Hedges’ Adjustments Are Paying Dividends

Austin Hedges has always been known for his defense, but his offensive abilities have been questioned since he was drafted. In 2014, Fangraphs graded his arm 70/70, but only 20/40 for his bat, and some wondered if his offensive inconsistency would hinder his ability to play at the major league level.

Hedges began making adjustments to his swing mechanics in 2015, with the assistance of Padres hitting coach Alan Zinter, after batting just .168 in the majors during the 2015 season. Dennis Lin wrote last offseason that Zinter and Hedges worked on a number of adjustments, including a higher leg kick and repositioning his hands to get himself into what Zinter calls the “launch position”. By getting to that position earlier, Hedges has been able to catch up to pitches that were giving him trouble in previous seasons.

El Paso Chihuahua fans were able to see Hedges incorporate these new swing mechanics during the 2016 season in AAA, where he hit .326 with 21 home runs in 82 games. Those numbers were encouraging for Padres fans who were looking for Hedges to take the next step offensively, however many were still unsure if that offense would translate from the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League to the spacious confines of Petco Park

Hedges began this season 0-24, and last season’s success seemed like a mirage. After looking at film with Zinter early this season, the two saw that Hedges was slightly out of sync with his hands again, which prevented him from getting into the mythical launch position. After resetting his swing, Hedges was rewarded with his first hit April 12, and has raised his batting average from zilch to .219 on the season. Of his forty-one hits on the year, eighteen have gone for extra bases, including eleven home runs. Hedges has tripled nearly all his 2015 batting stats in only fifty more plate appearances, a testament to both how anemic his offense was in 2015, and to how strong he has started 2017 despite the 0-24 streak early on.

Hedges’ recent success can be directly attributed to the work he has done with Zinter over the past two seasons, indicating the hitting coach’s effectiveness as a teacher. If some of the Padres’ other young hitters can make similar offensive strides under Zinter’s tutelage, the Padres may find themselves in a position to launch up the standings earlier than expected.

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The Bullpen Is Truly a Relief For the Dodgers

The Dodgers are currently sitting within arm’s reach of 1st place. As the halfway-point of the season approaches, the Dodgers, who are tied in 2nd place in the National League West, and sharing the 3rd best record in the whole of the National League, with the Arizona Diamondbacks, are not exactly where they want to be. However, that isn’t to say they haven’t had a successful season thus far — they definitely have. Despite a revolving door of starters, injuries to key players, and a reliance on young players, the Dodgers have a 20% chance of winning it all, according to Fangraphs. The emergence of some young stars such as Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor, complemented by the veteran presence of Adrián González and Chase Utley, has certainly helped to keep the Dodgers above water. That said, the team’s true backbone throughout the season so far has likely been the bullpen. They’re putting up league-leading numbers across the board, whether you look at standard or advanced stats.

 

 

Standard Stats MLB Rank NL Rank
ERA 2.62 #2 #1
Strikeouts 243 #3 #1
Walks 62 #4 #2

 

 

Advanced Stats MLB Rank NL Rank
FIP 2.82 #1 #1
xFIP 3.31 #1 #1
WAR 4.2 #1 #1

 

 

Batted Ball (%) Stats MLB Rank (Lowest being #1) NL Rank (Lowest being #1)
Hard% 27.5% #2 #1
FB% 39.2% #24 #13
HR/FB 9.5% #5 #2

 

Overall, these numbers speak volumes as to just how good they really are. From these numbers it appears their biggest weakness is their tendency to give up a lot of fly balls. While a possible weakness for some, it’s really not much of a concern for the Dodgers for two reasons. The main reason is that, despite allowing many fly balls, not many are hit out of the park. This is understandable given their great, and very low, Hard%. Hitters just aren’t hitting the balls particularly hard very often. Another stat that helps to show their effectiveness is their IFFB%. It is, in essence, a percentage stat to show how often the balls put in play are both in the air and stay in the infield. Their IFFB% is leading all of baseball at 17.5%. Suddenly their high FB% doesn’t look so bad when viewed in conjunction with other related numbers, does it?

