Michael King’s blowup start vs Rockies highlighted glaring problem Padres must fix

Losing to the Rockies is bad enough. How Michael King and the Padres lost was even worse.
San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies
San Diego Padres v Colorado Rockies / Matthew Stockman/GettyImages

If there's one thing that all San Diego Padres fans can agree upon, it is that losing to the Rockies is never acceptable. Unfortunately, that is exactly what happened on Tuesday as the Padres fell 7-4 to a Colorado team that now sports a 6-18 record and will probably finish at the bottom of the NL West once again in 2024. At the center of San Diego's unraveling was starter Michael King.

King's 2024 season thus far has been a rollercoaster ride. He has made six starts of which two could be considered very good (against the Giants on 4/6 and the Brewers on 4/17). There have been a couple OK ones and a pair of stinkers as well. One common theme has emerged as the issue that has plagued King since the start of the season continues to be a problem: he doesn't throw enough strikes and batters aren't fooled enough to swing at his stuff out of the zone.

Can Michael King harness his stuff enough to be a consistent starter for Padres?

King's issues aren't as simple as too many walks. Against the Rockies, Jake Cronenworth's blunder in the field in the fourth didn't help matters and King ultimately gave up a grand slam in the inning. However, he also didn't get Colorado hitters to swing at his pitches out of zone and he walked in a run that same inning.

This isn't just a one-game sample issue, but instead a troubling constant. Not only is King's walk rate of 5.3 BB/9 the worst of his career and actively bad, but his chase rate on his pitches out of the zone grades poorly as well, especially with his fastballs. Opposing hitters just sitting on the pitches he can throw for strikes and spitting on everything else. As a result, he isn't able to get ahead of hitters and can't let the quality of his secondaries do damage for him on a consistent basis.

The good news is that this could simply be an aberration and a correctable one. Generally speaking, King's fastball has been a pitch he could lean on when he was with the Yankees, and perhaps a minor mechanical or sequencing adjustment could remedy the problem. If he can just get back to what he was doing before the Padres acquired him in the Juan Soto trade, he should he just fine.

If his transition to the starting rotation has taken the zip out he needs to be successful, this could be a long season for him if he doesn't figure this out quickly.

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