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BABIP at PETCO

November 30th, 2010 by

Following yesterday’s signing by the Dodgers of Juan Uribe, a conversation broke out on twitter on Uribe’s predecessor, Ryan Theriot, and how he might fit in with the Padres. Comparisons were made to Eckstein, and I suggested that Theriot is a player who benefits greatly from a high BABIP* and wondered out loud if PETCO might take this advantage away from him. Already a below-average hitter (career wRC+: 90), Theriot’s a player who needs every advantage he can get. With his likely joblessness, he seems a potential fit for the Padres. My question is: does PETCO Park hurt a player’s BABIP?

*Here’s how Baseball Prospectus defines BABIP: Batting Average on balls put into play. A pitcher’s average on batted balls ending a plate appearance, excluding home runs. Based on the research of Voros McCracken and others, BABIP is mostly a function of a pitcher’s defense and luck, rather than persistent skill. Thus, pitchers with abnormally high or low BABIPs are good bets to see their performances regress to the mean. A typical BABIP is about .300.

Since 2004, when PETCO opened, the stadium has seen an overall BABIP (both offensively and defensively for the Padres) of .282. Away from home, the overall BABIP has been an average .303. Both samples exceed 29,000 at-bats (home: 29,459, away: 30,733).

This comes as little surprise. PETCO has always been a park that punishes hitters. Despite the siren song of its mammoth gaps, the ball just doesn’t land here in San Diego and this is reflected in the stadium’s BABIP. For a player like Theriot, who’s skill set isn’t going to breakthrough PETCO’s problems, maybe this isn’t the place for him.

I anticipate seeing him in a Padres uniform next season.

Posted in Padres 101, statistics | 5 Comments »

Transplant fighting Padres shirt

November 29th, 2010 by

San Diego Padres Shirt Your City So Great

Bothered more by  Cubs fans than a Padres loss? Does that transplanted retired lawyer and Cardinals fan from Columbia, Missouri need to be put in his place? What about that tough guy Red Sox fan on vacation from the craphole they call the entire East Coast?

I’m tired of visitors at Petco who are so damn proud of their home city they don’t want to be there anymore. Lets take back Petco Park for Padres fans. This shirt makes it easy, and it’s available now for $11.90 at the Sacrifice Bunt shop. For you hipsters there’s an American Apparel version as well.

As with everything else, we don’t make any commission on these, the price is as affordable as we can get. Use the coupon code “GIFTS2010″ for free shipping on orders over $30, so now’s your chance to pick up an I <3 Headley shirt as well.

Posted in misc, the funny | 1 Comment »

You know how the payroll’s supposed to start with a 4?

November 26th, 2010 by

The Dodgers signed Jon Garland today. He’ll make a guaranteed $5 million, with a vesting option for $8 million if he passes 190 innings, which is almost guaranteed.

Los Angeles has been busy this offseason, already re-signing Ted Lilly and Hiroki Kuroda. These three, who figure to be behind Kershaw and Billingsley in the rotation, will make a combined $24 million. Last year, the two youngsters made roughly $4 million between the two and while Kershaw is still a year away from arbitration (though he is an extension candidate), Billingsley will be looking at a raise that could push the rotation up to or over $30 million. Or, to put it another way, about three-quarters of what the Padres entire payroll will be next season.

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving!

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Ughwick

November 16th, 2010 by

When Dan Hayes’ reported that Headley’s Super Two status might force the Padres to trade Ryan Ludwick, my first thought was “Oh hell no. Trade Headley.”

Don’t get me wrong, I like Headley fine. I’ll be the first to ring the “pitching and defense” bell, and Headley was as good as it got at third base this year. But Ludwick? He’s no slouch himself (career UZR/150 of 5.1 round the outfield) and he’s the team’s only legit middle of the order hitter other than Adrian. If we move Ludwick, who’s going to hit cleanup?

The better question is why we think Ludwick should hit cleanup hitter himself.

In 2008, Ludwick made a name for himself by hitting 37 home runs but he’s hit 39 total over the past two seasons. Despite his 154 in 08, Ludwick has a career wRC+ of 117 and Bill James projects a 115 for him in 2011. And he’ll likely make in excess of $7 million next year.

