We list realistic objectives for each of our five projected San Diego Padres starting pitchers as Cactus League play approaches.
Cactus League play begins Saturday for the San Diego Padres at their spring training facility in Peoria, Arizona. With Opening Day fast approaching, the young Padres still have low expectations, especially for their rotation.
Starting pitching is clearly not the strength of the club, but it is an area in which San Diego can improve over 2016. The first step to doing this though is by setting goals for each individual starter. In order for the Padres’ pitching staff to not put too much pressure on themselves, they must keep their objectives realistic while still striving to improve.
With an eye towards Opening Day, we took our five projected starters and made goals for them that we feel they ought to strive to achieve.
Clayton Richard: 15 wins, 3.00 ERA, 200 IP, 150 K: As the ace, Richard has the weight of the rotation on his shoulders. A solid 2016 would include a consistently low ERA over an entire season, following his 2.52 ERA in nine starts with the Padres last season. Staying healthy and starting every day should allow Richard to turn in 200 innings, as long as his outings average approximately six innings. Strikeouts aren’t what makes Richard an effective starter, but a solid 150 is reasonable to strive for.
Jered Weaver: 10 wins, 4.00 ERA, 170 IP, 140 K: No one really knows what to expect out of Weaver this season. The 34-year-old has steadily declined statistically over the past several seasons, clearly aging. This season will provide a new opportunity for the veteran though, and it is reasonable for fans to expect Weaver to return to something resembling his previous form. Surrendering four earned runs every nine innings is reasonable to shoot for, but not too lofty. Weaver most likely won’t be throwing many complete games or even going extraordinarily deep. But as long as he remains healthy, 170 innings is a healthy amount for the veteran to pitch.
Jhoulys Chacin: 10 wins, 3.85 ERA, 165 IP, 140 K: As a former Rockie, Brave, and Angel, Chacin did not have a season in which he started games consistently throughout. This makes what is expected to be his first full season in a major league rotation uncertain. Still, based on Chacin’s ability, it is reasonable to expect more of the same. If he can keep his ERA under 4, and his innings to a minimum, Chacin will enjoy some success this season. Long outings may not be as natural for the 29-year-old, and it is reasonable to expect him to pitch fewer innings than both Richard and Weaver. But as long as Chacin is effective in the innings he does pitch in, the Padres will value quality over quantity.
Trevor Cahill: 12 wins, 3.25 ERA, 150 IP, 180 K: Much like Chacin, Cahill’s innings may be limited since this season will be a transition from the bullpen where he spent the last two seasons. But based on Cahill’s extremely efficient numbers, it is reasonable to expect the 28-year-old to put forward a solid season, striking out 180 and keeping his ERA within the 3-4 range. As long as he stays healthy, this will give Cahill numerous opportunities to come away with victories, the ultimate objective.
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Christian Friedrich: 8 wins, 4.50 ERA, 180 IP, 170 K: Setting goals for Friedrich as a starter is a bit premature, since whether or not he will actually make the rotation is in serious question. Going under the poor assumption that he will be the fifth starter though, it is unfair and unreasonable to expect too much from the 29-year-old. Friedrich has started just 42 games in his major league career, and has had trouble keeping his ERA under 5. Last season was somewhat promising, as Friedrich seemed to be moving in the right direction based on both the eye test and his stats. This year, the Padres would like to see their fifth starter take another step, even though the upside of his career is waning. While not ideal, a 4.50 ERA in a full season is serviceable for the fifth starter on a team that does not take the most pride in their rotation.
By setting realistic goals, the Padres can chip away at the false narrative they are constantly bombarded with. Even though expectations are as low as they could be, San Diego can keep themselves in games if the pitching staff overachieves. In order for this to occur, the starters will need to know their roles, and understand what to strive for realistically.