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The Top 10 Padres of ’10: No. 09

October 29th, 2010 by

Ray’s note: Sorry about the delay in updating. Technical difficulties.

09. Tony Gwynn, Jr., CF

10. Tim Stauffer, RP/SP

From the acclaimed filmmakers who brought you Stauffer: The Last Honest Man” comes a heartbreaking story of the gifts and the curses that fathers past down to their sons.

In the sleepy town of San Diego, Tony Gwynn was a king. Honest and just, he ruled over his kingdom with a fair hand. He loved his people and in return they loved him. After years of loyal service, King Tony stepped down to devote his time to the youth of his community, leaving his kingdom in a state of flux. His son, Prince Tony, was away at school and his birthright waited. And waited. After school, the Prince took time to see the world, escaping to the great land of Milwaukee before returning to San Diego.

As humble as his father, the Prince refused to be handed the keys, choosing instead to work for them. He excelled in ways his father never had but he failed in the ways his father had built his legend on and the people of the land had trouble embracing the young Prince’s style.

Coming this winter, “In the Shadow of My Father: The Tony Gwynn, Jr. Story”

That really got away from me, but the point stands. AJ will always be his father’s son and his legacy will always be tied directly to his father. I always thought it was strange that the children of legends would even consider following in the parent’s footsteps but I suppose growing up in a life makes you grow a little fond of it. But what happens if your best turns out to be great but not great enough?

If you see your uncles next month round the Thanksgiving table and you tell them how great Tony, Sr. is, they’ll probably tell you that you’re being condescending. But if you tell them how great Tony, Jr. is, you’ll get a better conversation going.

AJ is a career .244 hitter, ninety-four points lower than his father’s .336. The younger’s career .291 is not only eight points lower than his father’s .371, but it’s much lower than the average .333. He’s not a good hitter. It’d probably be charitable to call him a bad hitter. But my goodness, can he play centerfield.

I’m not even going to bother to show you AJ’s offensive statistics from this past year. Trust me when I say that they’re incredibly bad, but trust me when I say that they don’t matter too much. Remember this number: 12.9. That’s how many defensive runs AJ saved above-average in 2010. For all center fielders, 12.9 was the third best mark in the league. And for a pitching staff that was middle of the road, all things considered, it may have been even more valuable.

If you didn’t know, UZR isn’t perfect. AJ’s standing as a great defender isn’t written in stone, not yet at least. But the fact remains that Tony Gwynn, Jr. has saved 18.5 runs above average in 1,842 innings in centerfield, and he brought a reliability to the most important position. Remember Chris Denorfia in center? Remember his diving attempts, few of which actually ended in catches? How’d he make you feel out there? And how did AJ make you feel? As a basement nerd, I’m supposed to ignore the visceral aspects of baseball–but I’m rebelling. Sometimes, how you feel matters. I might call Darren Balsley and get his opinion on that. But I digress.

AJ is not his father. He may have the name and his number may only be one away, but there’s only one Tony Gwynn, Sr. But for me, I want you to tell your uncle that’s all right. Tell him to trust me.

Posted in awards, players, statistics | 2 Comments »

The Top 10 Padres of ’10: No. 10

October 19th, 2010 by

Ray’s note: Over the next 10 (or so) days, I will be counting down the 10 best Padres of the past year. To compile this list, I used a very complex equation that I can’t really get into now but rest assured that this is in no way completely arbitrary.

10. Tim Stauffer, RP/SP

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before:

A down and out athlete, whose sport is of no real consequence, finds that he’s got one more shot at glory. Maybe he used to be someone people believed in — but after years of questionable returns, his goodwill has dried up and now it’s on him to make others believe. So he battles back, puts one foot in front of the other, and begins on the path to redemption. He fights and claws until one day he makes it. Then his manager tells the world, Tim Stauffer is too valuable to start.”

