The San Diego Padres came into the season picked to compete with the Houston Astros, Miami Marlins, and New York Mets to finish with the worst record in baseball.
A young team with an unproven staff, the Padres don’t really get any attention from the baseball world. Then quietly, they began to make some noise, and not just because they brought back their awesome late 90’s duds.
Don’t look now but the Padres are in the middle of a big three-game series with the San Francisco Giants, sitting two games back of the NL West leading Arizona Diamondbacks. What is even more impressive is that the Padres are doing this without getting really great performances from anyone.
They have been hit hard by injuries, they aren’t hitting terribly well, and their pitching has been mediocre at best. They are getting good outings from the surprising Eric Stults and from serviceable veteran Jason Marquis, but outside those two it isn’t a pretty picture of pitching.
San Diego came into today’s contest with the Giants with a team ERA of 4.71, good for 25th in the league. Two of their starters have ERA’s over 5.50 on the season, Edinson Volquez is at 5.84 and Clayton Richard is even worse, with a 7.01 Earned Run Average.
How are the Padres coping with ineffective starting pitchers and their injury problems? Well for one, they are playing terrific defense. According to FanGraph’s Ultimate Zone Rating, the Padres are the fourth best defensive team in baseball. That is one way to negate inconsistent pitching. The other way, getting production from the entire roster.
The Padres have yet to really be at full-strength. Chase Headley, Carlos Quentin, Huston Street, and Jedd Gyorko have all spent time nursing wounds and Everth Cabrera just went down with a hammy the other day.
Cabrera will be a tough hole to fill in the lineup, he is hitting .305 and leads the league with 31 stolen bases.
Fortunately for Bud Black and his squad, their reinforcements have risen to the occasion. Kyle Blanks has filled in at first base and left field for black, and is having a June to remember hitting .317 with five homers.
Blanks isn’t alone, according to The Outside Corner, he’s had plenty of help:
Perhaps it’s the production that the Padres have received from their reinforcements — reserves filling in for injured starters — that best explains their success thus far.
Logan Forsythe has been a capable replacement at second base. Following a 3-for-6 performance in Monday night’s win, he has a .292 average and .766 OPS. Luke Gregerson substituted at closer while Huston Street was out, notching three saves to go along with a 1.95 ERA.
Coming into the season, the NL West was practically handed to the Giants or Dodgers by baseball experts. The Padres, who own the lowest payroll in their division at $71,690,000, spent about $140,000,000 less on their team than the Dodgers did.
The NL West has been quirky thus far,The Rockies and Diamondbacks have both surprised and the Dodgers also have (but in the bad way) making it a three team race between San Fran, Colorado, and Arizona.
Now, it has turned into a four team race thanks to Bud Black’s young Padres.
If he can continue to get production from his entire roster, who knows how long the Padres can hang in their tight division. No matter how it plays out its gotta be nice for the Padres and their fans to be competing again after a few years as the NL West doormat.