Thursday, September 14, 2006
The Padres aren’t exactly the most exciting team in baseball and while they come from a big market, San Diego, it is a market usually over-shadowed by San Francisco and L.A. I was commenting on how little the MLB must like having Florida in the playoffs and I note all of that in the context that I am sure baseball would prefer to see the Phillies make the playoffs: big market team with passionate fans, plenty of offense … what’s not to love?
I actually think that the Padres are a pretty good team. They don’t score many runs – they currently rank fourteenth in the NL at just 4.44 per game – but they are a very good pitching / defense team. While they rank near the bottom in the NL in every major statistical category, the Padres lead the NL in ERA and Defense Efficiency Ratio (DER): (Batters Faced – (Hits + Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) / (Batters Faced – (Home Runs, Walks + Hit By Pitch + Strikeouts)) How often fielders convert balls put into play into outs. The Padres have a number of excellent players in the field, including their centerfielder, Mike Cameron, one of the best defensive outfielders in baseball. The left side of their infield, with Mark Bellhorn and Kahlil Greene, is also extremely good. Greene, in my opinion, is a very under-rated shortstop and is very important to their defense.
The Padres pitchers also rank second in the NL in FIP ERA, or Fielding Independent Pitching: (13*HR+3*BB-2*K / IP) + League Factor. Evaluates a pitching by how he would have done with an average defense behind him by keeping track of things that a pitcher can control (walks, strikeouts, home runs allowed) as opposed to things he cannot (hits allowed, runs allowed). Their rotation of Junior Peavy, David Wells, Woody Williams and Chris Young is unheralded, but solid. Their biggest weapon in terms of pitching is their closer, the All-World Trevor Hoffman. Hoffman has 473 career saves, just five shy of the all-time record of 478 set by Lee Smith. Hoffman is a phenomenal lights-out kind of closer. In a tight 2-1 game, Hoffman can be the difference-maker.
Both of these facts bode very well for the Padres playoff chances because their consistency in defense and pitching will enable them to weather power outages in their offense. Adrian Gonzalez, their young first baseman, is a good hitter, but the core of the Padres lineup is past its prime: Mike Piazza is 38, Brian Giles is 35 and Cameron is 33. This is an older, veteran team that has a lot of trouble scoring runs. The future doesn’t bode well for the Pads, but for now they can get by.
If you are going to place bets on who will make the playoffs, the Padres are a smart bet. With their emphasis on pitching and defense they won’t fall victim to the kind of feast-or-famine slumps that impact the Phillies or the Reds. This is a team that doesn’t stand a chance of beating the Mets in the playoffs, but they should be good enough to get there.
Wildcard Watch! … Just seventeen games to go and the Phillies helped their cause big-time by winning two last night, decisively sweeping a double-header against the Braves thanks to the Braves Diaz’s stunning error on David Dellucci’s fly in the eighth inning of game one, which allowed two runs and gave the Phillies the lead. Despite winning their own game, the Padres saw their lead over the Phillies shrink a little to a game and a half. Notice that I’ve trimmed the list down to six teams: I think we can finally write-off the Braves, who are six and a half games back.
1. San Diego: 75-69
2. Philadelphia: 74-71 (1.5)
3. San Francisco: 73-72 (2.5)
4. Florida: 73-73 (3.0)
5. Cincinnati: 72-73 (3.5)
6. Houston: 71-74 (4.5)