Ludwick’s been a starter for four years and throwing out his yet to be duplicated 2008, he’s been a 2-win player. Last year, Headley was somewhere between a 3.7 and a 4.6-win player, depending on if you prefer Baseball-Reference or Fangraphs’ numbers. In 1,675 plate appearances, Headley’s only hit 32 home runs and while he plans on hitting the gym this winter, even if he doesn’t, his glove should still provide enough value to this team to make him a keeper.

It’s easy to look at these Padres and think that something needs to be done about the offense, but they weren’t that bad offensively last year. Though it ranked 20th in the league, the team’s wRC+ was a respectable 97. They fell apart in September (82 wRC+), and Headley was especially awful (58 wRC+), but that likely speaks more to conditioning and depth that it does talent and ability. With the exception of Tejada and Torrealba, the team will be bringing back all of the same hitters worth bringing back and hopefully that means more of the same.

In fairness to Ludwick, he was never who we expected him to be. He’s not the -0.3-win Ughwick we saw in August and September, but he’s not someone who will scare pitchers into giving Adrian some fastballs. The potential is there (he hit 18 home runs away from Busch Stadium last year) but while Maybin is a low-risk roll of the dice, Ludwick has $7 million riding on his. With only $10 million available to fill holes at second, short, in the rotation and on the bench, is the smarter risk to go into the crevasse, opening a hole in left to better fill all the others?

Probably. But I’ll defer to Jed on this one.

UPDATE: According to Jeff Fletcher, the Padres will offer Ludwick arbitration. Here we go.

Posted in hot stove, players, statistics | 5 Comments »

There’s your answer, fishbulb

November 14th, 2010 by

Good thing I got that article off on Friday, right?

Completely blowing past my recommendations, Jed Hoyer went out and acquired Cameron Maybin from the Florida Marlins in return of Ryan Webb and Edward Mujica.

A former megaprospect who was thrice ranked in Baseball America’s top 10, Maybin’s had trouble transferring his success to the majors. In 610 plate appearances, all over the course of four different seasons, Maybin has a career OPS of .692, a step down from the .878 he posted in Triple-A. It’s easy to be cynical about this acquisition but this is yet another move that reinforces my faith in Hoyer.

Here’s what the word on Maybin was before the big leagues beat his reputation down:

Maybin is a prototypical five-tool player still learning how to turn his potential into performance. He has tremendous bat speed with plenty of power potential in his frame. Though willing to take walks, he needs to improve his strike-zone judgment. His plus speed can change games on the bases and particularly in the outfield. He covers a ton of ground and his above-average arm plays very well in center.

Top 50 Prospects (MLB.com)

The good news is that Maybin hasn’t lost any limbs or gotten addicted to any drugs since that was written, so he’s still the same player he was. The bad news is that he hasn’t really improved his strike-zone judgement and he hasn’t developed as an outfielder. In his 548 at-bats, Maybin has struck out 172 times, or 31.4% of the time, and he’s not getting better, having a strike out rate of 31.6% in 2010. And despite his career UZR of 5.1 in center, Maybin’s left some question mark out there as well. In his analysis of the trade, Tom Krasovic noted that Maybin frustrated the Marlins with his “dull defensive instincts.” If I may be a little pretentious, Maybin sounds like a lump of coal who’s a good squeeze away from turning into a diamond.

Moving on to the other part of the trade, Webb and Mujica were no small price to be paid. Both pitchers played their parts in the team’s league-leading bullpen, and Webb especially showed signs of being something special, but five-tool center fielders don’t come cheap. With young guys like Gregerson and Frieri already in the back of the bullpen, and younger guys like Scribner waiting in the wings, Hoyer took a chance and made a move from depth to fill a need.

