As you probably know by now, the Padres managed to take two of three games against the second-place San Francisco Giants in a key road series for San Diego, winning the final game decisively, coming out on top by one in the series opener, and just losing in extra innings in the middle game.
Normally, I’d just give a quick recap and move on to the next series preview (which I have to get done in the next few hours), but the Giants series was so important that it deserves closer examination. I think it showed us quite a bit about this Padres team, so let’s look at some of the more important developments that series unveiled.
I’ve been spouting off about the Padres being very good against offspeed stuff for awhile now, and that was vividly on display in this series. Jonathan Sanchez wasn’t particularly effective against San Diego, mainly because he doesn’t throw his offspeed stuff for strikes. Most teams chase that stuff; the Padres don’t. Just one of his thirteen breaking pitches drew a swing and miss; his normal whiff rate is about double that. He also got lower swinging-strike rates on his fastball and changeup, mainly because the Padres simply swung at easier pitches to hit, not stuff in the dirt.
The Padres’ good approach was also clear against Tim Lincecum. Lincecum normally throws his killer changeup for strikes over 70% of the time, but he barely broke 60% with it against the Padres, mainly because the Friars’ offense wasn’t going to chase the pitch as much as most teams. His breaking ball also had zero impact, so Lincecum was left with his mediocre low-90′s fastball and the changeup, which just isn’t enough to fool batters consistently (just look at a similarly-built AL righty, Rich Harden).
In short, the fact that the Padres seem to recognize offspeed stuff well looks like a huge benefit to the team.
The series win has now pushed the Padres to an 84% shot at winning the West, and a 90% chance at making the postseason in some fashion, according to AccuScore, which has been extremely pessimistic about the Padres all year. To put that in perspective, the Padres now have a better shot at October baseball than the Yankees, Rays, or anyone in the NL. They’ve now opened up an unbelievable 10-game lead on the Dodgers, which is kind of hilarious when you consider the kamikaze run LA was on at the deadline. Colorado is also a safe 8 1/2 back.
Anyway, it’s a huge series win for the Padres. Their approach at the plate was sound, the pitching was great (as usual), and they shut up a Giants team that went in with all sorts of bravado (at least Sanchez did, anyway). Onto a four-game set with the Cubs!