I was hoping to write about the Padres’ game today, but it got rained out, so there goes that idea.
Instead, I’m going to do a difficult and ultimately meaningless exercise: attempting to figure out how many games San Diego will win in 2010.
There are a lot of ways to go about this. I’m going to go about it by figuring out how far above or below average each unit is, assuming “average” units everywhere will mean 81 wins.
Chris Young, Kevin Correia, and Jon Garland are all serviceable starting pitchers, but they make a much better 3-4-5 punch than a 1-2-3 punch. I’ve already expressed a lack of faith in Clayton Richard, who I see as a marginal fifth starter.
As you can see, we’re off to a roaring start.
However, Mat Latos and Sean Gallagher are two young hurlers that could surprise in 2010. Gallagher is a bit of a question mark given his 2009 health troubles, but I think Latos could be the gem of the San Diego rotation this season.
Of course, there’s also the Petco factor, which will make everyone look better.
If the Padres take Gallagher over Richard, there’s some hope this rotation can approach league average. Still, it’s clearly below average right now (in my opinion, anyway).
The lack of a real #1 or #2 starter is very obvious. At least the rotation is fairly deep, so it shouldn’t be a Nationals-level disaster, but I think we’re looking at a rotation around 23rd-25th in the majors (that’s off the top of my head; I didn’t actually see how many are worse than this).
The news isn’t all bad. This unit is exceptional.
Heath Bell may be traded at some point during the year, but he’ll be excellent as long as he’s in uniform. Mike Adams, Joe Thatcher, and Luke Gregerson are three of the most underrated relievers in the game.
There’s plenty of depth behind the “Big Four,” with Ed Mujica, Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, Ryan Webb, Luis Perdomo, and others (including possibly Gallagher or Richard) all able to contribute solid pitching.
The bullpen is the best area of the team. Since bullpens pitch fewer innings than starters, I don’t know if the pen cancels out the starting rotation’s issues all the way to being an average pitching staff overall, but they certainly get close.
I’m going to say the pitching staff is probably 2-3 games below average overall.
Kyle Blanks is an above-average hitter no matter what position he plays.
Adrian Gonzalez will be great, but like Bell, he’ll probably be traded at some point during the season, so the duration of his excellent contribution is in question.
I’m not excited at all about David Eckstein and Jerry Hairston at second base; a sub-.350 SLG appears in order, at least until Logan Forsythe takes over.
Beyond that, there’s the Petco factor, which decreases offense, and a whole bunch of roughly average contributors.
Yorvit Torrealba/Nick Hundley at catcher? Chase Headley at third? Will Venable in right? Everth Cabrera at short? Tony Gwynn and Scott Hairston in a CF platoon?
None of these situations screams “well below the positional average of offense” but none of those batters are about to hit .320, post a .400 OBP, or knock 30 balls over the fence.
Collectively, this seems to be maybe 5 games below average, largely due to the home park.
The Padres aren’t a particularly interesting team defensively. The grand Kyle Blanks, Left Fielder experiment aside, there are no Gold Glove defenders around, but no Jack Cust/Adam Dunn-level butchers either.
Torrealba and Hundley are fine behind the plate. Gonzalez is a tick above average at first. Eckstein and Hairston are roughly average at second. Cabrera struggled at short last year, but he should improve. Headley’s fine at third.
Blanks is a better defender than his body suggests, but he’s below average in Petco’s spacious left field. Hairston, Gwynn, and Venable are very good defenders, although the sheer amount of ground they have to cover raises the bar somewhat.
I guess this defense is 1-2 games above average.
The “pitching and defense” part of the Padres is about 1 game below average, largely thanks to Petco Park. The offense is about 5 games below average, also largely thanks to Petco Park.
And that comes out to…another 75-win season. It might not be a very original prediction, but it sounds about right given the talent on hand.