The San Diego Padres finished the 2019 season with the worst strikeout percentage among National League teams, but Tommy Pham can help turn that around.
Aside from staying healthy, if there’s an area that the San Diego Padres need to improve upon from last season, it’s their strikeout rate. The team led the way in the National League last year with a 26.3 strikeout percentage, which was only slightly better than the Detroit Tigers 26.4 percent rate for being the worst in baseball.
As a result, the team’s .238 batting average was the worst in the National League, but better days could be on the horizon. Early in the offseason, the Padres acquired Tommy Pham from the Tampa Bay Rays in a five-player trade. Hunter Renfroe was a big bat sent in the deal, but his 31.2 percent strikeout rate was a significant contributor to the overall team’s struggles in that department.
Pham, 31, has improved his strikeout percentage each year in the majors, highlighted by an 18.8 percent rate last year in Tampa. The former 16th round pick of the 2006 MLB Draft came up through the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization and experienced a breakout year in 2017 where he slashed .306/.411/.520 with 23 home runs and 73 RBI (149 wRC+).
Now with the Padres, Pham is committed to helping the team put their difficulties in making contact a thing of the past:
"“We’re going to have to do a better job of controlling the strike zone,” Pham told MLB.com. “From when I played against San Diego last year, what I saw outside looking in, we didn’t do a good job of controlling the strike zone. There were a lot of punchouts.”"
With a young core that is ready to take the next step in their development, it will be critical for the team to reduce the number of strikeouts in 2020. Notably, from guys like Wil Myers (34.3 percent), Austin Hedges (31.4 percent), and Fernando Tatis Jr. (29.6 percent).
Pham finished only second to Alex Bregman in making contact with balls located within the strikeout last year, and hopefully, he can expound his approach to his new team.
The Padres pitching staff and bullpen are loaded with talent, but the team will only go as far as the offense takes them in 2020. The Los Angeles Dodgers would appear to be the team to beat in the National League, but an improvement in plate approach could result in the Padres grabbing one of the two Wild Card spots with a less than stellar National League.