Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
What a difference two days make.
When I first sat down to write this column, it was Friday afternoon, the Padres had just lost a painful game to the Rockies. Eric Stults looked done and question marks were rampant around Chase Headley.
Now, early Sunday evening, the Padres took 2 of 3 from the Giants, Stults looks like he might still have some left in the tank, and Headley was back in the lineup.
I always hate writing about the first month of the season. I also hate reading most comments about it as well. There is, quite simply, too short of a sample size to go on and fans and the media tend to overreact to every little thing. Judging starters on three outings can be dangerous. Judging hitters on a couple of weeks when the balls don’t carry as well as in summer, where pitchers have the advantage, and when they’re still getting into the swing of things is dangerous.
But the Padres have had themselves a very interesting month of April so far and both the good and the bad have shown themselves. From the scary (the Padres waiting a week to win their second game) to the outstanding (Andrew Cashner), let’s go back a bit and take a look forward.
As I write this, the Pads are 9 – 10 and sitting in 4th place. They have the 2nd best Team ERA in the National League, but they also have the worst On Base Percentage and second worst OPS in the National League.
But if you like 2-1 games, regardless of who wins, you’re loving this season so far.
Cashner has looked like an ace and Tyson Ross has been pretty close. Robbie Erlin has an amazing FIP, and might just be the best starter on the team. Ian Kennedy has been Ian Kennedy, minus any kind of run support or defensive help. The bullpen has been lights out and is keeping the Padres opposition from scoring too many runs.
The problems are with the offense and, wow, they’ve been ugly. Not having Carlos Quentin in the lineup has really hurt, but there is another huge problem that management hasn’t even thought about solving.
Why do the Padres have a 12-man pitching staff?
I understand that we live in an age of large bullpens, and we are frightened to have a pitcher go more than 6 innings, and Bud Black loves having the arms to call on for a few batters at a time, but how long can we have Xavier Nady bat cleanup before something needs to change?
I just want to write that again so it’s clear: Xavier Nady is batting cleanup. Nady, who hasn’t been worth a positive WAR since 2008, is batting cleanup. Nady, who didn’t play in the majors last year, is batting cleanup. 35 year old Xavier Nady, who’s beyond washed up, is batting cleanup. Yes, he can still smack a ball into the seats, but do you think this is going to last?
This sounds mean, this sounds cruel, and I’m sure Nady is a nice guy. He’s got a great baseball name and we all remember, fondly, those early days when he came up with the Padres. But he shouldn’t be on this team. He shouldn’t be batting cleanup.
You can’t tell me that Donn Roach needs to be on the roster right now. I’ll give Black 11 pitchers but he needs to give one back. The Padres need another bat on that bench right now. There are just too many holes on this team. If Everth Cabrera takes the day off, the Padres have no one even resembling a leadoff hitter. If they’re facing a lefthander, they lose a lot of hitting strength. How many homeruns does Kyle Blanks have to hit before they call him up? How many runs does Roach have to give up before they send him down?
The Padres are also carrying 3 catchers, which is a luxury I really don’t think they can afford. I know that Nick Hundley is rapidly becoming a sunk cost (if he isn’t already) and the Padres can’t justify paying him what they are to put him in Triple A. There has to be a team that’s desperate for a backup catcher who can hit his weight and has some pop. And yes, before you post it, I know that he just hit a homerun Sunday. But he’s not what this team needs.
Just imagine how Ian Kennedy must have felt on Friday, seeing that Alexi Amarista was playing third and Nady was batting cleanup. Heck, just imagine how the average paying fan must have felt. I’m not too sure what my reaction would have been if I had paid money to go and see that game. The excitement of heading into the ballpark, wanting to see the Padres win a series against a really bad Rockies team, and then seeing that lineup displayed on the scoreboard. I actually kinda felt bad for Ian Kennedy – he pitched a good game but really had no chance.
Now, the positive side. The Padres are only 3 back of first place and no one seems to be running away with the division. They don’t have two-thirds of their starting outfield playing yet. With one more win, they’ll have their best opening month of the season since 2010, which is when they won 90 games.
So what I’m begging management to do is to start looking at this team the way the fans do – this is a team with a serious shot at contending. This is no longer a rebuilding team. More parts are coming, yes, but there is enough talent here to try for a playoff spot. But trotting out players like Xavier Nady or Donn Roach and expecting to contend is a recipe for disaster.