Padres Editorials: Padres Should Build Around Getting On Base


Petco Park’s large dimensions have some arguing that the Padres should build their 2016 roster to win with small ball. The home run hitting team built around Matt Kemp, Justin Upton, and Wil Myers failed in 2015. But that does not mean that the Padres should aspire to look like a team based around classic small ball. 

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Let us get straight what “small ball” means in this article. Small ball is defined not only by stolen base attempts but by productive outs in key situations.

It must be said that this article is not an attempt to say the Padres should not be aggressive on the bases. Stolen bases are a majorly productive way of helping score runs. If, in 2016, Melvin Upton can get back to being a stolen base threat and Cory Spangenberg develops into a good major league base stealer then the team should not hold them back.

The bunt is overrated. Are there times it is the good move? Yes. But it is overused. For a perfect example as to why, may SI’s Tom Verducci give a perfect example. In essence, the threat to a double play is overrated, and not everyone can actually bunt.

Of all the players the Padres added during the offseason, only Derek Norris could have been considered a high on-base hitter. Yet, that is based only on his 2014 season in which he hit for a .361 OBP. Neither Kemp nor Upton have ever really been on-base machines and those trends have continued in 2015.

Since moving the fences in, Petco is no longer a supreme pitcher’s paradise. In fact, it is nearing a neutral park meaning that the team should not be built around either extreme of a high powered offense or small ball.

This year, like so many since Petco Park opened, the Padres are dead last in on-base percentage as a team. The Moneyball approach of getting on base creates the greatest amounts of runs is the way the Padres need to go. Why have so many of the Oakland teams over the past decade plus played better than the sum of their parts? Because they get on base.

Critics of the Astros and Blue Jays note that teams based on hitting home runs have a harder time getting through the postseason. Power slumps. A team that gets on base is far less prone to the ups and downs than do teams reliant on hitting the ball out of the park.

Obviously, what slumps the least (ok, not at all) is speed. But GM A.J. Preller should not sacrifice speed for getting on base. Runners, regardless of speed, put pressure on a defense, as does putting the ball in play. Walks – a category the Padres rank 11th in – tire pitchers.

Perhaps Derek Norris can go back to his play in Oakland and can become the on-base machine he was developing into. Maybe Cory Spangenberg and/or Travis Jankowski can become high on-base players. But does A.J. Preller want to wait and see if they will? Will he take that risk? Or will he go out and get a guy who doesn’t make outs.

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