 

Due to their aforementioned “revolving door” of pitchers, the Dodgers have often used starters in the bullpen this season. Ross Stripling, for example, was primarily a starter in 2016. This year, however, he’s only pitched out of the ‘pen and has embraced his new role. Alex Wood, Hyun-Jin Ryu have, and soon Kenta Maeda will have also seen action in a relief role. The plethora of starting pitching options the Dodgers have allows them to use their starters as long-relief and rest their usual relievers. This kind of depth and roster flexibility will certainly help the team’s longevity and health throughout such a lengthy grind of a season.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Los Angeles Dodgers

Starter-turned-reliever Ross Stripling mid-pitch at Dodger Stadium on Memorial Day weekend. (Photo by Gary A. Vasquez/USA Sports Today)

As good as the bullpen has been for the Dodgers, and as sustainable as it is, it can always be improved. Sergio Romo has not been particularly effective, potentially leaving an open spot for a right-handed relief pitcher in the future. Opposite of that, the Dodgers only have a single left-handed relief pitcher currently on the active roster in Grant Dayton. This can easily be supplemented by the two names stated on what is being called their “wish list of southpaws” for the trade deadline. Tony Watson and Brad Hand, from the Pirates and Padres, respectively, are both left-handed relief pitchers and are worth keeping an eye on as the deadline approaches.

MLB: OCT 18 NLCS Game 3 - Cubs at Dodgers

Kenley Jansen looms large on the mound in Dodger Stadium during the 2016 NLCS vs. the Cubs. (Photo by Chris Williams/Icon Sportswire)

The Washington Nationals, with a bullpen ERA of 4.99 (2nd worst in MLB), are certain to seek relief pitching help at the deadline. They look to be the Dodgers’ greatest competition, not only in acquiring new arms, but also in getting to the World Series. While they lack a consistent and proven closer, the Dodgers may have the best in the game. To wrap it up quickly, just as he always does, Kenley Jansen recently set an MLB record for most strikeouts without a walk to start a season. He now has 40 strikeouts, 0 walks, and boasts an ERA of just 1.17.  Already having a historic season and showing no signs of stopping anytime soon, “The Big Man” is standing tall above all the competition.

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The Impact From the Top Step and A View of the Successes so far

At the time of this writing, the Arizona Diamondbacks are 34-25, two games back of the Colorado Rockies, and with a 3.5 game lead in the Wild Card above the Brewers. Yes, those Brewers. It is early June and there is a 99.9% chance that anyone who tells you that they saw this coming in the offseason are absolutely lying. The D-Backs are coming off of an awful, disappointing season, every fan can attest to the atrocity that was the 2016 season, and all of the letdowns that came from the extremely hyped team. And yet we have the team this year excelling, working exactly as they were expected to last season, with mostly the same pieces. In fact, it can be argued that the only major change that occurred over the offseason was the managerial situation, and that is what I think has made the difference for bringing this team together and succeeding.  I would like to make it very clear that I never disliked Chip Hale, far from it actually. Chip Hale was a good guy who knew baseball very well, and he absolutely connected with the guys on the field. He was a decent manager, as proven by his success in the Minor Leagues. And of course, as we saw with Bob Brenly in 2001, it isn’t necessarily the knowledge of correct shifts, that can make a manager perfect for a team. But rather, it must be that they know how to handle the team, and how to extract the most out of every player. What I have seen from Torey Lovullo is just that. He has been able to extract value out of every single one of the players on the roster. And unlike Chip Hale, it appears that he is connecting with the players on more than just “one of the boys” level. There is mutual respect, trust, and understanding between the top step of the dugout and the rest of it. And the results show it.

