In 2015, the Padres ranked tenth in ERA in the National League. This came despite a healthy Tyson Ross and Andrew Cashner as well as the addition of supposed ace James Shields. General Manager A.J. Preller has been in talks about trading Ross, Shields, and likely Cashner as well. The Padres need another starter.
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The current state of affairs are not looking good for the rotation. Shields not only had a down year in 2015, but was actually worse than the league average. It doesn’t matter that he was 13-7. His run support was 5.08 runs per game. With an ERA of 3.91, who can be surprised he ended with what traditionalists would deem a good record? But his 93 ERA+ was not worthy of the healthy chunk of change he received. Worse still, his home run and walk rates increased so drastically that his FIP was 4.45. The best thing Shields did was eat up 202.1 innings. But even that was the worst since his rookie year.
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Tyson Ross was the only good starting pitcher the Padres had last year. His 3.26 ERA and 112 ERA+ were worse than in 2014, but still good. His walk rate increased a little, but so did his strikeout rate while his home run rate went down. Ross’s 2.98 FIP was the best of his career. Ross made 33 starts and pitched 196 innings – just under 6 innings per start. While hat isn’t great, it can be easily improved if Ross’s walk rate decreases.
The number two starter is heading into his age 29 season. The biggest question is whether or not he can stay healthy with such a jerky delivery. Last offseason, I advocated that Ross be traded for this reason. I am not convinced he can stay healthy long-term. However, I’m convinced that the Padres need to risk that over the next couple years unless a great deal is staring Preller in the face.
Andrew Cashner was looking to break out after injuries limited his 2014 season to 19 starts. His ERA in 2013 and 2014 were not only good but improving. One would think that if he stayed healthy, Cashner would have an even better age 28 season. I actually thought he would be the best Padre pitcher if he made all of his starts. Cashner, indeed, made 31 starts, but offenses rocked him to the tune of a 4.34 ERA. Worse still, the Padre defense was so terrible behind him that Cashner gave up 5.49 runs per nine innings. That RA9 was so bad, Cashner logged a -0.9 WAR.
While his strikeout rate increased, so did his hit, home run, and walk rates. The big right-hander’s control – something that when combined with his good velocity was devastating – faded. Not only did his walks per nine soar from 2.1 in 2014 to 3.2 in 2015, but his control within the strike zone worsened too. There is a reason he was so much more hittable. So was Cashner playing with an injury? Did he let the errors around him get into his head? Did he get psyched out by a lack of run support? Whatever the question, the 22 unearned runs he allowed is a very bad sign. However bad one’s defense is, a good pitcher will get out of it far more often than Cashner did.
The sunshine breaking through the clouds of Cashner’s 2015 season is that his FIP was 3.85. Not great, but good enough for second on the staff. So he wouldn’t have been as bad with a better defense, which hopefully Preller is working on. Cashner also has the benefit of it no longer being the 2015 season. Padre fans should chalk up last year as an off year made worse by poor defense. I will stick by the thought that a healthy Cashner will be a productive Cashner.
Next: What will the rotation look like?