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The Padres top 10 prospects (according to the fans)

March 9th, 2012 by

Yesterday, I posted a list of the consensus top 10 prospects in our system according to the experts but what do they know? Well, actually, a lot. Nevermind that point. But just because they know a lot doesn’t mean there’s nothing else to know. For instance, for all their knowledge, I’m not sure how personally invested the experts are in the Padres so with that in mind, I looked at the people who are and found out what they thought.

The following list is compiled from the opinons of Geoff Young, Mickey Koke, Peter Friberg, the teams at Padres Prospects and Mad Friars, and the miscreants at the UTSD forums.

But first a disclaimer, though not the one you were probably expecting. While all lists were either made or updated after the Rizzo and Latos trades, one list left Casey Kelly off of their top 30. Assuming that this list simply forgot him and doesn’t think he’s only the second best Kelly in our system, I had to use more frog DNA to figure things out.

01. Yonder Alonso, 1B

DOB: April 8, 1987
Projects to start 2012 at San Diego (MLB)

02. Yasmani Grandal, C
DOB: November 8, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

03. Robbie Erlin, SP
DOB: October 8, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

04. Rymer Liriano, OF
DOB: June 20, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Lake Elsinore (High-A)

05. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
DOB: September 23, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at San Antonio (Double-A)

06. Keyvius Sampson, SP
DOB: January 6, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Lake Elsinore (High-A)

07. Joe Wieland, SP

DOB: January 21, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

08. Jaff Decker, OF
DOB: February 23, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at San Antonio (Double-A)

09. Casey Kelly, SP
DOB: October 4, 1989
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

10. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
DOB: March 16, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Fort Wayne (Single-A)

A couple of things jump out. The fans expect more out of Robbie Erlin, as he ranked third on this list compared to tenth on the experts’. It make sense when you consider that Erlin has amazing numbers (career 1.15 BB/9) but lacks the tools of higher-end prospects and I’m not sure how often we fans got out to San Antonio.

The second thing that jumps out to me is that that the fans are not ready to believe in Hedges and Ross yet, which again makes sense when you consider access to in-person evaluation. Ross only has one professional inning under his belt while Hedges only has 34 plate appearances. I know I’m very excited for Hedges but I agree with the listmakers who’d like to see him do something before really getting on-board.

In place of Hedges and Ross, the fans put Decker and Sampson on the list, which I absolutely agree with. A bad rap seems to have stuck itself to Decker and he’s had a hard time proving that he’s no longer the stocky high schooler the Padres drafted in 2008. He won’t sell many jeans but as we all should know now, that’s not the point.

Finally, I just want to note that the top three on this list were one vote apart each, with Liriano not that far behind at four. If you’re looking for sweeping generalizations, it’s this: Alonso, Grandal, and Liriano are the stars of this system. For anyone looking for a bandwagon to get on, you’ve got three right there.

Posted in the seminary | 1 Comment »

The Padres top 10 prospects (according to the experts)

March 8th, 2012 by

As you (also) already knew, Keith Law over at ESPN named our farm system the best in baseball this winter. But who’s the best prospect in the best system? As I’ve never attended a minor league game before in my life, I have no idea but the internet is full of people who do. Specifically, Matt Eddy, Kevin Goldstein, Law, Jonathan Mayo, and John Sickels and these five give us the consensus you’re about to read.

But first, a disclaimer. Not all of these lists were published after the Latos trade that brought over Alonso and Grandal, or the trade that sent Rizzo to Chicago, so a little bit of frog DNA had to be used. It may not be the most accurate list (of different people’s opinions) but I think it’s close enough.