One of the best ways I think that Lovullo has been able to extract value from the team has been through his rotation of players. He has seemingly found a good balance for rest, matchups, and just playing the hot bat. The prime examples of this manifest themselves at shortstop and in the outfield. In the outfield, we started the year with Yasmany Tomás, A.J. Pollock, David Peralta, and Jeremy Hazelbaker being the primary guys, supplemented by Chris Owings and Chris Herrmann. Early on, Lovullo did a good job rotating the players based on matchups as well as need for rest when he saw fit. Hazelbaker was the first to go, in seemingly a two-pronged issue of needing to call up a starter, Braden Shipley, and in an attempt to make sure that Jeremy saw plenty of at-bats that he was starting to lose out on with the great play from the other trio of outfielders. Shipley was then sent back down, bringing up Gregor Blanco, who had been injured during Spring Training. Then the injury bug once again hit Pollock, who has been as unlucky as you can be these past few years when it comes to injury. But with his loss came Rey Fuentes up to the majors, and the outfield has taken on a very different look. Because of the bad hand Lovullo has been dealt as far as injuries to Peralta, Pollock, and Tomás, he has been forced to operate a quasi-rotation out in the outfield, with Fuentes and Blanco serving similar roles, and Owings playing much more out there. Despite this seemingly haphazard outfield situation for the snakes, the quality of play has kept pace with their fellow NL West competitors out in LA and Denver. With Owings taking more appearances in the outfield, we have seen a coming out party of sorts for Nick Ahmed. His bat has seen much improvement thus far, batting .270 with five homers and is getting on-base at a much better rate than the rest of his career. The defense has also remained superb, as his Range Factor per Nine Innings is sitting at 4.54, well above the Major League average for shortstops, which is 4.20. If Nick can maintain this hitting alongside the defense we have come to see ever since he was called up, then we will be witnessing a solid starting shortstop emerge, and will create a bit of a logjam at the position with Chris Owings, not to mention Ketel Marte, who has been absolutely mashing down at Triple A Reno.

So here we sit, early June, and we are talking about good Diamondbacks baseball. It has been a treat thus far, and I truly believe that they have the pieces this year to sustain a playoff run. Lovullo has shown great leadership, some of the seemingly minor additions of the offseason have stepped up big, the key cogs are grinding out what we need, and we have seen young players, notably Nick Ahmed, Chris Owings, Archie Bradley, and Robbie Ray, blossoming into very important role players. The season may have only just gotten fully into the swing of things, but I’m starting to smell October baseball.

As always, feel free to comment and give your opinion on the new and improved Diamondbacks!

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com
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Is Three A Crowd? Getting to Know the Padres Rule 5 Draft Players

When the Padres announced their roster just before opening day, I think it’s safe to say that many fans were shocked. In addition to rostering 4 catchers, and starting fan-favorite Cory Spangenberg in AAA, the Padres opened the season with three Rule 5 draft picks on the roster. For those unfamiliar with the Rule 5 draft, it is a draft of current minor league players, and any players selected must remain on the 25-man roster of the drafting team, or be offered back to the team they were selected from. A notable recent Rule 5 pickup for Padres was Luis Perdomo, acquired from the Rockies during the 2015 draft. In the 2016 draft, the Padres wound up with the first 3 picks, Miguel Diaz, Luis Torrens, and Allen Córdoba. After almost 2 months of the season, let’s break down their performance so far, and try to see what we are looking at in the future of these players.

Miguel Diaz, P

22-year-old Miguel Diaz was the first selection in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. The 6’1″ right-hander was first signed by the Brewers in 2011. To date, Diaz has 1 win and 1 loss on the season, with 18.1 innings pitched. Diaz relies heavily on his 4 seam fastball but mixes in a curveball and changeup. Throughout his minor league career, Diaz was definitely able to rack up the strikeouts, averaging 8.5 K’s per 9 innings pitched. He had never played above single A before making his MLB debut in the Padres opening day game on April 3rd, 2017. So far this season, Diaz has shown the mixed results that one might expect from a 22-year-old, jumping from single A ball, into the majors. In 16 relief appearances, Diaz has held opponents scoreless just 7 times. Sporting an 8.35 ERA, Diaz has struggled to miss bats, with just a 7% swinging strike rate. I’m not a scout, but from watching quite a few of Miguel’s appearances, I would really like to see him keep his composure on the mound a bit better. Overall, I think he has potential. His fastball definitely has above average velocity and movement but, in the eyeball test, it seems like he isn’t exactly sure where his off-speed pitches will go at any given time. The Padres are looking at Diaz as a potential future starter, but it seems likely we will see him in the bullpen for the duration of 2017. Diaz will definitely be a player to keep an eye on as the season progresses. I am personally looking to see how he handles a variety of different relief situations and hoping to see him settle in, as he accumulates more big league time.

