First of all, before you read my article, check out Justin’s piece from yesterday on Padres’ epic draft bust and the recently arrested Matt Bush. Justin chronicled Bush’s “fall from grace” and discussed the impact Bush left on the Padres’ organization and how many great stars San Diego passed up (Justin Verlander, Jered Weaver, etc.) because of their poor decision making and frugality.
Bush’s recent recidivist behavior aside, my article today will take on a much different subject matter: San Diego’s Offense and what they can do to improve in 2012. Today I hope to answer and discuss the following questions: What can San Diego’s Offense do well? What areas can they realistically improve upon this season? And how can go about bettering their Offensive output with the players they have?
Padres and their 2011 “Offense”
I don’t think I need to remind you readers about how anemic San Diego’s Offensive output was last season. In 2011, the Padres ranked 29th in Team Batting Average (.237), Total Bases (1,888), OPS (.653), 28th in Team OBP (.305), Total Runs (593), and dead last in Home Runs (91). Add to that the fact that San Diego registered the 2nd most K’s in the League (1,320), and you have a recipe for one of the sorriest Offensive outputs in team history.
Sub-par output in 2011 aside, there is one thing that the Padres did extremely well on a consistent basis last season: Stealing Bases and Baserunning. In 2011, San Diego led the entire League in Stolen Bases with 170 and had (and still has) their top 4 leaders in that statistical category on their roster this season: Cameron Maybin swiped 40, Will Venable stole 26, Jason Bartlett had 23, and Orlando Hudson collected 19.
I’m sure that I don’t need to remind you readers that stealing bases the ultimate threat to steal bases is a perfect way for a team to put pressure on the opposition’s Defense and Pitching Staff. Unfortunately, San Diego’s base-stealing prowess was not put to good use last season because of how bad the Offense was in the statistical categories of OBP, Runs, Total K’s, Total Walks (Ranked 15th in League with 501) and Batting Average. Even with speedsters, intelligent base-runners, and a First Base Coach and Base Stealing “guru” like Dave Roberts, a team like San Diego cannot put consistent pressure on the opposition if they cannot get on base.
How Do The Padres Improve OBP and Offensive Output and Who Needs to Step Up?
Let’s face it, San Diego will not be a power hitting team in 2012. Petco Park was not built as a launching pad for Home Runs, and it will never be that way as long as the dimensions are the way that they are. Nevertheless, the key to the Padres Offensive success is not going to be hitting a 3-Run Homer every game at Home (or on the Road for that matter). They will have to play to their strengths, and the best way for them to get the most out of their Offense will be getting their runners in motion after they get on base. Thus, San Diego will need to have it’s best and most potent base running threats improve their OBP’s, Strikeout to Walk ratios, and other player specific things. Will it be easy? Probably not, but it is something which can and needs to happen.
Probably the biggest key will be solid production from the leadoff spot and Will Venable who is having a fantastic Spring thus far. Getting Venable to improve upon his .246 Batting Average, .310 OBP from 2011 and lower his 96 Strikeouts to 31 Walks ratio is of the utmost importance. Venable’s production this Spring has been high, and it seems that he has the starting Right Field spot on lockdown. If Venable wishes to keep playing every day and make a difference on Offense, he must improve upon his .174 Batting Average from last season against Left Handed pitching as well. Getting in the neighborhood of 500 total At Bats this season as a leadoff hitter with any sort of improvement in OBP could lead to Venable swiping 40-50 bases this season. Venable however cannot do it alone, and Maybin, Bartlett, and Hudson must pick up the slack as well.
Eliminating the Strikeouts will be the biggest thing that Maybin, Bartlett, and Hudson improve upon this season. Combined, the three players Struck Out 307 times, and to make matters worse they only Walked 141 times. Their OBP’s were less than stellar as well, as Hudson led the three with a pedestrian .329 OBP (Maybin: .323, Bartlett: .308). Getting these guys’ OBP’s raised at least into .340′s must happen. The more chances to get on base the more chances to steal. The more chances to steal will give the opposing Pitchers something to think about. Then, that’s when good things happen for the rest of the Offense.
Losing Carlos Quentin for 4-6 weeks is a huge blow, but if Pitchers are preoccupied with runners on base, guys like Chase Headley, Yonder Alonso, Jesus Guzman and Kyle Blanks can make the opponents pay with some pop and some consistent hitting. The more guys on base will create more opportunities for run producing situations, and inevitably more chances to improve the team’s situational hitting as a whole.
Sure, seeing the Padres’ Home Run totals jump up by 100 or so would be awesome. But, they simply don’t have the personnel or the ballpark to do it. Still, they do have personnel that with just a little improvement and good health to stay with them throughout the year, can take the things which they do in fact do well and manufacture runs and become a better run producing ball club.
It’s not going to take a miracle by any means to see an increased output Offensively from this team, because there is basically nowhere to go but up in 2012. Furthermore, the Padres’ Starting Staff and Bullpen might not have house-hold names, but are both very underrated groups which are capable of consistent and efficient outings and work. The Pitching Staff will keep San Diego in games this season, much like they did in 2010 and even last year. It will be up to the table-setters like Venable, Bartlett, Maybin, and Hudson however to produce at a higher level this season Offensively. In my mind, they are the ones most capable of getting this team’s Offense rolling in 2012. They are the ones which make the Pitchers and Defense nervous on the basepaths, they just have to actually get on the basepaths on a consistent basis. If that happens, San Diego will markedly improve upon their sad 2011 Offensive output.
(Stats Courtesy of ESPN.com and http://www.baseball-reference.com/)