Padres bloggin' since 2007

The Padres go crazy and call Kotsay “Superman”

November 21st, 2011 by

Let me just get this out of the way:

In case the song didn’t give it away, the Padres signed Mark Kotsay to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million. While it’s still not clear what role he will fill for the 2012 team, Kotsay will likely serve as the fourth or fifth outfielder as well as the first left-handed bat off the bench. What’s more clear is that Kotsay is a terrible baseball player.

Which is not to say that Kotsay has always been terrible, because of course that’s not the case. In fact, according to fWAR (WAR from Fangraphs) Kotsay is the best center fielder in Padres history with +13.4 WAR. That evidence probably says more about this franchise than it does about Kotsay, but his numbers paint a nice portrait of the player he used to be: one with a little bit of pop who could take a walk and run them down with the best in center. But that was a while ago. Since 2006, Kotsay has been worth -1.6 WAR, which makes him the 10th worst player among qualified hitters in baseball in that time. That’s out of 1,988 players. That means that Mark Kotsay, since 2006, has been the 1,978th best player in baseball. And the Padres just gave him a big league contract.

A player doesn’t become that awful by accident, and Kotsay has done so by being bad at everything. Since 2006, in 2041 plate appearances, Mark Kotsay has an 82 wRC+, which translates to -38.0 RAR. He’s accomplished this through a combination of diminishing luck and power. Over those six years, Kotsay has had a .279 BABIP and .115 IsoP, which are down from the .304 BABIP and .139 IsoP marks he posted in his first eight seasons. Those numbers might not seem like great plunges but when you’re a guy with a little bit of pop who can draw a walk (and not tons of walks), every little bit helps, or hurts as the case would be. And with 81 games ahead of him in PETCO Park, not to mention twenty more in San Francisco and Los Angeles, don’t expect Kotsay’s number to turn around in 2012.

Kotsay has also lost a step defensively. After accumulating 92.1 defensive RAR through 2004 (UZR wasn’t born until 2002), Kotsay has had a -36.3 UZR since. And he has not been a full-time center fielder since 2006, logging only 85 innings at the position in the past two years. That’s about a quarter of the number of innings he’s played at first base in that time, 331, and while Kotsay’s versatility boosts his appeal (he has a career 0.5 UZR in 784 innings at first), the Padres are currently overrun with first baseman. Anthony Rizzo and Jesus Guzman battling it out and Kyle Blanks and James Darnell also capable of handling the position. Any defensive value Kotsay provides will be in the outfield, and I mean that in the loosest definition of the word. Those same humongous outfields that will hurt him offensively won’t do him any favors on defense either.

That’s why the Padres shouldn’t have signed Kotsay, but surely there’s a reason why they did*, right? Much has been made about the leadership the team lost when it replaced David Eckstein, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Stairs, and Jerry Hairston, Jr. with Orlando Hudson. And to hear the team tell it, Kotsay will help fill that void. And you know what – sure, why not? Kotsay has a good reputation and I’m not going to pretend that leadership and chemistry aren’t important to ball clubs, but the team seems to be overlooking one kind of crucial fact: Eckstein and company combined for +7.0 WAR. Those four may have been crucial contributors in the clubhouse but they contributed on the field as well. Kotsay is a below-average hitter with a below-average back, so expectations should be low.

*This is where I’ll point out that Jeff Moorad used to be Mark Kotsay’s agent, which upgrades this signing from strange to suspicious. Moorad has shown an affinity for old clients in the past (Pat Burrell, Orlando Hudson) and now the Padres have signed one to a contract that’s far too expensive for his actual production. The team could’ve found a player who can do what Kotsay does (or does not) in February for less than a million dollars–but they had to give him $1.25 million before Thanksgiving?

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Padres Jersey Redesign: A fireside chat with The Sacrifice Bunt

November 15th, 2011 by

Padres mariners jerseys

Ray: Yesterday, after months of rumors and speculation, the Padres unveiled their new uniforms for the 2012 season and while no drastic changes were made, Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel did give the uniform collectors out there something to put on their Christmas list. The biggest change is the piping featured on all of the jerseys, which is meant to emulate the design of the PCL-era set. Other changes include the evening out of the road script (goodbye bow tie) and a new alternate jersey which features the interlocking SD on the chest.

The whole look is incredibly underwhelming, which seems to be what the Padres are going for under Moorad and Garfinkel, but before I go any further, what do you think, Mel?

Mel: Let me start off by saying I want to avoid simply giving opinions of what looks good and bad. Everyone has their own tastes, so those types of discussions tend to not be very productive.

Getting down to it, I disagree with this party line of “Padres fans are tired of seeing the jerseys changed all the time, so we only ‘tweaked’ them.” The new home jersey looks more like the 1999-2003 homes than the 2004-2011 homes, the road jerseys are the third set in as many years, the alternate has been completely replaced, and the piping is a very non-traditional Padre element. These are big changes as far as I’m concerned, and they don’t closely resemble anything I’ve seen a Padre team wear before. Moreover, the Padres have only worn the current navy blue and white color scheme for a year now after eliminating sand in 2011.