It’s easy to forget now that there are better things to talk about, but Stauffer missed the entire 2008 season. Looking at his numbers, it’s easy to assume it was due to shame. In 2007, he spent the full year in Portland and only managed a 4.34 ERA, which was actually a step up from his 2006 5.53 ERA. He was a 25-year-old former first round pick, fourth overall, and he was floundering in Triple-A. So he sat out 2008, either from embarrassment or his alleged shoulder injury, and came back to take it easy in 2009. That year, he only played in 16 minor league games, starting four, but he did better, amassing a 2.14 ERA between Portland and San Antonio before getting the call. He packed up his 6.37 career ERA (to that point) and came down to San Diego, where he made 14 starts for the same team that gave ample opportunities to Chad Gaudin and Josh Geer. It seemed to be something of an audition and Stauffer delivered, contributing a 3.58 ERA, a 4.67 FIP, and a 4.72 xFIP. Not exactly Cy Young stuff but for a team that gave 36 starts to Gaudin and Geer, it would be enough to earn Stauffer a look-see for 2010.

The writing was on the wall in Arizona this spring, as Stauffer got into six games but only started one. At the beginning of the season, there was no room in the rotation. When Chris Young went down following his first start, it was Wade LeBlanc who took his spot. During the first week of the season, Stauffer came into two games: taking over for a struggling Jon Garland on April 5th and helping the Padres win an extra inning contest on the 10th, his biggest game of year according to WPA. He pitched well, striking out five and surrendering zero runs in five combined innings of work, and this must of stuck with the team.

Contrary to popular belief, it was Corey Brock — not Bud Black who said that “Stauffer might be too valuable to start,” but print the legend, right? Stauffer was too good to start, a compliment so wild that it could only make sense. At first, it kind of worked. LeBlanc had a strong April and on May 11th, Stauffer went down with appendicitis, which kept him out of San Diego for two months. When he came back, he continued to do what he do, giving the Padres good work out of the pen.

Then came the 10-game losing streak.

As the season wore on, LeBlanc’s hot start faded away. He threw a 6.47 ERA in August, a performance that’s not going to cut it in a pennant race. Making matters worse, Kevin Correia was unable to repeat his 2009 success. After suffering a personal tragedy earlier in the year, Correia’s was a story to root for, but in a pennant race, moral victories have to take a backseat. And so, on September 6th, the 136th game of the season, Stauffer started the hill against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Nine innings later, the team’s 10-game losing streak had come to an end. While Stauffer didn’t pick up the win, or even reach the fifth inning, these are just facts that any good screenwriter skips over when it comes time to put pen to paper. Stauffer kept going. Other than a rough go in St. Louis, he was lights out. He was the second best pitcher on the team in September. With luck not on Mat Latos’ side, you could make the argument that he was the best.

But then, budding screenwriters, September means nothing if it doesn’t give way to October. Just as all Little Leaguer’s dream, Stauffer was in line for an important October start. Granted, it was still a regular season game, but the Padres were down two to the Giants with two left to play. The Giants. In San Francisco. Stauffer, like the legend he’s become, came through when his team needed him the most, striking out four in six and a third. He allowed only one run before giving the game to the bullpen, who shut the door and put the team one back with one to go. Obviously, that last game didn’t go so well, but it will simply be an epilogue at the end of “Stauffer: The Movie.”

Tim ended the year with a 1.85 ERA (199 ERA+), 3.02 FIP, and 3.74 xFIP. Perhaps the best thing for Stauffer to nail to his wall this winter is this:

(Jed) Hoyer wishes that he and Buddy would have put Tim Stauffer back into the rotation earlier. That’s the one thing that keeps him up at night. It could have brought them 2 or 3 more wins. They waited longer than they should have. They waited until the rosters expanded.

GM Jed Hoyer: “There’s a reason we didn’t make the playoffs. We obviously weren’t quite good enough.”

The man who was once too valuable to start saw his stifling become his general manager’s biggest regret. For a team that finished one game out from a postseason shot, those two or three wins might have been the most valuable of the year. But we’ll never know. Next year, with only Latos and Clayton Richard guaranteed spots in the rotation, there would seem to be a shot for Stauffer to finally live up to his first round potential. For his sake, our sake, and for the sake of a sequel, let’s hope we find out.