What the Maybin acquisition means for the rest of the team is yet to be seen. The risk of Maybin not coming through seems too big to ignore and the team will have to prepare accordingly. In his write-up on the Maybin acquisition, Bill Center mentioned that two of Chris Denorfia, Scott Hairston, and Tony Gwynn, Jr. are likely to be non-tendered. Hairston’s cut seems assured, as he will begin making much more money than he’s worth, leaving Norf and AJ. Center singles out AJ, saying, “Gwynn was praised for his defensive play in center last season. But the left-handed hitter batted only .204 in 289 at-bats with three homers, 20 RBI and a .304 on-base percentage.” Ignore for a second that I’m the biggest AJ stan on the internet (do people still say “stan?”) and think about this for a second: if Maybin’s struggles continue, do you really want Bud Black running Chris Denorfia back out into center? Me neither.

The team could still slide Venable over from right field, although they’ve been incredibly hesitant to do so, or they could look elsewhere. In the free agent class, there are some former Padres (Jody Gerut, Jim Edmonds), some aging sluggers (Jim Edmonds [again!], Andruw Jones), and some Atlanta Braves rejects (Rick Ankiel, Melky Cabrera). It should be interesting to see what direction Hoyer goes with the bench.

Overall, this was a good weekend for the Padres. For an affordable price, the Padres were able to acquire an All-Star talent at one of the hardest positions in baseball to fill. Nothing is for certain, but then that’s the Padres for you.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

The Sacrifice Cheat Sheet: We need to go deeper

November 12th, 2010 by

If you’re like me, you’re spending your days playing fantasy Jed and thinking about what the Padres can do to improve the team going into 2011. With holes at second, short, and in centerfield, there’s a lot of dreaming to go around and I’m here to help. I’ve picked out some available players (however loosely that term might apply) at these positions and checked what Bill James thinks they’ll do next year.

2B
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
David Eckstein .267/.330/.334 80
Jerry Hairston, Jr. .250/.311/.370 85
Orlando Hudson .276/.351/.396 108
Felipe Lopez .270/.344/.391 104
Juan Uribe .253/.307/.434 100

It doesn’t look good for the incumbents. Eckstein had something of a career year this season, as his WAR of 2.0 was his highest since he 2005. Offensively, he’s a hole but he’s made himself into a decent defensive second baseman, a position that can handle his poor arm strength. Hairston has a similar offensive ineptitude but while Eckstein’s made himself decent defensively, Hairston’s made himself good. His career UZR/150 of 6.1 ranks number one in this group.

Offensively, Hudson is the winner here, though Lopez might be close enough to be a better bargain (Hudson made $5M last year; Lopez made $1M). Hudson separates himself defensively, though. While James didn’t do defensive predictions, Hudson has a career UZR/150 of 2.2 and is generally well regarded. Lopez, on the other hand, has a career -1.0. The Padres did show an interest in Lopez after St. Louis cut him loose so if you’re Christopher Nolan and like a lot of realism in your dreams, he might be a guy to keep an eye on.

Here’s where I admit that I crammed Juan Uribe into this group because the number of 2B options out there is weaker than at SS. Whereas Eckstein’s arm can hide at second base, Uribe’s would go to waste playing so close to the first baseman. And, truth be told, he’s a good shortstop, so if we were to acquire Uribe, we’d have to get someone else pretty good to bump him to second. Someone like…

SS
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
Everth Cabrera .245/.329/.329 83
Miguel Tejada .279/.324/.415 100
Jason Bartlett .279/.345/.380 100
Orlando Cabrera .268/.316/.364 88
J.J. Hardy .263/.328/.425 107

Listing Everth is really nothing more than lip service. I’d be very surprised if he doesn’t start (and end) the year in the minors. I want to believe in him, but he has made it hard.

Tejada is the other incumbent, though I suppose Hairston deserves a shout out (career 2.1 UZR/150 in a little over 1,000 innings). With Tejada, it’s easy to be caught up in the player we saw in August and September (111 wRC+, -0.3 UZR) but it’s doubtful we saw the real Miguel Tejada. James, for instance, sees his offensive production regressing and defensively, he’s always been a below average guy (-3.4 UZR/150). For $6 million or so, is it worth it?

Like Tejada, Orlando Cabrera is another guy who seems to get a long way on his name and reputation. He’s never been a real offensive player, getting by mostly with his glove which, while still above-average, seems to be slowing down. Cincinnati recently declined his $4 million option, so he’ll likely be cheaper than Tejada while providing similar-yet-different production.