Ray: I think the big problem with these jerseys, if I can jump to the point, is that they tried to sum up the history of the franchise with this new set and drew heavily from a completely different one. The Padres have been around for more than forty years and it still seems like all we’ve heard is about the PCL days. Has any other in team in baseball forgone decades of major league history to go with what their minor league predecessor did? And because they’re pulling from seventy years of completely diverse history, we have this bizarre mismatch that left us with a Swinging Friar that looks bad. How does that even happen?

Mel: Most of what the team calls “taking inspiration from the PCL days” is a pretext. It’s an attempt to placate the fans who want a unique, San Diegan look, which of course means the color brown, and the brass hasn’t shown a willingness to go for that.

So instead, they try to replace history the fans want with a history not many fans know about or care for. “See guys, we’re giving you history!” Except it isn’t. My father was 19 years old when the Padres last played in the PCL. It’s not something people identify with. It’s almost insulting what they’re doing.

Then they threw in the Swinging Friar. That’s a nice gesture, but they need to do more.

Ray: It seems like the team focus grouped this uniform to death, but I wonder who exactly they spoke to. They claim that they interviewed season ticket holders but I know a handful of those poor suckers and I don’t know a single one that they talked to. I can’t help but feel like the team knew what they wanted and set out in search of the answers they wanted to hear. I’m surprised they’re not now calling the team the Toyota Terrace Padres of San Diego.

Mel: There were reports of focus groups two years ago.

I agree, the team did what they wanted with the jerseys then found ways to justify it to the fans, rather than the other way around. Then the ownership threw in the 70s Friar as a “secondary logo” in an attempt to placate them.

Getting back to the uniforms themselves, while I’d much prefer a modernized 1975 jersey, I would have been happy had they added something unique or distinctive to the look. They didn’t. While the 2011 version looked exactly like the Brewers, in 2012 the dominant blue color and piping simply mixes in a pinch of Mariners (see photo) then goes out to breakfast.

The unique bit is the dark blue alt, which wins the small battle that no team currently wears that exact jersey. Although the Nationals have come close while the Tigers have worn that design with blue and white swapped as their primary jersey for 80 years.

Ray: Besides the piping, which I’m not a fan of, there’s no cohesion between the three jerseys. They could very easily be from three different teams and that highlights what a half-assed job the Padres did. You mentioned the 70s Friar that they threw in to throw us a bone and it looks terrible. The monochrome look that the team has embraced gives everything a flat look and it’s so unnecessary. The 90s Friar looked like a cherub but at least some thought went into his design.

Mel: What changes would you suggest to make the three jerseys more cohesive?

Ray: A concept. The team has the shampoo logo on the home jersey, what looks like the logo for nu-metal band on the road, and the SD on the alt. Look at what Moorad and Garf did in Arizona. That look isn’t perfect but it’s one look.

Mel: I can’t see a way to put “San Diego” in the shampoo bottle font that would look good. In some ways I like the new San Diego wordmark, though it’s less unique, because it matches the SD on the primary logo and the alternate.

If they’re not bringing back the brown, I’d prefer they stick with the current concept then change to something all new. Just give us something distinguishing along with it.

Ray: Except it doesn’t really. If you look at the “S” in “San Diego,” you’ll notice that it’s angles are much sharper than the one on the hat and OH MY GOD RAY, STOP. That the cohesive aspects of this uniform can only be seen under intense scrutiny goes to show how poor this overall design is.

I don’t hate the shampoo logo but my suggestion is to slap the SD on the home jerseys. That way, the aspects that are kind of similar run across all three. I’m actually surprised that the Padres didn’t do that, given how hard the new front office has pushed the SD logo.

Mel: They didn’t put the SD on the side of the home jersey because they were going for a more traditional look, and I wouldn’t prefer that since it’s exactly what the Tigers do. That “traditional” remark segues nicely into that discussion. You made it clear earlier you weren’t a fan of the classic design, calling it “flat.”

I enjoy that simplicity to a degree, but the Padres aren’t a traditional team and shouldn’t try to be. On the other hand, I am a fan of finding something that works, is distinctive, then sticking with it. Perhaps a simple design offers a better chance of finding a jersey that can withstand trends and pass the test of time. That said, “This chance is the last change, we promise!” isn’t exactly believable.

Ray: I don’t think the team shares your interest in finding something distinctive. It’s almost too appropriate that the Padres brought out these new uniforms in the same offseason that the Marlins completely overhauled their look and the Blue Jays took a serious nod to their relatively immediate history. Those two teams have declared their individuality (in their own ways) while the Padres have blended in.

Mel: Agreed.

We both prefer some version of brown, aside from that happening, we have different ideas about the direction the team should go. Neither of us are in love with the redesign.

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Are you saying “boo” or “Boo-rnes?”