01. Rymer Liriano, OF
DOB: June 20, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Lake Elsinore (High-A)

02. Yonder Alonso, 1B
DOB: April 8, 1987
Projects to start 2012 at San Diego (MLB)

03. Yasmani Grandal, C
DOB: November 8, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

04. Casey Kelly, SP
DOB: October 4, 1989
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

05. Jedd Gyorko, 3B
DOB: September 23, 1988
Projects to start 2012 at San Antonio (Double-A)

06. Cory Spangenberg, 2B
DOB: March 16, 1991
Projects to start 2012 at Fort Wayne (Single-A)

07. Joe Wieland, SP
DOB: January 21, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

08. Joe Ross, SP
DOB: May 21, 1993
Projects to start 2012 at Eugene (Low-A)

09. Austin Hedges, C
DOB: August 18, 1992
Projects to start 2012 at Fort Wayne (Single-A)

10. Robbie Erlin, SP
DOB: October 8, 1990
Projects to start 2012 at Tucson (Triple-A)

Notes:

  • Surprised to see Liriano at the top spot? He only came in first on Goldstein’s list, which was written before the Latos trade, so it looks like he benefited the most from the frog DNA.
  • Sickels and Mayo both ranked Alonso first but Law ranked him fifth.
  • Kelly was a divisive pick. He finished in three top threes but Goldstein and Sickels put him at seven and eight (respectively).
  • Keyvius Sampson actually received four top ten picks but none above seven and Law left him completely off his list.
  • James Darnell (Sickels) and Jaff Decker (Law) each received one tenth place vote.

Posted in the seminary | 3 Comments »

The Twenty-Five Million Dollar Man

March 4th, 2012 by

In case you haven’t heard, and you are doing it wrong if you’re using us for breaking news, the Padres and Cameron Maybin agreed on a five-year extension worth $25 million and an option for a sixth year. For the first time since 2007, the Padres have locked up a young player and made jersey-purchasing decisions easy for the rest of us.

This is a great moment for Padre fans but there is a question that I can’t quite shake: Who exactly did the Padres just lock up? Literally, they locked up Cameron Keith Maybin from Asheville, North Carolina but that’s not what I meant and you know it.

Comparisons are a big part of extensions and word is that extension talk got off to a slow start with Hoyer because he wasn’t happy with the comps Maybin’s agent was making. With a new GM, and a new agent for Maybin, those problems seem to have been cleared up but it still cuts to the heart of the mystique of Maybin.

Two months ago, MLB Trade Rumors looked into Maybin themselves and threw out the names Franklin Gutierrez, Jose Tabata, and Denard Span as comparisons. All three are defensive-minded outfielders with varying degrees of power even if none of the three will ever take part in a Home Run Derby. The three of them averaged five years and $17.25 million, so why did the Padres give Maybin eight million more?

At 6’3″ and 220 pounds, Maybin wears a mean pair of jeans. It’s easy to look at him and see Mike Cameron, a premiere defensive center fielder and perennial 25/25 guy. And it’s easy to think that Maybin sees himself the same way. When he’s at the plate, he takes hacks, which is a big reason why he struck 125 times last year. His career 25.5% K/9 is just a bit above Cameron’s 24.1%. However, whenever Cameron did make contact, he hit the ball in the air. When Maybin does, he keeps it on the ground. Over the course of his career, Maybin’s hit the ball on the ground 406 times, or 54.5%. Since 2009, the only player to hit the ball on the ground half the time (and this is out of 31 players) to average more than 20 home runs is Hunter Pence. Among the other 30 names, we see a lot of players like Elvis Andrus and the aforementioned Span. And Maybin actually comes in at eight, right behind Juan Pierre.

Fortunately, Maybin is incredibly fast so hitting on the ball isn’t that bad of an idea. Last year, he was second only to Ichiro in infield hits with 30. Maybe Bud Black should take a fictional page out of Lou Brown’s book and assign Maybin twenty pushups for every ball he hits in the air. You know, if that’s what he wants.

This could all be a moot point. Maybin could come in this year and smash shot after shot off of the Western Metal building. Or he could continue to do what he do and chase fifty steals in the process. Either way sounds good to me, I just hope nobody minds if it’s the latter, particularly the ones signing the checks.

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Mr. Petco

February 23rd, 2012 by

I’ve found the ultimate Petco player. That’s right, the Holy Grail.

