Padres Rotation Analysis

Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The beginning of the 2013 season was marked by painful showings from the pitching staff. In Edinson Volquez’s first three starts, he made it through the 4th inning only once. He was 0-3 with an 11.68 ERA. In Clayton Richard’s first five starts, he lost three games and made it through the 6th inning once. Neither one survived the season. Andrew Cashner was pitching out of the bullpen, and recent acquisition Tyson Ross was injured. The Padres started the season 5-15. After that dreadful April, Andrew Cashner was inserted in the rotation. Ross made his way back, working out of the bullpen until he was 100%.

That April marked one of two low points in the Padres’ 2013 season, the other being the 10-game losing streak from games 51-61. Cashner lifted the team in his next 25 starts, posting a sterling 3.01 ERA. Cashner’s highlight of the season included a near-perfect game against Pittsburgh in which he faced the minimum amount of hitters.

On trade deadline day, the Padres made a quiet pick-up, adding former Cy Young Award candidate Ian Kennedy in exchange for Joe Thatcher and Matt Stites, a couple of relievers. In Kennedy’s next 10 starts, the Padres won 6 games. Kennedy posted an ERA of 4.24 and struck out 55 in 57 innings.

Around the same time, youngster Tyson Ross made his way back into the rotation, starting 13 more games in which he struck out 85 and posted an ERA of 2.93. The 26-year old Berkeley native was acquired from the Oakland A’s in exchange for infielder Andy Parrino and starter Andrew Werner. Neither of them have performed well since the deal.

Two young pitchers in particular excelled in 2013, Burch Smith, a former 10th round pick in the draft and Robert Erlin, acquired for Mike Adams. Smith started in High A, before showing that he was much better than the competition there, posting an ERA under 2.00. He continued his excellence at Double-A, enabling him to be called up by the pitching starved Padres who had just lost Clayton Richard to injury. His first stint in the big leagues didn’t last long. He didn’t make it out of the second inning in two of his starts. After refinement of his pitches in Triple-A and a quick trip to the majors as reliever depth, he was given another spot in the rotation. In his four September starts, Smith posted a 3.80 ERA and struck out 31 (7.25 per start).

Erlin, the other young starter, also finished the season stronger than he started it. The 22-year old rookie had a few mediocre starts in the majors followed by a shuttle back to Tucson. But the real Erlin came out in the way he finished the season. In 5 starts, he posted a 1.97 ERA and struck out 24. His control was also sharp, as he only walked 7 batters in 32.0 innings. I had the privilege of being able to attend his start in Atlanta against the Braves, and he was on top of his game, only surrendering two runs (including a home run to Freddie Freeman).

The Padres, after starting the season off poorly, have something to look forward to next season. Specifically a possible breakout season from Burch Smith or Robbie Erlin. Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross figure to lead the rotation, with Ian Kennedy and a rehabbing Cory Luebke to fill out the next two slots. Erlin and Smith are expected to fight over the 5th slot in the rotation, but Luebke has had many setbacks and 6-man rotations aren’t unheard of.

 

Bottom Line: Expect Improvement

Topics: Andrew Cashner, Burch Smith, Robbie Erlin, San Diego Padres, Tyson Ross

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  • ballybunion

    Good heavens, did you forget Eric Stults? It may be time to start thinking about having a couple lefties in the rotation, and Stults/Erlin look like the prime candidates. I wouldn’t count on Luebke, since he hasn’t pitched for nearly two years, and probably needs some time in the minors to relearn how to pitch, as might Wieland. I see a Cashner/Ross/Stults/Kennedy/Erlin rotation as the best bet to start next season, with Smith, Oramas, and Wisler as the most likely fill-ins stashed in El Paso, with Luebke, Wieland, and Kelly recovering in San Antonio.

    • Noah Eli

      I like Stults, but I’m not loving him in the rotation with some of the more high upside arms. Stults has been very consistent but struggled at the end of last season. Now Johnson was thrown into the mix, so maybe a Johnson/Cashner/Ross/Kennedy/Erlin or Luebke or Stults rotation. Who knows?

      • ballybunion

        Yeah, Stults isn’t exactly a major talent, but Bud Black likes him as the token veteran lefty in the rotation who eats innings and keeps the team in games. If Robbie Erlin’s last five starts of the season (1.97 ERA) is any indication, Stults might just be the bullpen lefty the Padres need, even if they can get Thatcher back. I’m not depending on Luebke until he has some innings under his belt. He and Wieland may be back to where they were healthwise, but both need innings in the minors to work on their form. It took Tommy John a year and a half to recover, but he didn’t get his sharpness back until his second year after the surgery. With Josh here for only a year, Luebke could be the second lefty in the rotation in 2015.

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