Neither Bartlett nor Hardy are free agents, but they’re both non-tender candidates who might be available in a trade. Bartlett, who we once traded for Brian Buchanan never forget, built his reputation as a glove man but his production has been slipping over the past couple of years. Whether these were flukes or age catching up to him quick is yet to be seen and while James thinks he’ll be average with the bat, is he worth the $5 million (or so) risk?

Looking at the projections, it’s easy to think Hardy is worth the risk and it gets even better when you look at his defensive numbers. Over the course of his career, Hardy has a +11 UZR/150, which is pretty great. He might be expensive, but he’ll earn his paycheck. That is, if he can stay on the field. Hardy only made it into 101 games this season, but he was still worth 2.4 wins. With a good enough backup, Hardy might be the kind of risk a team with one year left of a megastar should take. Especially if his offensive production opens up a spot for a certain poor hitting, phenomenal fielding center fielder.

CF
AVG/OBP/SLG wRC+
Tony Gwynn, Jr. .252/.333/.318 86
Rajai Davis .287/.336/.381 102
Jacoby Ellsbury .300/.355/.409 119
Colby Rasmus .261/.343/.468 123
B.J. Upton .255/.345/.419 116

Oh, AJ. If I really was Jed, this conversation would be over. Tony the younger would be installed in centerfield, free to make all the amazing catches he’d like. But I’m not and he surely won’t, so let’s look at the other four.

Ellsbury’s is a popular name when the conversation turns toward trading Adrian and he is an elite base stealing threat, but I’m not sure he’s a center fielder. He has a UZR/150 of 0.2 in a little over two thousand innings, but the Red Sox brought in Mike Cameron to push Ellsbury to left last year and as much as I love Mikey C., that’s a little telling, isn’t it? Especially because Ellsbury’s not as young as he seems. He’ll be arbitration eligible next winter and with his 136 career stolen bases, I’d bet the arbitrator will like him and that’s no good for us small market folk.

A younger option would be Colby Rasmus, whose very public spat with Tony LaRussa may or may not have put him on the block. If he’s available, I’m not sure the Padres have enough to go get him. Surely the conversation would start with Simon Castro, but where would it end? A player with Rasmus’ potential seems worth whatever price St. Louis asks, but the question becomes whether or not we’ll be able to hang once some deeper-pocketed teams get involved.

Upton’s a more realistic change-of-scenery guy, though also arbitration eligible next year. While he’s never fully lived up to his potential, he’s become an excellent center fielder (career UZR/150 5.7) and he’s still only 26. Think of him as a better case Venable, with the potential to be a 30-40 guy. He could also remain a 10-40 guy but then if it was easy, everyone would do it.

Then there’s Davis, the bubble burster. Not as dreamy as the rest, he’s a decent fielder (2.6 UZR/150) who’s stolen 91 bases over the past two years. He’s the wild card, and a good one at that because put him on a field in Peoria with Dave Roberts and who knows what will come out of it.

And that’s it. I hope you found this helpful. I sort of feel like a jerk for taking you past the bike aisle when you’re likely to get some cans of soup for Christmas, but such is dreaming. Enjoy it while it lasts, before the season begins and we’re stuck with reality.

Posted in hot stove, players | 1 Comment »

Nick Hundley is not your enemy

November 10th, 2010 by

Dan Hayes reported today that the Padres brass is ready to take the training wheels off of Nick Hundley and anoint him the starting catcher for 2011. This comes a week after Yorvit Torrealba declined his half of his mutual option, breaking up the dynamic duo who gave the Padres their most productive year from the catcher’s spot since Mike Piazza and Josh Bard went off in 2006. This’ll be Hundley’s first year in the starring role and the tone around Padresland could best be described as nonplussed but worry not, Hundley’s good. Well, he’s not bad. Let me explain.

