Apr 16, 2014; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres starting pitcher Andrew Cashner (34) throws during the first inning against the Colorado Rockies at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Andrew Cashner. Grade: A-
Cashner has established himself as the clear ace of the staff, and as one of the top starting pitchers in baseball. His ERA of 2.36 is 10th in the major leagues, and he has recorded a quality start in 75% of his games. His focus this year on pitching efficiency has resulted in lower strikeouts rates than last year, but has allowed him to pitch deeper into games. He has pitched at least 7 innings in four of his 12 starts, and has only pitched less than six innings once. Why not an A grade? He’s been on the DL twice already. A team needs its ace in the game, not in the training room.
Tyson Ross: A-
Ross came into the season listed as the fourth starter, behind Cashner, Josh Johnson, and Ian Kennedy. After 17 starts, Ross is very clearly number two on the staff. His slider has become practically unhittable, and he is using the pitch nearly 60% of the time. He has parlayed the success of that pitch into a team-high six wins, a top-30 in baseball 3.18 ERA, and his 102 strikeouts are 17th in the majors. He has pitched at least seven innings in nine of his 17 starts, and has allowed two or fewer earned runs 11 times. Ross’s emergence as a top-flight starter ranks as one of the best things about the first half of the season.
Ian Kennedy: B
Some pluses for Kennedy include the highest strikeout rate of his career, 9.67 K/9, and six games where he allowed only a single earned run. Some minuses have been a high pitch count which limits his ability to go deep into games, with 7 innings being his longest stint, and a regression in the month of June, which has caused his ERA to balloon from 3.42 to 4.01. Overall, Kennedy has been solid, but unspectacular.
Eric Stults: C-
Some may think this grade is too high for a man with the second-highest ERA of all starters in baseball and a 2-11 won-lost record. But while Stults has not been good overall, his main problem has been inconsistency. He has actually allowed three or fewer earned runs in 10 of his 17 starts, and is 2-5 in those starts. He’s only allowed more than four runs in 4 of his 17 starts. But he’s been pretty hittable overall, allowing 111 hits in 87.2 innings. And on a team where scoring 5 runs is an anomaly, allowing four runs in five innings isn’t going to win you many games.
Robbie Erlin: Incomplete.
Erlin has only made eight starts and is currently on the 60-day DL with elbow soreness. In the eight starts, he complied a 4.53 ERA that was overly affected by one 5.1 inning, 8 run start. Aside from that, his ERA was a very respectable 3.40. He has an excellent 39:11 K/BB ratio, and in May had a 2-0 record with a 2.45 ERA before getting injured. Overall, the Padres have to like what they have seen this year after his impressive 2013 debut.
Overall Starting Pitching: B+.
Cashner, Ross, Erlin, and the rookies have performed above expectations. Kennedy has been adequate, and Stults somewhat disappointing. Overall, the pitching has kept the team from being a complete disaster, and gives fans some hope for the future of the team.