After latest dud start, should Padres be concerned about key trade acquisition?

Michael King got pretty unlucky on Sunday against Milwaukee, but some of his issues have been long-built.
Milwaukee Brewers v San Diego Padres
Milwaukee Brewers v San Diego Padres / Denis Poroy/GettyImages

Overall, San Diego Padres starter Michael King has put together a fine season after he was one of the key pieces in the trade that sent Juan Soto to the Yankees. He has posted a respectable 3.75 ERA in 17 appearances with 109 strikeouts in 93.2 innings pitched. There is not much wrong with that line and he has had starts where he has looked untouchable. Great addition to the roster, right?

Well, King's season has been a bit more nuanced than that. He has been a bit of a rollercoaster. King will look stellar for a few starts followed by an outing like the one in Sunday's loss to the Brewers where he gets beat up. It is a steady pattern and it is pretty weird.

Unfortunately, a deeper look into King's first season with the Padres suggests that trouble could be brewing with him unless he can turn some trends around.

Michael King's declining peripherals with Padres suggest something could be off with him

Now, just because a guy has an off start here and there doesn't necessarily mean anything. In that game on Sunday against Milwaukee, there were several soft-hit balls that were far more productive against King than they had any right to be. Then again, there were other glaring issues.

First, his 2024 average fastball velocity has continued a trend since 2022 where it has declined significantly each year. In 2022, his fastball averaged 95.9 mph, then declined to 94.3 mph in 2023, and finally to 93 mph this year, which ranks in the bottom third of the league. Some of that is almost certainly because he is starting these days, but it is still a noticeable drop-off with both his sinker and four-seam fastball.

Now, if he was taking something off his fastballs to throw them for strikes more often, that would be fine. However, his walk rate has also gone significantly up with the Padres as well which makes games like Sunday's more painful as extra baserunners allow for some bad BABIP luck to really bite a guy.

The end result has been that King's fastballs haven't been nearly as good for him this year. King is still adjusting to starting consistently in the big leagues and, again, it isn't like he has been bad overall. However, these trends are concerning and have been around all season with King, so it is worth continuing to keep an eye on him for any more signs of his stuff diminishing further as the season goes on.

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