Luis Torrens, C

Just 21 years old, Luis Torrens was the 2nd pick in the 2016 Rule 5 draft. Standing at 6 feet tall, and weighing 175 lbs., Torrens bats and throws right handed. So far this season, Luis is batting just .133 with 2 runs and 1 RBI but has only had 30 AB’s in 6 starts. Torrens is raw, but a highly touted prospect. Acquired from the Reds for a prospect and cash, Torrens comes from the Yankees farm system. Despite having never played above the Low-A level, Luis was New Yorks’ 9th best prospect. Signed by the Yankees in 2012 as a shortstop, Torrens joins the Padres as their highest touted young catcher, behind current MLB starter Austin Hedges. Torrens made his MLB debut on April 3, 2017, as a pinch-hitter. So far this season, we haven’t seen a lot out of Torrens as far as quality or quantity, but with 2 hits against the Mets on the 24th of May, we are hopefully seeing the beginning of Torrens recognizing MLB pitching. As Padres fans, we are all pretty spoiled watching Austin Hedges frame pitches in the majority of games, so it’s easy to judge Torrens pretty harshly. Despite a negative pitch framing evaluation so far in 2017, Torrens framing skills have been highly touted throughout his minor league career, and we can definitely hope to see improvement as he develops. One huge asset that Torrens brings to the table is his arm. Throughout 3 seasons in the minors, Torrens was able to nab 41% of attempted base stealers. According to baseball-reference.com, only Yadier Molina has been able to maintain a 41% caught stealing % among qualified players. I know it is really easy to judge Torrens based on his small 2017 sample size, but he is reallllly young and reallllly raw. His prospect metrics point to a young catcher with great defensive skills, who just needs to develop. While I wish we could see Torrens develop in the minors, with regular playing time, I also look forward to seeing how well he can learn as a backup with Pads for the 2017 season. Catching prospects are hard to come by, and acquiring a potential defensive juggernaut like Torrens definitely seems like a good move.

Allen Córdoba, IF, OF

21-year-old Allen Córdoba is the third Rule 5 pick on the Padres 2017 roster. The 6’1, 175 lb. righty, comes from the Cardinals organization and has spent parts of 4 seasons in the minors. Córdoba has just 206 rookie ball games under his belt but has dazzled in that time. In 2015, Córdoba was the Gulf Coast League (Rookie Ball) Cardinals MPV and a Baseball America Rookie All-Star in 2016. In his 869 minor league plate appearances, Allen batted an impressive .309  with 49 extra base hits and 52 steals. Throughout his time with the Cardinals, Córdoba mostly played the middle infield positions, but in his 29 games with the Padres, has played SS, 2B, CF, and LF. He has been most impressive at the plate, with a .300 average, 3 HR, and 7 RBI in 70 AB’s. His infield defense has been a bit shaky, but the Padres seem content to play him in the outfield and let him slowly compile time at shortstop. He definitely has plenty of room to develop but it’s pretty clear that he is a prospect that we can expect great things from. He definitely hasn’t seemed overmatched at the plate, showing good discipline, working the counts, and utilizing all parts of the field. The number that really stood out to me was his plate discipline. According to FanGraphs, Córdoba has swung at fewer balls out of the strike zone and has a higher contact percentage, than Joey Votto and Anthony Rizzo in their rookie years. He will definitely need development, especially on his infield defense, but Allen Córdoba already shows poise and skills far beyond his age and experience.