Posted in awards, players, statistics | 3 Comments »

Hey hey, ho ho

October 12th, 2010 by

During last week’s chat with XX (which we covered in part here), Jed Hoyer said that payroll will start with a four, meaning we’ve got a range of $40 to $49 million*. This means that Hoyer, and Jeff Moorad depending on when he’ll start meddling, have some decisions to make about the Padres’ roster.

As of right now, the Padres have about $10 million locked up after Adrian Gonzalez’s option and all of the pre-arbitration eligible players. These are no-brainers, leaving decisions about the other thirteen or so roster spots on the 25.

The first three choices involve Chris Young, Jon Garland, and Yorvit Torrealba. As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, the San Diego Padres will not be paying Chris Young $8.5 million in 2011. They might bring him back at far far less, but his option will not be picked up. As far as the other pitchers concerned, though he’s no All-Star, Garland is who he is: a pitcher who will give the team 200 innings and an above-average ERA. And with the premium this team seems to have put on chemistry, his veteran leadership and Been Thereness will likely come in handy. Six point seven five million dollars handy? I’ll say yes. Same goes with Torrealba. Three point five million dollars might be a bit much for a platoon catcher, especially given how deep this year’s free agent class is in backup catchers, but Torrealba has a rapport going with the team and the pitchers. Why change horses? This brings us to $20 million or so.

Now we come to the arbitration eligible guys. Scott Hairston, Heath Bell, and Ryan Ludwick are all on their third go, Mike Adams is on his second, and Tim Stauffer, Edward Mujica, and Anthony Junior are here for the first time. Immediately, I have to imagine that Hairston will be non-tendered. He’s just very replaceable, with Aaron Cunningham and Chris Denorfia more than capable of doing what he does. Then we have the first timers, who will probably not make much more than $3.5 million between them. Of the three, Mujica’s the most likely to play somewhere else next year, as it’s not a high price to pay for a starter (Stauffer) or a superb defender (Junior). Twenty three million. Adams will come back and I’m guessing he’ll get around $3.5 million himself, a little less than closer Heath Bell got at the same time. Let’s say twenty seven million, before Heath Bell and Ryan Ludwick are counted.

Hoyer’s already committed to bringing Ludwick back, and we’ve already commented that we agree with the decision. Even if Ludwick does end up a bust, $7.5 million, which I’m guessing he’ll get, is a fair price for someone with Ludwick’s potential. Think of it this way: who else can the Padres go get for that much money to hit twenty home runs and play above-average defense? Looking at the pickings, they look rather slim. Thirty five million.

Depending on what number the Padres payroll digits ends in, we’re looking at $5 to $15 million left in the piggy bank. And that also leaves us with a hole at second and question marks at short and center. Theoretically, the Padres could plug Everth Cabrera in at short and AJ in at center, but then we’d have to go back in time and pull Jeff Kent out of 2001 to get enough offense to be credible. And plutonium’s still expensive. They could go with Miguel Tejada at short, but he’s neither a good player anymore nor cheap. Hoyer’s going to have to get creative to fill these holes, especially if he plans on paying Heath Bell $8 million.

This is were I reassure everyone that Bell is a great player. He’s been worth two wins in three of his last four seasons, and this year he was the third most valuable closer in baseball, behind Carlos Marmol of the Cubs and Brian Wilson of the Giants. He’s the rightful successor to the Hoffy throne, but unfortunately he’s gotta go. At the price he’ll command, and that others such as Bobby Jenks and Jonathan Papelbon have commanded before him, he’ll become the highest paid player on the team next year and such a small market team can not afford to invest so much of its payroll into such a speciality position. Especially when Mike Adams can come in and do the job with little to no drop off. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that Bell might bring back something good in return.

Michael Bourn. Franklin Gutierrez. Adam LaRoche. These are just a couple names of players who have been acquired for premium relief pitching. With a pitcher of Bell’s caliber, the Padres have the opportunity to build upon their 2010 success. It just seems that Bell’s more valuable on the open market than he is in a Padres uniform.