Since Petco opened in 2004, we’ve all dreamed about finding players who are resistant to the brutal effects Petco has on hitters. You’ll remember that Barry Bonds, aka the best hitter of the past fifty years, called the park “baseball proof” and mortals have spent the past eight seasons proving him right. Josh Byrnes thinks Yonder Alonso and Carlos Quentin might have what it takes but I’m not so certain.

To find the perfect Petco player, I started by looking at what offense Petco does allow. According to this study done by Beyond the Box Score, Petco only favors walks (1.05) and triples (1.02) when it comes to offense. It also is fairly neutral on singles (0.98) and stolen bases (0.97), which leaves us with our criteria. You’ll notice that Quentin’s homers and Alonso’s doubles didn’t make the cut.

Making our search a little easier is the fact that triples, singles, and stolen bases all tend to be products of the same skill. Looking over the three-year numbers for speedsters from across the league, names like Dexter Fowler and Jose Reyes pop up, though they’re not quite as perfect as our guy.

Over the past three years, our guy has 39 triples, which leads the league, has hit 302 singles with only a .294 BABIP, drawn 168 walks and has stolen 78 bags with an 82% success rate. All of this with a career 4.1 UZR/150 in center. Sounds great, right? Wish he were a Padre?

You might want to sit down.

I’m not saying that the Padres should’ve hung onto Shane Victorino back in 2003 because things are never that simple. Who knows if a 22-year-old Victorino puts it together in San Diego the way the 25-year-old version did in Philadelphia. I’m just I wish they would’ve.

(Of course, Victorino has a career 65 OPS+ at Petco in 81 PA. Maybe the park really is simply baseball proof.)

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The Sacrifice Preview 2012 – First Base

February 14th, 2012 by

Two years ago, the big news of the offseason was the trade that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox. Coming off a 90-win season in which the Padres missed the playoffs by one game, everyone wondered if the team would regroup and go for it again–or play the averages and move their high-leverage superstar before it was too late. Then general manager Jed Hoyer chose the latter, sending Adrian off to the AL East in return for Casey Kelly, Anthony Rizzo, and Reymond Fuentes (and Eric Patterson but let’s forget about him). Rizzo was the heir to the first base throne, but he was only 21-years-old and still had some seasoning to buy him time. Hoyer went out and assembled a hybrid first baseman out of Brad Hawpe and Jorge Cantu. I don’t think I need to tell you that this plan went terribly. By late June, Hawpe was on the DL and Cantu was cut loose. This opened the way for Rizzo, who got off to a hot start hitting a triple in his first game and a home run in his third. That’s pretty much where the excitement ended, as Rizzo fell into a huge slump, eventually losing the starting job to Jesus Guzman, a 27-year-old minor league journeyman who jumped at the opportunity he was given. By the end of the year, Guzman was the team’s most productive hitter, despite having only the ninth most plate appearances on the team.

Heading into 2012 it looked like a battle was brewing between Rizzo and Guzman. Guzman had won the job on the field but Rizzo was the future and there wasn’t much for him to take away from another season in Tucson. As it turned out, new general manager Josh Byrnes had another idea. He brought in Yonder Alonso from the Reds. Just as Rizzo’s pedigree had been written by the size of the name he had been acquired for, Alonso’s status at the top of the food chain was strengthened by Mat Latos‘ corresponding move to Cincinnati. With a “QB controversy” brewing, Rizzo was shipped to the north side of Chicago and Alonso’s face was plastered all over Petco Park and other promotional materials. He’s the starter, with Guzman as his trusty number two.

Back when the two were coexisting Padres, a lot was made of the differing styles of Rizzo and Alonso. Rizzo was something of an all-or-nothing player, the kind who hits 30 home runs in a season while striking out 200 times, while Alonso is a doubles hitter who prefers to use the whole field. Given Petco Park’s ridiculous and worst in the majors left-handed home run split, the ballpark made the decision on whom to keep pretty easy. Even before the trade, the projections all pegged Alonso’s home run total in the teens. Names like Mark Grace and Wally Joyner were bandied about as comps for Alonso. You’ll remember Joyner as the bald-headed first baseman who contributed +10 WAR to the team during the heyday of the late-90s. And before his time in San Diego, Joyner was a heralded rookie for the California Angels, starting in the 1986 All-Star Game and coming in second to Jose Canseco in that year’s Rookie of the year voting. All-in-all, not a horrible path for Alonso to follow.