The biggest question I had when the season started, was how long the Padres would keep the Rule 5 guys around. It’s still really early, but right now, I don’t see any reason for the Padres to let any of these guys go. The Padres aren’t going to contend, so it isn’t like any of the Rule 5 players are holding the team back. With much of the Padres minor league talent at least a year away from being MLB ready, they aren’t taking up a roster spot that would be better served with other young talents. The only really compelling argument against keeping the 3 of them, is that the jump from low minor league levels to the big leagues might stunt their development. Each player is a different case. For Diaz, it seems pretty easy. The Padres will be able to find low leverage situations, and possibly long relief for him, while they hope to develop him into a future starter. Cordoba has seemed very comfortable against MLB pitching, and his versatility gives him increased opportunity. Torrens is the biggest question mark to me, but the scarcity of catching prospects within the system, along with his defensive upside lend him relative safety. With Hector Sanchez on the DL and Christian Bethancourt transitioning into a reliever, we definitely won’t see Torrens go anywhere anytime soon. Overall, I would love to see these guys stay with the team. They all have plenty of upsides, and it would be great to hang on to them into the future. For me, its a lot of fun to have these young guys on the roster, it gives us as fans time to connect with these players, as well as a great storyline as the team rebuilds. Be sure to watch closely the next time you see one of our 2016 Rule 5 draft picks; we definitely have a lot to look forward to from all of them.

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Dodgers’ Depth and How To Handle It

On the night of Tuesday, May 9th, Mexican Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium, Julio Urías, a 20 year old from Mexico, was throwing 6+ no-hit innings. On a ball hit by Andrew McCutchen, Andrew Toles made a valiant effort to preserve and save the historic, special night. Instead, the ball bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double and Andrew Toles, or “Tolesy” as Manager Dave Roberts calls him, tore his ACL. Requiring surgery, this injury is expected to sideline the left-fielder for the rest of the season. While a devastating loss and sure to have an impact on the Dodgers’ production this year, this is a key example of why having depth is so vital. You never know when someone can go down for an extended period of time, and it’s important to have valuable depth. The Dodgers have exactly that.

0510_SPO_LDN-L-DODGERS-CARR04_.jpg

Julio Urías pitching at Dodger Stadium. (Photo by Stephen Carr/Los Angeles Daily News/SCNG)

With the dawn of Cody Bellinger and reinvigorated rebirth of Chris Taylor, the right side of the infield has looked very capable and fresh, albeit differently than expected at the start of the year. Adrián González and Logan Forsythe, both on the DL, were expected to be mostly everyday players, but due to injuries have had limited impact. However, there is now a Tolesy-shaped hole in left field and no obvious answer to fill it. Cody Bellinger, a first baseman by trade, also plays a solid LF, but if he plays there that does open up 1B. Though there are plenty of options to cover 1B such as Chase Utley, Scott Van Slyke, and obviously Bellinger as well, it does become a lot more fluid as to who will play everyday. It’s unclear for sure when he will, but until González returns, his position will likely be covered by Utley as it has been most days so far. (Note: He does seem to be close to returning now.) By extension, LF will usually be covered by Bellinger. However, he is likely the go-to backup 1B regardless of who is starting, since it is his natural position, he’s young and fresh, and swinging a bat hotter than molten lava. This can persist if González continues to provide negative value, but if he returns to form, expect Gonzo’s bat in the lineup most days, especially given his contract. On González’ off days, Bell Either way, regardless of his defensive placement, Bellinger should be getting his offensive reps consistently throughout the summer.

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Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, and Andrew Toles congratulate Cody Bellinger on his first career grand slam. (Photo by Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

Without even mentioning Kiké Hernandez or Franklin Gutiérrez, it seems that the Dodgers have the depth to get by without Andrew Toles and an injured right-half of their infield. This will also be helped by the revitalization of a few previously struggling players. For example, Yasmani Grandal, after May 1st, was batting just .213, with an OPS of .697 and a wRC+ of 91. In the last 2 1/2 weeks (not accounting for his 1-for-4, 2 RBI performance on Wednesday, May 17th) he’s improved those numbers to a .288 Batting Average, an .837 OPS, and a wRC+ of 125. He’s done so by getting 16 hits, including a homer and 5 doubles, as well as collecting 10 RBIs, in just 10 games.

Chase Utley is another solid example. The 38 year old second baseman, traditionally, has played 5 of the last 6 games at 1B, and has also started to swing a hot bat. Though a small sample size, in the last 8 games he’s appeared in, he has 9 hits in 24 plate appearances, including 2 doubles, 2 triples, and has batted in 5 runs. His season stats are still well below what any major leaguer’s should be, but in fairness to him, he has been playing in a limited role and seems to be coming out of his slump now. Don’t give up on Chase Utley just yet.

