San Diego Padres: 3 questions before the Friars host the Rockies

DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 15: David Dahl #26 of the Colorado Rockies scores past catcher Austin Allen #62 of the San Diego Padres on a Ian Desmond sacrifice in the seventh inning at Coors Field on June 15, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
DENVER, COLORADO - JUNE 15: David Dahl #26 of the Colorado Rockies scores past catcher Austin Allen #62 of the San Diego Padres on a Ian Desmond sacrifice in the seventh inning at Coors Field on June 15, 2019 in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images) /

The San Diego Padres begin a four-game divisional series against the Colorado Rockies on Thursday. Here are 3 questions to ponder before it kicks off.

After yet another late and tough loss, the San Diego Padres find themselves in a difficult spot as they head home to host the Colorado Rockies.

Oh, how misery loves company.

The Rockies are in a similar situation to the Padres, having started off the season hot but fizzling out in the second half. Heading into the All-Star break, San Diego was 45-45 and had ended the first half of the season on a high note. Colorado was 44-45 coming off a loss to the Arizona Diamondbacks but still had showed signs of a promising season ahead. Both were squarely in the wild card race.

Now, both teams are competing for last place in the National League West. The Rockies are 52-62 and have gone 3-7 in their last 10. The Padres aren’t any better as they find themselves at 52-61, 4-6 in their last 10.

This series feels like a battle of bottom-feeders, so let’s skip the preview and instead discuss three questions to ponder during the rivalry series.

1. How will the pitching fare?

This match up will feature Eric Lauer, Cal Quantrill, Chris Paddack, and Dinelson Lamet on the mound for the Friars. Paddack is almost certainly a building block for this team moving forward, but what about the other guys?

The Rockies rank seventh in the MLB for runs scored — while some of those may be attributed to the Coors Field effect, they’re still a team that can put runs on the board. This should be a good barometer for the young pitchers.

Thus far, Lauer has left a lot to be desired as he owns a 6-8 record with a 4.43 ERA and 1.344 WHIP. Aside from his last outing against the Los Angeles Dodgers (against whom, for some reason, he has a 1.72 ERA and 0.927 WHIP through four games in his career), Lauer has struggled in his second year, primarily having trouble going deep into games.

Prior to his last outing, Lauer had averaged just 4.1 innings per start over four games; over the season, he’s averaged 5.1 innings per start. Hopefully he can build off his game against the Dodgers to rebound moving forward, as he needs to show more progress to earn a spot in this starting rotation moving forward.

Meanwhile, Quantrill has been an absolute unit over the past couple months. His four games in the bullpen saw only one run allowed in 5.2 innings pitched, and since returning to the starting rotations he owns a 2.15 ERA in four starts.

If he can keep up this performance through the end of the season, he could very well fight for a starting position on what should be a very talented rotation in the coming years. He’s an exciting player to watch so be sure to keep an eye on him on Friday.

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2. Who’s the catcher?

In both games against the Seattle Mariners, the Padres chose to start Austin Hedges at catcher instead of Francisco Mejía (Mejía was given the DH role in Game 2). While Hedgey’s other-worldly defense is always a factor, I think that was the wrong decision.

An American League game gives the Friars an opportunity to replace the pitcher’s spot in the lineup with someone who can hit. Instead, it’s like they decided to put in a pitcher anyway considering Hedges’ atrocious offensive production (.187/.251/.326).

Some argued that it was the best of both worlds since we got Mejía’s bat with Hedges’ defense. That misses the point entirely though.

It’s become clear that Hedges won’t be our catcher of the future while Mejía very well could be. As long as we’re still technically in a “rebuild year,” the Padres should be giving Mejía as many reps at catcher as possible.

He barely has over 200 major league at-bats and needs consistent starts both to feel comfortable behind the dish and to improve his communication with all of the Padres’ pitchers. Let him develop and make mistakes in the majors now rather than when they’re actually trying to compete.

Others argued that Hedges started at catcher because Joey Lucchesi is still developing as a pitcher and Hedges could help him with game-calling, framing, and blocking that nasty “churve” of his.

I think this is better reasoning than the first argument above, but it still doesn’t explain why Hedges got the nod over Mejía on Tuesday night when Lamet pitched. We’ll see how the Padres handle the platoon this time around against a divisional opponent.

3. Are the Padres still the worst team in the division?

The Padres’ and Rockies’ seasons have been similar in so many ways yet different in others.

As mentioned above, both teams had hot starts but tailed off in the second half of the season. Their run differentials are only 11 runs apart, but Colorado has scored more than 100 runs than the Padres; they’ve also allowed more than 100 runs against.

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This was supposed to be the last miserable season before the Friars became competitive enough to contend in 2020. Finishing last in the NL West — again — would be very disheartening for a team that was expecting more progress.

While the beginning of the season created high (and perhaps unrealistic) hopes for playoffs a year early, fans envisioned at least a .500 record this season. Yes, there’s still time to get there, but the feeling isn’t as optimistic as it once was — the clock is ticking.

In the short-term, winning this series might go a long way towards making good on those expectations.

It could also prove that while the Padres aren’t yet contenders, at least they’re no longer the worst team in the division. It’s bad enough with the San Francisco Giants coming out of no where to leapfrog the Friars in the NL West when they’re also supposed to be rebuilding.

The last time the Padres and Rockies met was in June when they had that record-setting series. This one won’t be at Coors Field, however, and the Padres will look to limit the damage this time around. A series win — the first in more than a month — would be a huge morale boost as we find ourselves inching closer towards the offseason.

Next. Sweepless in Seattle: Padres drop series finale to Mariners. dark

For complete coverage of the San Diego Padres 2019 season, be sure to visit Friars on Base all season long.