*Duh.

Posted in hot stove, players | 5 Comments »

Is Mat Latos better than Jake Peavy?

September 8th, 2010 by

What a stupid question. Jake has more than twelve hundred innings on Latos. We’re not even close to being able to make such calls. But let’s try anyway.

Last night, Latos set a major league record by pitching in his fifteenth straight game of five innings or more while allowing two runs or less. The last time he gave up three runs was on June 4th, which was also the last time he allowed three runs in a game since April 26th. Since May 1st, his ERA has been 1.64. He may be young, but Latos has muscled his way into Great talk.

I don’t know about you, fellow Padres fans, but my barometer for great Padre pitching is Jake Peavy. The break up may have been less than amicable but he’s still the greatest Padre I’ve ever seen toe the rubber in the first inning. So how does new hotness measure up?

Here’s a sampling of what the tattooed one has done this season, at age 22:

2010
FIP 2.96
xFIP 3.25
ERA+ 163
K/9 9.41
BB/9 2.38
WPA 4.4
WAR 3.7

Not bad. For starters, let’s look at how Jake did at age 22.

2003
FIP 4.99
xFIP 4.35
ERA+ 96
K/9 7.21
BB/9 3.79
WPA 0.32
WAR 0.3

I think it’s safe to say that Latos found his feet a little earlier. Now, Jake’s Cy Young season.

2007
FIP 2.54
xFIP 2.84
ERA+ 158
K/9 9.67
BB/9 2.74
WPA 3.50
WAR 6.1

Latos actually holds his own. Jake’s got him at FIP and xFIP, the big kahunas of the moment, strike outs, and WAR (it should be noted here that WAR is a cumulative stat on Latos is on pace for less than 200 innings this year) but Latos takes ERA+, walks, and WPA so far. His K/BB also bests Jake’s, 3.95 to 3.53. It’s highly doubtful that Latos will get the award this year, Johnson and Halladay have just been too dominant, but that takes nothing away from what he’s accomplished this year.

In case you were wondering, Latos has set career highs in every category this year. How do they compare to Jake’s career highs, you ask? Let’s find out.

FIP 2.84 2007
xFIP 2.99 2009
ERA+ 171 2004
K/9 9.74 2009
BB/9 2.22 2005
WPA 3.59 2005
WAR 6.1 2007

With the exception of WPA, Latos still has a ways to go before he reaches Jake but he’s off to a fast-start. It should be interesting to see how much ground he gains next year, don’t you agree Tom Verducci?

Posted in players, statistics | 5 Comments »

[Insert tired John Fogerty reference here]

August 25th, 2010 by

In a year of unlikely successes, Chris Denorfia might be the unlikeliest. A career minor leaguer*, Denorfia made his way to San Diego in mid-May when Scott Hairston went down, I can only imagine the team advised him to go ahead and buy an apartment. Since then, he’s been the second best hitter on the team with a wRC+ of 134. He’s hit nine home runs in a little more than 200 at-bats, and he’s done it with a BABIP-LD% of 12.9**. Come October, Denorfia will be in the starting lineup and he’ll have earned his place.

I just wish the team would stop putting him in center.

While not quite the second coming of Brady Clark, Denorfia’s highlight reel is a little shorter than the average centerfielder. According to UZR, he’s been below average this year, posting a -3.1. Dewan’s +/- is harder on Norf, placing him at -5 DRS (defensive runs saved). But with Anthony Junior out the rest of the regular season, it looks like Denorfia has little to worry about with his job security.

There are other options, though NL Manager of the Year-to be Bud Black has shown little interest in them. Over the course of his Padres career, Hairston has made 98 starts in center and has a +5.3 UZR*** in center. But with his regular scheduled second half slump (.490 OPS), S dot has found his playing time severely limited. Then there’s Luis Durango and the recently reacquired Jody Gerut, but neither of them are good enough to muscle their way into the starting lineup. That leaves us with one obvious option.