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Chase Utley, known for his hustle, runs aggressively on the basepaths. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

Overall, the Dodgers have more than enough talent to be great even when accounting for injuries. However, it’s still a possibility to see them make a trade for someone like Ryan Braun to really round out the lineup full of heavy hitters. Though possible, this would take a lot to happen and right now the most likely and smartest choice is to look for value from within. The Dodgers have collected quite the depth of valuable players and now is the time to utilize it.

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A Quick Glance at the First Place D-Backs

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We are a few days into May baseball and the Diamondbacks are in first place. I want to go over a few points that are contributing to their success so far this season.

Health plays a big part of any sports team. Having A.J. Pollock back healthy and hitting in the front of our line-up has already made a huge difference in our offense. Chris Owings has dealt with injuries the last couple seasons and is now finally healthy, and it is showing. Owings is batting .309 and has 20 RBIs to go along with 8 stolen bases. He has been a spark plug all season and it wouldn’t surprise me if he continues his hot. David Peralta was held to only 48 games last season due to a wrist injury. He has a batting average of .326 so far, but he brings more than his bat to the Diamondbacks, he is a favorite with the fans and his teammates due to his outgoing personality.

Dbacks P Patrick Corbin

The Diamondbacks have been known for their offense, but this year the starting rotation has been stepping up. Taijuan Walker has done a great job at keeping his team in the game and the offense has shown their appreciation by giving him the run support he lacked in Seattle. His best start came against the Padres where he went 8 innings and struck out 11 while only giving up 2 earned runs. The leader of our young rotation, Zack Greinke, has been doing his job. He is sporting a 3.19 ERA over 36.2 innings. A big surprise for me this year has been Patrick Corbin. Before the season started I prefered to see Corbin in the bullpen and Archie Bradley in the starting rotation (good thing Torey Lovullo got the manager’s job over me). Corbin has a dazzling 2.29 ERA and hasn’t allowed more than 3 earned runs in a game so far this season.

The bullpen hasn’t been as bad as some might think, especially with Archie Bradley eating up innings. A big surprise for me has been J.J. Hoover, he had success with the Reds, but 2016 did not go well for him. Hoover gave up two runs against the Giants earlier in the year and since has thrown 9.1 scoreless innings while striking out 16. Fernando Rodney hasn’t been as effective as he once was and has an ERA over 11. I’d love to see Lovullo experiment with the closer position, but for now he seems to want to give Rodney a chance at redemption.

Has anyone stood out to you guys so far this season? Let me know in the comments, and give me your vote for the player of the month.

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A Tale of Two Pitching Staffs: Breaking down the Padres’ first 23 games.

Over the first month of the season, it seems the Padres have shown us two different sides to the team. From an Opening Day blowout loss in Los Angeles to a 1-0 victory at home, the 2017 season has been a mixed bag so far. Although we are only 23 games into the season, I went ahead and delved into the pitching numbers so far, and found a couple areas of interest to watch as the season progresses.

Location, location, location.

One common metric to examine for pitchers is performance at home vs. performance on the road. This typically has a lot of variances, depending on the park factors of the stadiums the team visits, as well as the lineup construction they face.

Padres: When looking at the Padres home vs away splits, the number is pretty gaudy.  At the time of this writing, the Padres rank 15th in the league, with a home ERA of 3.80. However, the flip side of that coin, is a rank of 28th when on the road, with a 5.63 ERA.

Comparison: The fact that this split exists is not independently troubling. Over the first month of the season, only 12 teams have a better road ERA than home ERA. Amongst those 12 teams, there is an average differential of just over a half a run per nine innings when comparing home ERA to away. 18 MLB teams have a higher road ERA than home ERA. The part of this statistic that I find potentially concerning, is that, with a difference of +1.83 in home vs road ERA, the Padres are currently owning a larger than average home vs. road split.

Factors: To try and find a cause for the large home vs road split, I went ahead and took a look at the different parks the Padres have visited, as well as the offenses the Padres have encountered on the road vs at home.