November 7th, 2011 by

As you surely have heard by now, Jed “Hopey Changey” Hoyer has departed for the warm embrace of Theo Epstein’s bosom in the north side of Chicago, leaving the Padres with Josh Byrnes calling the shots. I want to get one thing out of the way first: I’m a Jed fan. It might just be that he was the first Padres GM in fifteen years willing to take the hit and commit to a youth movement, but that’s enough for me. Nothing frustrated me more with Kevin Towers than his refusal to think ahead. Go through KT’s history and tell me if you find an eight-month period that saw an injection of prospects like the one we saw thanks to the Adrian Gonzalez and Mike Adams trades. Or, instead of doing that, you could just go straight to 1999 and look at what Towers brought back from the World Series fire sale. SPOILER ALERT: Woody Williams, Ryan Klesko, Bret Boone, or: a median age of about 30. Even as he dismantled the 1998 NL Champion team, Towers still couldn’t bring himself to get younger talent in return. I don’t think I need to tell you what happened the following five years.

Now Jed’s gone and while I’ve already looked into other teams to follow (adios Reagins), I’m still a Padres fan and I have to turn the page. Josh Byrnes is not a terrible replacement by any means. He’s experienced and he was promoted from within, which means he knows the system. To hear a large segment of the population speak on the subject, Byrnes is essentially the same GM as Hoyer. They’re both well-regarded and they’re both former acolytes of Epstein (though I suppose Jed’s not “former” anymore). The name might be different but ultimately, the Padres still have the same GM who will run the system the same.

I don’t buy that.

One of the reasons I fell in love with Jed in the first place is that he came in as a blank slate. Having never had the big job before, we could project whatever we wanted to see onto him. Byrnes, on the other hand, comes with the bulky baggage of reality. In four and a half years in Arizona, Byrnes built up a resume that we can pour over to make more educated judgements than we did around this time two years ago. I did just that, and here’s what I came away with:

Josh Byrnes has more in common as a GM with Kevin Towers than he does with Jed Hoyer.

While things weren’t exactly the same in Arizona, they weren’t all that different either. Byrnes has now taken over two teams hovering near the bottom with promising minor league systems. To give you an idea of what Arizona’s system looked like heading into the 2006 season, here’s their top 10 prospects list from that year, according to Baseball America:

1. Stephen Drew, ss
2. Conor Jackson, 1b
3. Carlos Quentin, of
4. Carlos Gonzales, of
5. Dustin Nippert, rhp
6. Miguel Montero, c
7. Garrett Mock, rhp
8. Matt Torra, rhp
9. Micah Owings, rhp
10. Sergio Santos, ss

And this list does not include the drafted-but-not-yet-signed Justin Upton. Including Baby Bossman, that list has combined for 69.3 wins above replacement. Byrnes would go on to add Chris Young, acquiring the center fielder from the White Sox in just his second month on the job. It was the last time that Byrnes would acquire proper young talent in a trade for four years.

This is where I note that only 43.9 of those wins worked out in the Diamondbacks’ favor. Carlos Quentin was notoriously moved to the White Sox before the 2008 season (“How you like them apples?” -Kenny Williams) to make room for Eric Byrnes (no relation), who then owner Jeff Moorad personally signed to a three-year deal. Less than two weeks later, Byrnes then sent the other Carlos, Carlos Gonzalez, to Oakland in a deal for Dan Haren, who was and is a great pitcher. Many people would argue that this trade was a win for Byrnes–but as a fan of the small market team that he just took over, I’m not one of them. Since the trade, Gonzalez (who wasn’t traded straight up) has amassed 13.8 WAR to Haren’s 23.4, but he’s also made roughly $30 million less. The Rockies (and the A’s, but mostly the Rockies) have paid about $160 thousand per win while the Diamondbacks and Angels have spent $1.4 million. Which leads me to my point.

The Padres are in a better place now than they were when Hoyer took over. He brought in smart guys and together they built a top 10 minor league system for the Padres. I have no doubt that Byrnes will keep things in order, but keep this in mind: in 2006, Byrnes’ first year in charge, Baseball America ranked Arizona’s minor league system as the best in baseball. In 2010, Byrnes’ last year in charge, it ranked 28th. The Padres’ system doesn’t have as far to fall but if this thing is going to work, Byrnes is going to have to learn how to keep his pistol in its holster. If you catch my obvious allusion.

The Rays were criticized earlier this year for being too passive in their dealings. But guess what – they made the playoffs and are a safe bet to do it again in 2012. They may never be World Series favorites but they’ve put themselves in a situation in which they have a realistic chance every year, even if it’s never a great chance one particular year. Playing in St. Peterburg, that is simply the reality of their situation. And unfortunately, it’s not that different from the reality Josh Byrnes faces now.

Uncle Jeff has made it clear that the bottom line is king here in San Diego. In a couple of years, we’ll reach our cruising altitude of a $70 million payroll, which would put the team in the bottom third of the league in payroll right now. By the time the team reaches that mark, I wonder if the Padres will be able to keep out of the bottom fifth in payroll. Things are going to get frustrating, and then they’re going to stay frustrating, and the Padres are going to need a steady hand at the wheel. It sure seemed like Jed Hoyer had one, but he’s gone and now it’s up to Josh Byrnes, who never showed one in Arizona.

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