Will Venable is no stranger to centerfield, having made 42 starts at the position since 2008. But I’m not going to bother drawing any conclusions from those 300+ innings. Really, there’s very little evidence to draw any conclusions about Venable’s defense, but in sixteen hundred total innings, he’s saved 13.7 runs out there. He’s been tasked with Petco’s right field and he’s come out on top. At least, so far.

One troubling trend I’ve noticed as this season has gone on is the slow phasing out of the youngsters from the lineup. Of the Baby Pads who started the off this year, only Chase Headley sees regular playing time. Venable is next but a couple of hundred at-bats behind. In 2011 and beyond, this team is going to needs these youngsters to pick up where Adrian and co. leave off. Finding out if Venable is capable of delivering 20 home runs out of center is a good start.

Denorfia’s a great story, and he’ll remain one in left field. Let’s see if Venable’s ready to play.

*Denorfia 208 major league at-bats coming into 2010, compared to 2630 of the minor league variety.
**This means that only a little luck has been on his side.
***In 921 innings.

Posted in gripes, players | 7 Comments »

Thanks AJ

August 19th, 2010 by

After breaking his hamate bone during Wednesday’s win over the Cubs, Tony Gwynn, Jr.’s season is now over.

Considering he already lost his starting job to Chris Denorfia and his wRC+ dropped to 83, it’s easy to forget the kind of impact AJ had on this team. Gwynn led all major league center fielders in UZR this season with +13.6 runs. He was 3.4 runs ahead of second place Marlon Byrd, who played over 300 innings more than AJ. Three hundred and eight more, to be exact. That’s 34 games. That’s a fifth of a season. AJ finishes his season as the third most valuable outfielder in the majors, behind Carl Crawford and Andres Torres.

Despite his limited playing time and troubles at the plate, AJ has been the fifth most valuable Padre according to WAR. With six weeks left to play, he’ll likely fall in the standings as other players leapfrog him. But for a while, AJ was the epitome of the Padres defense-first philosophy. While I won’t be holding my breath, I hope the team doesn’t forget this coming offseason.

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Adrian Gonzalez’s opportunities

April 5th, 2010 by

Here’s a table I made for fun.

Tony Gwynn Jr. projected OBP
Bill James .336
Chone .340
ZIPS .343
David Eckstein projected OBP
Bill James .327
Chone .324
ZIPS .325

Even the people who think Eckstein deserves a starting gig mostly extol his ability to woo teammates into better playing.  They shy away from discussion of his ability to create runs at the plate, so why is he batting before the team’s best hitter?

I usually don’t waste effort talking about batting order, the amount of time it gets discussed far outweighs its actual impact on the team. But batting Gwynn Jr. and Eckstein first and second exemplifies a poor approach to decision making. Can every second baseman since Mark Loretta truly meet some supposed criteria making them appropriate number 2 hitters? I feel the same about hitting Eckstein and Gwynn at the top of the order as I do about using leeches to cure diseases.

“People before me did it this way therefore I cannot be criticized for it.”

Oh yeah. Happy opening day. I could go for a California Burrito about now.

Posted in players, statistics | 9 Comments »

What it takes to get along

March 22nd, 2010 by

Last month, when the Joe Mauer extension was simply an inevitability, I wrote about it and what it means for the Padres and Adrian Gonzalez.

The Twins got Mauer at 8-years $184 million, and that’s a steal not a deal, but there’s no way he’ll make less than 16% of their payroll anytime soon, which likely means they won’t win the World Series anytime soon. Despite this, it’s created an excitement for the Twins, Minnesota, and the game of baseball. While the Twins may not be raising any pennants in their new park anytime soon, they will be one of the few teams in the game who can say that they have an honest to goodness Mr. (insert team name here).

Even if you don’t think he’s quite a Mr., there’s no denying that Adrian Gonzalez is a special player and locking him up would ensure he wears the right hat into the Hall of Fame (you know, assuming). It would also put us beyond where Mauer puts the Twins, and it’s unlikely that Adrian would make less than 26% anytime soon.

You play to win the game, but is that the only reason?

