This 2-8 start by the Padres has been pretty darn ugly to watch to say the least. Not sure what has been worse though: The losing games where the Offense only gets two hits, scoring 0 runs in innings where the first two batters reach safely, walking 4 straight batters with two outs in the final half frame to drop the game, or being struck with a fluke triple play. Regardless, it has not been a picnic to watch, and I’m sure it has not been a picnic for the Padres to play in and lose in the fashion they have over the last couple weeks. Probably the biggest disappointment so far this season to watch (besides Nick Hundley going oh-pher until yesterday) has been the production of San Diego’s Outfielders since the season began, especially at the plate. In spite of the lack of production by most of the Padres’ Outfield, Right/Center/Left Fielder Chris Denorfia has done well enough so far to warrant some more playing time in my opinion. Thus, today I will discuss why I believe Denorfia should be getting more playing time, as well as discuss the Padres’ current situation in the Outfield. Let’s move on shall we:
Injuries Have Decimated Depth Chart
In terms of their situation in the Outfield, San Diego has been hit hard by injuries to those which were pegged as vital contributors and starters this season. It has not helped at all that new-comer Carlos Quentin, the guy supposed to supply consistent power and man Left Field, went down with a knee injury in Spring Training and has yet to make his regular season debut. Granted, Quentin will be returning soon, but his absence has been felt up and down the lineup because a consistent clean-up hitter has yet to emerge. Kyle Blanks was thought to help in the power department and help out in Left Field and at First Base, but his production has been limited to 4 games worth of participation and 1 Hit in 5 At-Bats due to a injury. As of now, Blanks has been placed on the 15-Day DL with a shoulder strain, and he likely won’t be seeing the field until May. And veteran Mark Kotsay, also expected to contribute in Left and at First has been hampered by a strained calf and has yet to play for the Padres in the regular season. Injuries aside, San Diego has gotten adequate production from any of their full-time starters in the Outfield so far this season.
Inconsistency at the Plate for Regulars
After a season where he emerged as the Padres best and most consistent hitter during the 2nd Half of the season, utility-man deluxe Jesus Guzman, has fallen somewhat back to Earth in the early going this season as he has logged a .162 Batting Average in 37 At-Bats with 3 Walks to 11 K’s and only 2 Extra Base Hits to his name (both Doubles). Guzman’s attempt thus far to fill Quentin’s spot has not gone well, but his other Outfield mates have been on the inconsistent side as well.
Fresh off of signing a huge extension this off-season, Cameron Maybin has not fared much better than Guzman as he has posted a .175 Batting Average in 40 At-Bats, with 1 Home Run, 1 Triple, but only a 3 to 13 Walk to Strikeout ratio. The speedy Centerfielder has stolen 3 Bases to lead the team, but a .267 OBP from the lead-off man is not something that will get it done for an Offense that is as anemic as the Padres’ is and has been.
Finally, Will Venable has had a ho-hum start to the 2012 campaign and batted .269 with 1 Home Run, 2 RBI’s and one Double in 26 At-Bats. Not terrible stats by any means considering how paltry the rest of his team’s Offensive production has been, but nevertheless nothing to put Venable in the running for the All-Star Game.
Denorfia’s Stats So Far
While the rest of his Outfield mates have struggled at the dish (less so for Venable), Denorfia is actually making the most out of his chances so far this season. In 18 At-Bats, Denorfia is hitting .278, four of his 5 Hits have been for Extra Bases, including 1 Home Run to take the lead in their last victory, he has driven in 4 Runs, drawn 4 Walks, scored 4 Runs, and not Struck Out once. In addition, Denorfia is leading the Padres in Slugging Percentage (.611), On Base + Slugging Percentage (1.020), and ranks third behind backups Jeremy Hermida and Chris Baker in On Base Percentage (.409).
While not flashy, Denorfia has produced when his number has been called, and most importantly he has produced when he has gone up to hit. A task that especially Maybin and Guzman have been having trouble with through the first 10 games. If there is anything that the Padres are in need of now, it is consistency at the plate, and guys that can get on base. Denorfia seems to be San Diego’s best bet in those two categories currently, and it would not hurt if he were inserted in the line-up more often.
What to Do?
As I stated previously, it could be a good idea to let Denorfia see some more playing time. The team is already 2-8 and lost in some of the most embarrassing fashion possible, and guys like Maybin and Guzman are struggling (along with the rest of the lineup, the only reason I’m singling them out is because they are Outfielders and this article is about Outfielders). Who knows though? Maybe Denorfia starting a game or two in Center of Left Field will jolt Guzman and/or Maybin into getting out of their slumps. I’m not talking about benching these guys full-time though. Both have earned their spots on the roster and still should continue to start. I’m simply suggesting that Bud Black and the rest of the Coaching Staff find ways to get Denorfia in games because he has played the most consistent baseball of any of the Outfielders which were pegged to play in front of him and are still healthy.
But those are my two cents on the matter. What are yours readers? Should Deno get more playing time? Or should he continue to be a super-sub that spot starts?