With Anthony Rizzo‘s trade, the Padres picked up what should be an immediate help for the bullpen in Andrew Crashner. They’ve also acquired the arms of Cory Burns, Brad Boxberger, and Huston Street this off-season. The question now is whether or not they’re done.
Many people are looking for some more offense out of this team. They have been hoping for another bat. However, it looks like the Padres are content with the additions of Carlos Quentin, John Baker, Yonder Alonso, and Mark Kotsay*. Josh Byrnes has said in multiple interviews the team is looking for pitching, and the age old phrase “you can never have too much pitching” seems to be the battle cry from San Diego. And maybe that’s alright.
It’s difficult to compare Padres teams that played at San Diego Stadium – then Jack Murphy – then Qualcomm to the ones that have played at Petco Park. Petco’s proximity to the ocean, its large outfield, and its quirky play make it unique. So any exercise in comparison of teams before 2004 would be relatively futile. With that in mind, let’s look at what made the successful Padres teams since 2004 so successful.
On the offensive side of things, the Padres ranked eighth in runs scored in the National League. They ranked 14th in home runs. They ranked 10th in slugging. However, they ranked third in hits and sixth in OBP. The effect on power numbers was almost instantly clear in San Diego’s new ball park, but the team was still able to rake out some hits.
San Diego’s pitching fared slightly better. They ranked fifth in ERA, fourth in earned runs, eighth in batting average against, and seventh in strikeouts. Their pitching numbers were consistently good across the board.
The Padres run production dropped quite a bit in 2005. They found themselves ranked 13th in the National League in runs scored. They also ranked 13th in home runs. This of course pushed their slugging percentage down, and the team ranked next to last in slugging.
However, the pitching remained constant. They ranked seventh in ERA, sixth in saves, eight in earned runs, seventh in batting average against, and fifth in strikeouts. Oh, and they won the National League West.
Another division crown in 2006. The offense, though, had little to do with it. San Diego ranked 13th in runs scored, 12th in home runs, and 14th in slugging. Their only saving grace may have been their OBP, but they still ranked ninth in that category.
On the other hand, the pitching was fantastic. They ranked first in ERA, first in saves, third in shutouts, first in earned runs, first in batting average against, and they issued the second fewest walks in the NL.
This was a heartbreaking season that saw Colorado overtake the Padres and go on to the World Series. Yet, even with all the success of 2007, the Padres formula for success did not rely heavily on offense. The team was ninth in runs scored, seventh in home runs (which was surprising), just 15th in OBP, and 13th in slugging.
Their pitching ranked first in ERA again, fourth in saves, first in shutouts (by a wide margin), first in earned runs, second in batting average against, and fifth in strikeouts.
2010 was the season of lightning in a bottle. A team no one expected to compete held onto first for most of the year. They also had the best record in baseball for a good chunk of that time. However, once again, the accolades rested more with the pitching than the offense. The Padres ranked 12th in runs scored, 12th in home runs, 13th in OBP, and 15th in slugging.
The pitching once again shined. San Diego ranked second in ERA, second in saves, second in shutouts, second in earned runs, second in batting average against, and second in strikeouts. Interestingly enough, in many of these categories, the Giants ranked first and beat out the Padres for the Western crown on the final day of the season.
Let’s be clear. Offense is important. However, the Padres have shown in their time at Petco that pitching can be far more important to the team’s success. Therefore, adding bullpen arms and starting pitching makes sense for the Padres. In 2011, the Padres still ranked third in ERA, but they fell all the way to 10th in shutouts, fifth in batting average against, and ninth in strikeouts. The pitching wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t of the caliber that helped the Padres to five winning seasons between 2004-2010.
If the off-season additions of some of the pitching help the Padres acquired can bump the club up in the rankings, I would expect another winning season. If not, they should still improve on 2011’s results.