First, let’s get this out of the way: catcher is the hardest position on the field to play. In his defensive spectrum, Bill James ranked it ninth, only ahead of the pitcher’s spot, in difficulty. The catcher is not only asked to stay in a crouched position for nine innings while enduring 90 mph foul tips and the potential steamroll, but he has to take a more cerebral role. Why don’t I just let Bud Black break it down, or at least break down what it is he thinks Hundley does right:

“I saw strides this year in his overall handling of the pitchers, handling of the game, and keeping the focus throughout the game,” manager Bud Black said.

“Just his overall in-game awareness, I saw progress. He really made strides on defensive end. I thought he threw better, much more under control and with accuracy.”

Oh yeah, the catcher also has to deal with the base running aspect of the game. Hundley’s .293 CS% would rank him fifth among qualified catchers (out of 13) and is a personal best. But then, who cares? If your beef with Hundley is because you don’t think he makes a good backstop, I’m not sure I can sway your opinion. But if you’re upset over questions concerning the Padres offense and see Hundley as another problem, keep reading.

This season, Hundley finished the year with a wRC+ of 99, which is down one point from his 100 in 2009. For those who don’t know, that makes Hundley incredibly average but consistently so. Of all catchers with 300 plate appearances, Hundley’s 99 was good for 15th out of 29, again pretty average. He was well below the Mauers and Poseys of the league but well ahead of the Kendalls and Bengie Molinas. He was below Torrealba (107 wRC+, 12th in the league) but keep in mind that Torrealba had a career year this season, at age 32. His career wRC+ of 85 is below Hundley’s 93. Again, something to keep in mind if you find yourself getting upset that the team let Torrealba slip away (assuming that they do).

More to my point, of the 17 players who received 100 at-bats from the Padres, Hundley’s 99 was good for ninth. Is this guy good at hitting the middle or what? His WAR of 1.5 also ranked the same. Hundley’s no Adrian, he’s not even Chase Headley, but he has more in common with Chase than he does with Everth Cabrera or Scott Hairston or some of the real holes this 2010 squad had. Jed Hoyer has his work cut out for him if he’s going to repeat this year’s 90-win success story. He’s got holes up the middle and Ryan Ludwick is going to have to do much better than he did after coming over from St. Louis, but Hundley will make Jed’s job easier. Leave him alone and he’ll do well to not mess things up.

It might not be the greatest of praise but for a team with the Sisyphean nature that this club has, it’ll do. Or, at least, it should.

Posted in players, statistics | 2 Comments »

I know you’re angry. I’m angry too.

November 2nd, 2010 by

(but probably not for the same reasons)

In case you missed it, and given the way the regular season ended I wouldn’t be surprised if you did, the Giants clinched the World Series last night. Edgar Renteria, who had less than a hundred at-bats in the second half, was voted the series MVP after hitting a three-run homer off of Cliff Lee in the seventh to put the Giants ahead for good. Wilson came in, struck out Nelson Cruz, saluted his dad, and the World Series was over.

I have a confession to make: I was rooting for the Giants. If you wish to stop reading this blog, I understand but give me a moment to explain myself. I like the Giants. Oops! That probably made things worse, didn’t it? When they knocked us off on the last day of the year, I was more relieved than anything else. I’m talking to myself now, aren’t I?

It’s easy to look at the Giants and think “That should’ve been us!” In late August, it looked like it would be. The two teams seem to be built the same way. The Giants finished third in the league in FIP (3.74), right behind us (3.66). We were third in UZR (50.0), right behind them (56.4). They were a bit better than us offensively, but that doesn’t really mean much. Upon closer inspection, however, things are not as close as they seem so get your microscopes out. I’ve got some slides to show you.

We had the best bullpen in the league this year, and it wasn’t close. GAB and the guys contributed 73 wins above average, which was nine plus runs over the second place White Sox. The Giants came in fourth at 59.1, a still respectable number. It went well with the 141.4 runs their rotation was worth, which was good for eighth in the league (fifth in the NL) and which was much better than the 78.4 runs the Padres staff contributed. Latos and co. came in 26th in the league, which honestly sounds kind of crazy.