Posted in hot stove, players | 9 Comments »

The Sacrifice Cheat Sheet: The batting order

March 4th, 2010 by

With Bud Black busy eating burritos and drooling over Eckstein’s intangibles, I thought I’d give him some help with the state of the lineup and what he could to do make it better.

Last month, Black was pressed to name his batting order for this season, and we’ll forgive it because he was pressed. To further help bail Black out, I have come up with a proper batting order for the skip.

1. Everth Cabrera, SS

Don’t worry Bud, I’m not going to get all weird on you. The baseball constitution dictates that every team must utilize a fast player to leadoff (I think) and I will gladly go along with it. Everth is the fastest player on the team, but he can also get on-base, if only relatively so. Last year, he had an OBP of .342 with a walk rate of 10.5%, and most major projections see him keeping up his pace if not exceeding it. I can see questions arising regarding Cabrera’s age and lack of experience, but what could it hurt to challenge him?

2. Tony Gwynn, Jr./Scott Hairston, CF

AJ and Hairston, Sr. should see time in a platoon this year and they bring differing skill sets. Against right-handed pitching last year, AJ posted an OBP of .379. While his slugging was only .385, he still had a wRC+ of 118 in the split. At .378, Hairston has a similar OBP in his left-handed split, but his slugging was .543. During his previous stay, he was Adrian’s M&M buddy in the middle of the order, but another of my concessions to Bud is that one spot in the order is equal to one position on the field – the center fielders are hitting second. And with Hairston, the heart of the order could frequently find themselves at-bat with runners in scoring position, if not already in.

3. Chase Headley, 3B

If I didn’t put Headley in this spot, I would’ve put him at second. Not only do I value his OBP higher in the order, I don’t trust him hitting behind Adrian. Now that he’s back at third, Headley should hypothetically see an improvement in his offense: he’ll be able to concentrate more on his hitting as a result of concentrating less on his foreign position and he’ll be able to put back on the weight he lost to better run around the outfield. Add to that Headley’s hot-ish second half (.798 OPS) and there’s reason to have confidence in Headley.

4. Adrian Gonzalez, 1B

Right?

5. Kyle Blanks, LF

Stay with me.

On one hand, I feel like there’s no explanation necessary. Last year, in 148 at-bats, Blanks hit 10 home runs with a wOBA of .372. Stretch that out over a full season and Blanks could hit more than 30 home runs. That would make Blanks only the second player to accomplish such a feat in Petco Park. This guy has prodigal power. But then those are the only 148 at-bats of Blanks’ career. He could still be a bust, or we could be lucky and he could just suffer through a sophomore slump but if it doesn’t work out, the team could still try Headley or Venable, or move Hairston to a more permanent position.

6. Will Venable, RF

I’ll let you know right now, the batting order gets pretty predictable from here on out. While I’m not a big believer in Venable, he has 20 homer potential and he’s left-handed, which only makes sense coming after the right-handed Blanks.

7. Nick Hundley, C

I’m not going to try to sell you on Hundley. It comes down to not being:

8. David Eckstein, 2B

I feel that it’d be better if I didn’t say anything at all.

Posted in players | 7 Comments »

Prospect U+Me

February 26th, 2010 by

Now that all the experts have told us what they think of our farm system, I’ve gone ahead and created a cheat sheet that you can wow your uncles with. I went through Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus, Fangraphs, and Minor League Ball, took their lists, plugged in the holes with frog DNA, and came up with this:

01. Donavan Tate, OF
02. Simon Castro, RHP
03. James Darnell, 3B
04. Jaff Decker, OF
05. Wynn Pelzer, RHP
06. Logan Forsythe, 3B
07. Cory Luebke, LHP
08. Edinson Rincon, 3B
09. Aaron Poreda, LHP
10. Lance Zawadzki, SS

Your 2010 San Diego Padres Top 10 Prospects! Unfortunately, as there is none of my own opinion in this, I can’t give you any sort of meaningful analysis. But then that goes against the point of lists anyway.

Posted in players | 1 Comment »

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