
I don't need to tell readers here that a 4.98 ERA while pitching half of your games at Petco Park is not very good. And on the offensive side, it's a similar story. They are hitting .234/.314/.389 despite featuring the League's leading home run hitter. Were one to back out Gonzalez's contributions this season then you would be looking at a run producing attack on par with their banjo hitting neighbors up the coast, the San Francisco Giants.
Nonetheless the Padres find themselves just four games back in the Wild Card race. I don't think there's much reason for hope in San Diego, which is something the Arizona Diamondbacks and their fans had in spades coming into the 2009 season. 26 games into the season their ace is hurt, they have yielded 28 more runs than they have scored and they're 6 games under .500. Players in their prime the D-Backs need to produce continue fall short of expectations, and boy was the Eric Byrnes contract extension a mistake.
AVG OBP SLG
Tracy .189 .252 .342
Drew .190 .280 .333
Young .177 .219 .320
Byrnes .208 .257 .384
Still, as bleak as things seem I think there may still be hope for the Snakes. 21 year-old Justin Upton, hitting .325/.400/.617, has broken out. Same goes for the electric Max Scherzer, who had his best outing of the season last night. His ERA is down to 3.38 and he is striking out over a batter an inning. With Dan Haren once again pitching lights out, Brandon Webb coming back at the end of June and Doug Davis and Jon Garland playing their typical innings-eater roles, this is a rotation that can work.
But the offense has to come around, and there is good reason to think that it can. At Fangraphs, Dan Szymborski has published his ZIPS projections for the rest of the season, and here is how the quartet listed above looks according to his numbers:
AVG OBP SLG
Tracy .257 .315 .414
Drew .266 .323 .439
Young .231 .304 .454
Byrnes .254 .313 .425
They're not lighting the world on fire, but they look a heck of a lot better than how they have fared thus far in 2009. Along with the health of Webb, it is the play of these four position players that will determine the fate of the 2009 Diamondbacks.
As noted at the top, the Diamondbacks ended the Padres 10-game winning streak last night in Phoenix. Says here that it was the start of a trend for both clubs.