For his part, Alonso has promised an approach that will fit inside of the stadium, saying:

“I am not thinking 40 or 50 home runs when I’m thinking about hitting,” Alonso said earlier this week at Petco Park.

“A lot of left-handed hitters and first basemen are thinking home runs,” Alonso continued. “That’s not the type of left-handed hitter I am.

“When I look at Petco Park, I don’t see how far away the fences are. I see a lot of grass. I feel like this ballpark likes the kind of hitter I am.”

 Yonder not as important as hits to Alonso (what a headline)

Sounds good, right? Alonso’s not coming here as some dragon slayer but rather as just a man, a man with limitations like anyone else. (Melvin’s note: Dovahkiin!) The fences are too far out? Then F em, I’ll do my work inside the lines. Except, that’s a lot easier said than done. As a minor leaguer, Alonso had a .325 BABIP, which is a bit higher than the .281 mark that the Padres have averaged at Petco since its inception in 2004. The problem with Petco isn’t that it kills home runs, it’s that it kills everything that comes off the bat. Here’s how Petco’s splits breakdown for left-handed batters in some key categories:

  • HR – 59
  • 2B - 86
  • H - 90*

*That’s including triples, which I don’t think the 240 lb. Alonso will be hitting many of. Take out the three-baggers and the park factor drops to 81.

**The lower the number, the more difficult it is for hitters, with 100 as Major League average

It’s good that Alonso seems to be coming in with the right mindset because Petco is a mental monster that has left other top-rated prospects in its wake. The big question will be whether or not Alonso has the mental fortitude to power through if the hits aren’t dropping like he’s used to come Memorial Day.

Earlier, I mentioned that Grace and Joyner have been two names thrown out as comps for Alonso but those two are on one end of the spectrum. On the other, we have the likes of James Loney and Lyle Overbay, two other modest hitters who proved to be a little too modest. There are a handful of +2 WAR seasons between the two of them but it can’t be said that either truly delivered on the potential that they showed as top prospects.

With his likeness now welcoming fans to the park, it seems safe to say that the team will give Alonso every opportunity to prove himself as a major leaguer. Especially since he’ll also be proving that Josh Byrnes made the right call when he shipped away both Mat Latos and Anthony Rizzo to make room for him.

Posted in players, spring training | 1 Comment »

Trader Byrnes (alternate title: Josh Byrnes as Ray playing MVP Baseball 2005)

January 10th, 2012 by

Josh Byrnes is one bold dealer at the helm of the San Diego Padres. A cynic might make a reference gunslinging, but I’m not the type to say that.

Here’s my take on the Mat Latos / Anthony Rizzo trades.

“…we felt that Alonso might fare a little better at Petco Park. The acquisition of Alonso provided us the flexibility to make this trade and acquire a quality, young power arm in Cashner.”

The Anthony Rizzo trade intersects the Mat Latos trade in many ways, and they deserve to be viewed together. When Yonder Alonso was first acquired in that deal with the Cincinnati Reds, analysts were split on whether he, or incumbent Anthony Rizzo was the better long term investment at first base. Keith Law, for instance, prefers Rizzo’s upside, while prospect expert John Sickels questions Rizzo’s performance risk.

What is clear is that Josh Byrnes favors Alonso to Rizzo. So lets include that in a new breakdown of the two trades. When looked at on the whole, here are the benefits our Padres get in exchange for trading Mat Latos:

Yasmani Grandal, Brad Boxberger,  Andrew Cashner, Edinson Volquez, and the difference between Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso.

Allow me to summarize:

  • A catcher with an above average bat and an average glove — a rare player and excellent prospect no doubt, but not elite level
  • Two solid relievers with good upside but question marks
  • A once promising pitcher who may turn things around, but may have attitude issues
  • However you judge the difference between Anthony Rizzo and Yonder Alonso

That’s the price Josh Byrnes and the Padres paid for Mat Latos, an elite pitching talent who is a likely rotation anchor for years to come.