Ballpark Factors: According to ESPN, Petco park has been extremely pitcher friendly. Petco is currently in the bottom 3rd of the league for hitters, ranked 8th worst for HRs. Of the Padres 14 road games, 6 have taken place at top 4 hitters parks (Coors field and Chase field), with 8 taking place in the 13th and 15th best hitters venues (Dodgers Stadium and the new SunTrust Park). It seems pretty clear that so far this season the Padres have definitely faced some tough parks, especially compared to the favorable confines of Petco. It is also worth noting, however, that when reviewing the game logs, Padres pitchers posted an ERA of just 2.07 in the 3 games in Coors field, which is their best in any stadium this season.

Lineup Factors: According to MLB.com the Padres have faced 3 of the top 15 offenses on the road so far (AZ, COL, LA), as well as the Braves, who currently sit at 27th. At home, the Padres have dealt with the 1st ranked offense (AZ), as well as the 16th and 25th ranked offenses (MIA and SF).  While it’s hard to draw a definitive line here, it does seem like they have faced a tougher schedule on the road.

Conclusion: I am not concerned that the Padres staff does better at home than on the road.  Petco has always been a pitcher-friendly ballpark, despite seeming to move more neutral in recent years. Overall, based on the road schedule and taking both ballpark and lineup into consideration, I feel like Padres fans can definitely expect a bit of positive regression in this area. The numbers don’t look good at the moment, but we are only a month into the season, and I can confidently say that the current 5.63 ERA is a number the Padres can improve upon.

Quality is Key

One of my favorite metrics for examining the success of a starting pitcher is the quality start (QS). A quality start is an outing, where a starting pitcher throws at least 6 innings and allows 3 or fewer earned runs. I think this designation, does a good job telling the story of how a pitcher is actually performing compared to wins or losses.  The quality start takes things like run support (or lack thereof) and bullpen performance, out of the equation.

Baseball Reference keeps a record of the percentage of quality starts by each team, noted as QS%. I went ahead and compiled these numbers for all teams in the league, to see where the Padres stack up, and the results were not pretty. Of 30 MLB teams, the Padres are currently 25th in QS% with just 35%. This brings up several warning signs.

Duration: After examining the game logs, the duration of starts is what really stood out to me about the Padres starting rotation.  It is ideal to get about 6 innings out of a starting pitcher, that way the bullpen only has to work 3 innings and is not overworked. The Padres have had 23 starts, and the starting pitcher has reached or surpassed 6 innings, just 11 times. This number will definitely need to rise to keep the strain off of the bullpen.

Run Prevention: Fortunately, the Padres have done a better job at allowing 3 earned runs or less than they have at lasting 6 innings. In the first 23 Padres games of 2017, the starter has held opponents to 3 or less earned runs 14 times.

Conclusion: Duration is clearly something that the starters will need to work on. Jered Weaver, Jhoulys Chacin, and Trevor Cahill have historically averaged more than enough innings to throw 6 in every start, with Clayton Richards logging plenty of innings and Luis Perdomo building on a career high 2016. Based on these numbers, I think it is pretty safe to assume that the duration of the starts is something we can count on improving. To log a quality start a pitcher must have a 4.50 ERA or less for the game. Nobody is going to win a Cy Young with a 4.50 ERA, but 3 runs allowed over at least 6 innings, means that the game is still well within reach. Preseason projections placed the Padres rotation at a combined average ERA of around 4.51. I’m not trying to sell you on unicorns crapping out rainbows here, admittedly it is very unlikely the Padres rotation turns into an elite unit. What I will tell you, however, is that the Padres are definitely built to increase their QS%, and that will keep us in a lot more ballgames throughout the duration of the season.

Going Forward

I know it has only been 23 games. I also know we have seen some pretty mixed results. When I started researching these different stats and scrutinizing the game logs, I had no idea exactly where it would it take me. Baseball is a game of many statistics, and trying to follow them to a logical conclusion can drive you crazy. Personally, I think that is part of the fun. I hope someone else has fun reading through my conclusions from 23 game logs and can go into the rest of the season with a bit more optimism and knowledge of the Padres 2017 pitching staff.

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