The San Diego Padres must improve on these areas, and everything will begin to come together. Most especially, strikeouts and mental lapses must be limited.
A year with low expectations for the home team’s performance should provide the ultimate opportunity to work on all aspects of the game. Almost two months into the season, manager Andy Green and the rest of the coaching staff must look around and see multiple areas crying out for improvement.
In several important offensive categories, Padres’ hitters rank near or at the bottom of all of baseball including batting average (.220), on base percentage (.288), runs scored (177), and walks per game (2.94). The team averages 8.94 strikeouts per game, a stat that absolutely must be improved.
In several instances, Padres’ hitters have struck out more in one game than Tony Gwynn did in an entire season. Yes, strikeouts have become more common throughout the game, and too many players seem to be satisfied to take a few hacks and sit down. However, nothing positive happens when a batter strikes out. When he puts the ball in play, anything can happen.
A poor approach at the plate allows the opposing pitcher to go deeper into games, reducing the use of the opposing team’s bullpen. How many times have we heard on the television or radio broadcast that the opposing pitcher has reached season or even career high strikeouts in a game against the Padres?
In Sunday’s victory against the Washington Nationals, Padres’ hitters showed a much more patient approach at the plate:
“I thought we had good at-bats (against Ross) from the get-go,” manager Andy Green told Dennis Lin of the San Diego Union Tribune. “The Wil Myers walk in the first inning was a ‘battle’ walk. We haven’t had a ton of those. It wears a pitcher down, and [Ross] ends up making a mistake with a slider to [Ryan] Schimpf.”
Washington starter Joe Ross lasted only four innings, forcing the Nats to go to the bullpen early. Unfortunately, Jhoulys Chacin also gave way after 4.1 innings, highlighting another of the glaring weaknesses.
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Obviously the days of starters throwing 300 innings or more in a season have gone the way of the dodo bird, and now the top pitchers reach an average of 200 or more. Retired workhorses like Jim Palmer, Phil Niekro, and our own Randy Jones must laugh at the definition of a quality start these days: six innings with three or fewer runs per game. Using that rather modest measurement, our top pitcher, Clayton Richard, ranks 42nd with five quality starts for the Padres while pitchers like Detroit’s Michael Fulmer have 10.
Although physical fielding errors are inevitable, the Padres rank too high in that category. But mental errors must also be addressed. By tightening up the defense, especially on the infield, the Padres’ would help their pitchers go deeper into games.
The Padres face tough competition in the next three series: the World Series champion Chicago Cubs, as well as the division-leading Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks with their 31-21 record. The home team has absolutely no chance of performing well against those opponents without improvement in all the areas mentioned above.