Mat with one T is obligatory. He is a legitimate ace and worthy of endless tangents, but I’ll stop myself here. After him, Richard had a solid-if-not-amazing season (3.81 FIP, 4.19 xFIP) and Stauffer and Young deserve credit despite their limited opportunities, but then things start to get bleak. The next best pitcher was Garland (4.41 FIP), then Correia (4.69) and LeBlanc (4.74). Garland and Correia both under pitched their xFIP, Correia by fifty points, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot for 2010 or the future, given the uncertainty of those two coming back. Comparatively, the Giants had three starters who out pitched our number two (Lincecum, Cain, Bumgarner) and two more who out pitched our number three (Sanchez, Zito). Or, to put it another way, having an ace isn’t cool. You know what’s cool? Having three aces. I’m exaggerating, at least a little bit, but the point still stands.

It’s easy to hate. It’s easy to look at the Giants and think that it should be us and to think that we deserve a part of that trophy because our collapse helped get the Giants there, but that’s a little arrogant. It distracts us from the idea, which is just an idea at this point, that we missed the playoffs because we weren’t as good as we thought. We were good, don’t get me mistaken. Teams don’t luck into 90 wins but as we found out, 90 wins don’t go as far as you’d think.

A lot was made of how the experts who picked us to finish last were wrong but who is ready to predict a first place finish for the Padres next season? It’s still early but it feels safe to say that we’ll go into 2011 with still only one elite hitter and one frontline starter. The 2010 team’s second best hitter was Chris Denorfia – are you willing to expect a repeat next year? Better yet, are you willing to give him the shot to repeat? There are a lot of questions surrounding this team, including but not limited to:

-Is Will Venable legit?
-Will Headley ever put it together offensively?
-Was Ludwick’s 2008 a fluke?
-What’s to be done with Everth?
-Are Jed and Bud willing to commit to defense and pitching?

And I’m just spitballing. If you look at the Giants, or the Rangers, or the Rockies for that matter, they have questions too but they have more answers than we do, including Lincecum, Posey, Hamilton, Cruz, Tulowitzki, Gonzalez, etc. These players make it easy for their teams to reload, especially since they won’t be changing addresses in 2012. Is it worth it for the Padres to make a run in 2011, knowing that it will be Adrian’s last hurrah in San Diego? It’s easy to see the benefit of such a plan, but it’s just as easy to see the detriment if you look for it.

It doesn’t always feel like it, but the Padres have been pretty good since moving downtown. In seven years, they’ve averaged 82 wins, 84 when you take out the outliers. But with only two playoff appearances and one postseason victory, who cares? The Padres have shown a strong commitment to being good and hoping that’s good enough. That’s a cynical point of view, given the team’s many limitations, so let’s say that they’ve shown a strong commitment to not upsetting the apple cart. What was the last bold move you can remember the Padres making?

I’ll give you a second to think about that one.

Jed Hoyer’s in a tough position. It’s one thing to ship Mark Teixeira out of town when you still have All-Stars around the field, and it’s another thing to ship Cliff Lee out of town when you’re floundering in last place, but what do you do when you’re coming off 90 wins? The Gunslinger is an apt nickname for Kevin Towers because it rarely seemed like he had a plan. He shot first and asked questions later. He could build a bullpen and he won some lopsided trades but hitting the track is no way to support a family. The cupboard was bare more often than not and while we’ve got some cans of soup in there now, we shouldn’t be expecting a Rockwellian Thanksgiving this year. Towers deserves a lot of credit for where he put this team, but he deserves a lot of blame too.

Where the team goes from here is yet to be determined. Hoyer and his staff are beginning their first full offseason. Not committing to Eckstein is a good start, while committing to Ludwick despite his struggles shows confidence. And Hoyer’s not one to shy away from shaking things up – just ask Hanley Ramirez, so there’s reason to believe we’re in good hands. Then again, Moorad is a professional meddler who has already said he wishes he had told his GM how to do his job concerning Pat Burrell. After a 90 win season, is the man who writes the check going to be willing to take a step back to take two forward?

I’m probably being too hard on the Padres. They’ve gone 129 and 107 over the past year and a half and they are a legitimately good team. Nothing can take away from what the Padres accomplished this year, not even a new pennant for the Giants, but 2011 is a new year and at some point, the Padres are going to have to start looking forward.

Posted in misc | 5 Comments »

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