Apr 8, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; San Diego Padres catcher Yasmani Grandal (8) and first baseman Yonder Alonso (23) celebrate with designated hitter Tommy Medica (14) after scoring during the third inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego Padres off to a slow start, but Grandal and Gyorko Improving

Let it be perfectly clear that the season is still very early.  Through Tuesday, the Padres had still only played 7 baseball games.  They could win today’s doubleheader and all of a sudden be one of the hottest teams in baseball, winning 3 of their last 4 games and leaving Cleveland at 4-5!

Yet, as you watch the Padres, can you not notice the obvious facts?  The team struggles to get runners on base, plain and simple.  They are worse at bringing them home.

Case in point: Tuesday’s game.

Everth Cabrera led the game off with a double.  Great start.  If this were video game baseball and I needed a run I would do two bunts in a row to score him.  Unfortunately, nothing about watching the Padres is video game baseball except  Will Venable‘s defense and Seth Smith‘s first few at-bats.  So after the lead-off double, Smith strikes out.  Chase Headley flies to center.  Alonso lines out to left. Inning over.

In the top of third, they took this futility to a new level.  After a leadoff single by Alexi Amarista, he got to second on a pickoff move error to be put into scoring position.  He then gets picked off of second base on a heads up move by young Cleveland backstop Yan Gomes and a nice play by shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera.  Of course after this move Everth Cabrera doubles again.  Back to a runner in scoring position.  Seth Smith flyout, Headley grounds out to once again end the inning.  One inning, two hits, no runs.

So let’s go to work in the numbers to find the silver lining.  Unfortunately, we must face some facts first, but we’ll get there, so stay with me.

The Padres are indeed last in MLB in runs scored per game at 2 even.

They are 28th in hits per game at 6, and 23rd in walks at 2.67.  Improvement!

They are 9th best in fewest runners left on base with 6.67, but for a team that is only averaging 9 base runners per game…yes those numbers look about right.

However, some of these don’t really surprise, right?  No one expected the Padres to be tearing the cover off of the ball.  They just need to get a little bit better.  Incrementally.  I believe the Padres can do it too.

Positive: While they currently only have an On-Base-Percentage (OBP) of .255, their 2013 OBP was .308.  We know that Jedd Gyorko is better than his current .160BA.  In fact, his two hits in Tuesday’s loss doubled his hit total for the year.  Yasmani Grandal went 4 for 5 to bump his season average to .500.  Cabrera has been fairly consistent with his hitting at the top of the lineup, and has yet to really turn on his speed.  We know the guy will steal some bases, as his 2012 stolen base championship attests to and his 37 last year in only 97 games.

One way to think about is comparing the MLB season to the NFL season.  In that mold, every 10 MLB games is equal to about 1 NFL game.  So right now the Padres are entering the 4th quarter of the first game.  If they win three more they still end their first 10 at a .500 record.  We’d be happy with that.  We’ve had the Opening Day victory against the Dodgers and the dramatic Alexi Amarista 3-run homer.  The bench is certainly already emerging as a strength, as even Xavier Nady joined the fun with a 9th inning homer after coming in off the bench.

The pitching has been pretty good, keeping them in most games so far.  Admittedly however Tuesday’s game was not as close as the final score of 8-6 made it appear.  Still, they had a chance to tie the game in their last at-bat.  They rank a solid middle-of-the-pack in team ERA and third in lowest HR/9 (thank you Petco Park!).  So the positives are there.  If Grandal can continue to get healthy and produce, Gyorko can get on a hot streak and Chase Headley can contribute something to the offense, they can get moving quickly.  I told you there were positives.

Tags: Yasmani Grandal

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