Jun 3, 2015; San Diego, CA, USA; San Diego Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso (23) lines out during the sixth inning against the New York Mets at Petco Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
The Padres had the most aggressive offseason in baseball spearheaded by rookie GM A.J. Preller. After what might be the most disappointing first half in all of baseball, let us look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of the first half of the 2015 baseball season.
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Yonder Alonso. Yes, he had another stint on the disabled list. But amongst all qualifiers he is tied with Justin Upton for the highest OPS+ on the team. Alonso has not fulfilled the 25-home run power potential he was said to have when Josh Byrnes traded for him. But he is on pace for over 20 doubles. Considering that he spent a few weeks on the DL, that is not too bad of a total. But most importantly, he has a .378 on-base percentage. The Pads are ranked dead last in the NL in on base percentage. Alonso is the only player on the team other than Will Venable who has an OBP that is above what we thought. He has been a pleasant surprise. Hopefully, he was just a late bloomer and will continue to hit at this pace.
Brandon Maurer. He has been the best bullpen arm thus far. He has a stellar 2.11 ERA in 42.2 innings – the most in the bullpen. While the Padres as a team having given up far too many home runs, Maurer has given up only one. His 5.9 hits/9 is fabulous. And despite having a lively fastball and very good breaking ball, Maurer has only struck out 7.0 batters per nine innings. This indicates that he is a smart pitcher who doesn’t want to strike out every batter. Who would have thought that Maurer would have had a better first half than Craig Kimbrel and Joaquin Benoit?
The catchers’ defense. In 2014, the Padre catchers combined for the best team pitch framing in baseball. During the offseason A.J. Preller unloaded those catchers and brought in Derek Norris. Norris – known as an offense-first catcher – has thrown out 35-percent of would-be base stealers which is twice as high as his 2014 percentage. While not being as good as Yasmani Grandal or Rene Rivera, Norris is above the league average in terms of pitch framing. Then there is Austin Hedges. He has thrown out half of all attempted base stealers in a league where 28-percent are thrown out. But even more important, amongst catchers with at last 20 game played, no player turns balls into strikes better than Hedges. The super defensive prospect has framed an extra 3.21 strikes per game which is twice as good as Grandal and a full strike above all catchers in baseball other than David Ross. So amongst all catchers with at least 20 games caught, Austin Hedges has been the best defensive catcher in all of baseball. Yes, all of baseball.