So here’s what I’m thinking…
The Padres and Braves are pretty similar this season. Both teams have outstanding pitching and god-awful hitting. But Braves fans are feeling pretty good about their team, and Padres fans are grumbling like it’s another lost season. Well, at least before Saturday night’s offensive outburst they were.
What’s the difference?
Well, the Braves are in first place and the Pads are in fourth, but that’s only a small part of it. The Padres would only be two games back of the Braves if they were in the same division.
Both teams are in the bottom three in the NL in BA, OBP, hits, walks, and runs. Both teams are in the top three in ERA, ERA+, FIP, runs allowed, and earned runs allowed. Granted, the Braves pitching is a little better than the Padres pitching. But not by a lot. A strong case can be made for the Padres having the second best pitching in the NL this year. But we Padres fans have frequently felt like this is a terrible team.
Why, when we have such great pitching, do we focus on the pitiful hitting?
It comes down to one thing. Hope. Even our top-shelf pitching staff can’t throw a shutout every game. When our Padres are down by four runs in the fifth inning, there is almost no hope that we can mount a comeback. If we’re watching the game on TV, we start to wonder what’s on the other channels. How is this team possibly going to score five runs? We’d have to string together, what, an 8-hit inning? Two 5-hit innings? When we think about the Padres offense, we think about having to string together a bunch of hits.
Because there’s nobody who can hit a damn home run.
The team is made up of contact hitters. Yonder Alonso. Yasmani Grandal. Chris Denorfia. Everth Cabrera. Who do we consider to be the home run threats on the team? Carlos Quentin, Chase Headley, and Will Venable, right? (And now Seth Smith, but he’s only been a Padre for 44 games, and his career SLG vs lefties is only .318.) Quentin is a legitimate power threat – the man has averaged 31 homers per 162 games in his career. But he’s always injured. He’s got 10 AB this season, and we should probably expect him to be rested at least twice a week in an attempt to keep him off the DL. Chase Headley, our superstar two years ago, has averaged only 16 HR per 162 games. And honestly, when Headley comes up, do you really feel like he’s gonna go deep? It’s a pleasant surprise when he does, but a homer every 10 games doesn’t fill us with hope. In Venable’s breakout 2013 season, his 22 long balls topped his previous best by nine. He’s averaged 15 bombs per 162 games, and has a total of one this year.
Nobody’s making up nicknames like the Bash Brothers for this squad.
What about Jedd Gyorko, you’re screaming? What about Jerko? He went deep 23 times as a rookie last year, he’s got to be a major long ball threat, no?
Yes, Jedd Gyorko. Exactly. You’re smarter than you look. His 27 HR/162 is the second best rate on the team behind Quentin. And Gyorko plays every day that his wife isn’t having twins. He ain’t a contact guy. He’s a damn power hitter. Like on the Braves. You know who’s on the Braves? Jason Heyward (.256 career BA, 22 HR/162) Evan Gattis (.245, 34). Andrelton Simmons (.257/15 for the shortstop). BJ Upton (.247, 19). Dan Uggla (.244, 30). They’ve got a bunch of guys who can hit the damn ball over the fence, and do it regularly. A bunch. Aside from these five low-batting-average bashers, they’ve got a couple of actual good hitters in there too, including Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton.
So Braves fans don’t worry when the team is down by three or four runs. They’ve got 7 guys who can hit the ball out of the park. Draw a walk, grab a single, and all of the sudden the game’s within reach.
They have hope.
We know that the Padres can’t afford to field a lineup of guys who hit .300 with 25 homers. Their payroll tends to allow for hitters that are more one-dimensional. Since coming to Petco, the Padres have almost always had hitters who are better at hitting for average than power. Is it a function of the ballpark? Do the decision-makers choose line-drive hitters because they believe that nobody will be able to consistently hit the ball out of the cavernous park? Maybe.
But if we’re going to stick with one-dimensional hitters, couldn’t we try some boppers for a change? Couldn’t we get a first baseman who hits .240 but has 30 HR power, like Adam LaRoche, or Brandon Moss, or Mark Trumbo, or Adam Lind, or Ike Davis or Chris Carter, or… you get the idea.
I lived in Boston from 1986-1994, and there was a ton of offense. 9-7 games, 6-5 games, those were the norm. I didn’t actually love that, because I’m a big small-ball fan. I like the strategy of close, low-scoring games. So I loved the rare Fenway game that turned into a pitchers’ duel. But after 10 years of Petco Park, I’m sick to death of pitchers’ duels. I’m tired of feeling like a 4-run lead is insurmountable. I want to see some high scoring games. I want the Padres to NOT have the fewest homers every year. I want to see some 12-10 games when I go to the ballpark.
I want to see more Jedd Gyorkos and fewer Yonder Alonsos.
I want to have hope.