Throughout the years that the Padres have been playing at Petco Park, which, by the way, is hard to believe it’s already the 10th season, they have always been known for pitching and defense. It’s well-documented that during the years when the Padres were winning and competing for the NL West title, it was not because they were waiting on the three-run homer. The Padres usually rely on consistent starting pitching and a stifling, shutdown bullpen. More times than not, it was the offense that would struggle to pick up the slack and take some pressure off of the pitching staff.
In 2013, I think we may have a little bit of a role reversal. Consider the Padres probable opening day starting lineup:
1. Cameron Maybin- CF
2. Everth Cabrera/Alexi Amarista- SS
3. Chase Headley- 3B
4. Carlos Quentin- LF
5. Yonder Alonso- 1B
6. Jedd Gyorko- 2B
7. Nick Hundley- C (Yasmani Grandal after his 50 game suspension)
8. Will Venable/Chris Denorfia/Kyle Blanks- RF
Call me crazy, but that is really not that bad of a lineup. In fact, I think it’s vastly underrated as far as league-wide perception goes.
While the Padres were only 23rd in the league last season in runs scored (651) and 22nd in team batting average (.247), they were much better during the second half of the season. I think this lineup, with its combination of speedsters, contact hitters, and power guys, can continue where they left off in 2012 and be very productive with getting guys on base and driving them in.
Additionally, I think the moved-in fences at Petco Park will provide hitters with not only a physical advantage at the plate, but also a psychological advantage. In previous years, Padre hitters had admitted they felt intimidated by Petco’s spacious dimensions. Now, hitters know they are not at such a disadvantage, and should go to the plate more relaxed.
So as we approach the middle of spring training and with less than three weeks until opening day, the question for me is can the starting rotation remain stable and healthy enough to give the offense enough support? The recent developments with starting pitcher Casey Kelly does not help, as it’s feared that he may need Tommy John surgery. Kelly was projected to contribute in the rotation at some point this season, and was even thought to perhaps begin the season as the 4th or 5th stater for the Padres. Andrew Cashner is healthy and looks good so far, but Bud Black will likely bring him along slowly, as he has had a history of injuries. Other young guys like Anthony Bass, Eric Stults, Tyson Ross, and others are all vying to win spots in the rotation, but they are generally unproven at the major league level, with the exception of Bass to a certain extent.
We’ll see if Bud Black can work some magic and create a winning formula on the mound, but it will definitely be a challenge. And for the first time in a while, I am more confident in the Padres offense than pitching.
What do you think Padre fans?