Padres' offensive explosion masks Michael King's very real command problems

Not all was well in the Padres' rout of the Giants on Sunday.
San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres
San Francisco Giants v San Diego Padres / Brandon Sloter/GettyImages
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All things considered, the San Diego Padres' 13-4 win over the Giants on Sunday was overwhelmingly positive. Five different Padres hitters had multi-hit games, the bottom half of the Padres' lineup was particularly productive, and the offense cashed on their scoring opportunities. Whenever a team scores 13 runs, there is going to be a lot of good to talk about.

However, the offense going wild shifted the focus away from Michael King's start which had one of the weirder lines you will see. Two runs on two hits. Yay! Six strikeouts. We'll take it. Four innings. Eh, that isn't so good, but we guess that is okay.

Seven walks?! That is a big yikes. While things ultimately worked out for San Diego in this game, King's start was concerning enough to give it's own look.

Michael King simply has to get his walks in check

The reality the Padres have had to face since the end of the 2023 season is that they were going to have to take some chances with their starting pitching staff. In receiving King in the Juan Soto trade, they were REALLY hoping they could finish his transition from the bullpen to the rotation to fill a very depleted pitching staff.

So far, the results have been very mixed. The good news is that King currently sports the best strikeout rate of his career (small sample size warning) and he has done a very reasonable job of keeping the ball on the ground.

The bad news is that King's fastball velocity is down significantly with an average of 92.7 mph (again, could be early season, small sample weirdness) and beyond the walks, he has gotten hit hard. King hasn't been able to get hitters to chase outside of the strike zone through his first two appearances of the season. If you are giving up a lot of baserunners, having trouble finding the strike zone, and getting punished when you make mistakes, that is a rather unfortunate combination.

Right now, it is probably best to chalk up what we are seeing from King so far to early season rust and adjusting to a new team. While he mostly pitched out of the bullpen the previous two seasons, King still walked just 2.8 batters per nine innings pitched in 2022 and 2023. So far this season, he's sporting a 12.3 BB/9. Barring some sort of injury, the right-hander is going to start finding the strike zone more often, although it is a little funny that King inherited Blake Snell's biggest flaw from last season.

King having a smooth transition to the rotation was never a given, and most of his walks on Sunday came after the first two innings. It is possible that King will always have command issues once his pitch count gets above 30 or so. If that happens, the Padres may have to start considering some other options.

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