Looking at the two trades combined is like a black light in a living room. Mind expanding.

The key to the trade becomes the difference in value between the two first basemen, and consequently, our faith in the Padres front office in making that evaluation. If the value of Alonso over Rizzo isn’t much, it sure puts a damper those deals.

The difference

I’m relatively agnostic on the question of who is the preferred first baseman. Remember, the value doesn’t come from the player himself, but the difference between the two. I’m skeptical of the Padres clear choice of Alonso, no doubt, as public opinions from people I respect seemed pretty mixed on the issue of who is the better player. But none of those people work as the general manager of a baseball team, or have access to the resources available to those who do.

Rizzo

What grinds my gears is the “Rizzo has slow bat speed” amateur scouting crowd. Those opinions were of course shared only after Rizzo’s slow start. And it’s a common explanation to bad performance from the scouting peanut gallery. Poor results at the plate? Must be the bat speed. I’ll believe the bat speed analysis when you point it out it before a hitter’s average tanks.

So who is Anthony Rizzo? He probably has more upside than Alonso, but with less of a guarantee.

Cashner

As for Andrew Cashner, he could become a very good reliever, potentially a top closer. And for reasons I don’t understand, the baseball world still values such players highly, as evidenced by Jonathan Papelbon’s 4 year / $50 million deal with the Phillies. Still, teams, especially rebuilding teams, shouldn’t be trading top prospects or elite starters for relievers. I just don’t get it.

And yes, he throws 100mph. We know. That little factoid has become part of his name in every writeup, like Chris Young’s name became Chris Young (he’s 6’10”!). Besides, Fernando Rodney’s fastball averages the same speed as Cashner’s, and it would take more than a couple $5 beers to forget our sorrows if Rodney is what Cashner becomes. A little more in the way of analysis would be great, thanks.

Conclusion

The Latos trade made sense, but it still hurt (I think I’m missing an analogy to Padres fandom here). Lets hope Josh Byrnes’s analysis includes something his homeboy Jed Hoyer missed out on, because that difference will be the key to these trades.

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Josh Byrnes the Diamondback in the form of lines on a screen

December 5th, 2011 by

Josh Byrnes Diamondbacks Pythagorean Record and Farm System Ranking

Lets take an objective, simplified look at new Padres GM Josh Byrnes‘ career as a general manager. Above is a graphical timeline showing the Diamondbacks’ farm system as ranked by Baseball America, and the Diamondback’s team Pythagorean Record Rank (as calculated by Baseball-Reference) compared to the rest of the major leagues.

The graph is meant to simply and concretely stand on its own, so I’ll leave the interpretation to you.

Just kidding, no I won’t. Here’s what I think: the Diamondbacks did not see nearly enough major league success in exchange for a farm system that tanked so badly, and I don’t see where Jeff Moorad‘s high level of confidence in Josh Byrnes comes from.

Meanwhile, Jed Hoyer brought the Padres’ farm from near the bottom to the top, and was allowed to leave along with draft guru Jason McLeod after Jeff Moorad refused to match the Chicago Cubs’ contract offer to Hoyer.

With a payroll as low as the Padres’, and after losing their top two (arguably three) talent evaluators this offseason, the new regime has an uphill battle. As we’ve all heard, a “system” of scouts and processes is in place now. How long does that system last once the head is chopped off? What evidence is there that Josh Byrnes knows how to build, or at least maintain such a system? I would argue that the evidence shows the opposite, as Josh Byrnes decimated his previous farm club. To be fair, I’ll be watching the young Diamondback players Byrnes assembled before leaving to see if that trend reversed.

For a more in depth analysis of Byrnes in Arizona, see Geoff Young’s excellent piece at Baseball Prospectus. He’s higher on Byrnes than I am, which is an excellent sign considering Geoff’s experience and the level of detail in his analysis. I hope there’s more to Josh Byrnes than the big picture results he has shown with the Diamondbacks.

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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.

Posted in gripes | 6 Comments »

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.

Posted in hot stove | 1 Comment »

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