With LHP Joey Lucchesi returning to the rotation soon, the San Diego Padres have a few options on how they can set their starting rotation.
Remember when fans of the San Diego Padres were desperately scouring the waiver wire/minor leagues to find enough starting pitchers to be semi-excited about cheering on this season?
The Padres are now facing a question about what to do with their starting rotation when rookie LHP Joey Lucchesi returns from the disabled list. Does this automatically mean that “Bullpen Day” is no more? Not necessarily.
Let’s first run down the starting rotation and to go over a few numbers that need to be highlighted. As a whole, this pitching staff is outperforming most people’s expectations. That isn’t saying it has been great or capable of leading any team to the playoffs, but it has exceeded expectations.
Clayton Richard is currently sporting a 3.98 FIP and 3.61 xFIP, one of the top marks in those categories of his career. Opponents are hitting .240 against him, 21 points lower than his previous career low. He is also striking out a career-high 19.5% of hitters and producing a 10.1% swing/strike rate, also a career-high.
Tyson Ross is in the middle of a career resurgence after relying on his ever-dangerous slider more than ever. While he appears to be on the top of many team’s trade list, it’s unclear whether or not the Padres are thinking about trading him.
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Lastly, there is Eric Lauer who is taking the lumps most assumed he would. The rookie has put together a string of three decent starts (15.2 IP, 6 ER, 9 BB, 12 K), each of which showing slight improvements here and there that prove he’s learning and progressing. Lauer’s spot in the rotation is, more than likely, safe for the rest of this season.
That leaves Johnny Wholestaff and Jordan Lyles. The assumption would be that Johnny Wholestaff gets the boot when Lucchesi returns. Not so fast, my friend (shoutout Lee Corso).
Bump Jordan Lyles. Lyles had a few great starts, flirted with a no-hitter, and we all marveled at his curveball for a while.
Take a look at his production dip from May to June.
By keeping Strahm and company in the rotation and pushing Lyles to the bullpen, maybe Lyles begins pitching like he did at the beginning of the season, again? He seemed to have found his niche as a reliever, a pretty decent one at that.
Meanwhile, through the month of June, Matt Strahm has a 1.00 ERA, a .094 opponents’ batting average, .097 opponents’ on-base percentage, 34% strikeout rate, and zero walks. With the fourth-best bullpen in baseball (according to WAR) behind Strahm, let Johnny Wholestaff keep throwing.
Watching the development of Lucchesi, Strahm, and Lauer will be one of the more enjoyable storylines of the second half of the season. Next year’s rotation competition is sure to be a thriller.