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Monday, February 4, 2013

***ARCHIVE***

Hi!

Thanks for stopping by. If you enjoy the nonsense said on this site you can now enjoy it at a new site along with a bunch of other cool blogs. All in one spot. Kind of a one-stop shopping of Padres blog reading.

Head over to Padres Public where you will find a bunch of us.

Specifically looking for Left Coast Bias? Head to this little corner of Padres Public.

As for this site, this will remain open as the Archive page.

See ya at the Pub!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

This point can't be made more clearly than I'm about to make it right now.

This is not a defense of the Padres actions (or lack thereof) of this winter.
Nor is this a complaint.

And it's not a complaint because it's December 8th. For reference sake, the Mat Latos trade, which caught many by surprise, happened on December 17th.

The sense amongst Padres fans (or at least the small section of fans in which I have seen, read or interacted with) is that this is just the same old Padres. Same penny-pinchers despite the fact that they now have $1.5 billion in television revenue to work with. The evidence they point to is multi-layered:

1) The Padres did not offer Kuroda $17 million as was reported by the NY Post. This, in and of itself, was a good thing and not many would argue that point. What was more concerning to some is the impression that the Padres COULDN'T offer that amount.

2) The Padres failed to land Dan Haren. Haren had been rumored as a player that may fit well with the Padres. But, as has been reported multiple places, including via Corey Brock, the Padres are steering clear of health risk. Between back issues and lingering hip issues, Dan Haren was far from a low risk option from a health perspective. At $13 million, that price was likely too high for San Diego considering those risk.

3) Reports came out that the Padres were looking at a payroll of $70 million for 2013. While this is an increase of nearly $15 million from last year, it fars short of what many expected with a new ownership group and new influx of television revenue. It also leaves little room for maneuvering after the extensions to Street and Quentin (among others) are accounted for.

4) Reports that Byrnes was caught off guard by the market value of pitchers like Haren, Blanton and, presumably now, McCarthy. I can't say I blame him too much. $13 million for Haren was higher than expected. Then again, the Nationals gave Jayson Werth a $126 million contract for 7 years.

As it stands now, the Padres primary target this off-season has been starting pitching. That need has been made clear by all involved and plugged in with the team. And considering the amount of injuries the pitching staff suffered in 2012 (11 pitchers hit the DL last season including relief pitching. This includes season-ending injuries to 3/5ths of the rotation followed by season ending injuries to 2 of the replacements for those 3/5ths) you can see why the Padres would want to stockpile pitching.

But it is worth bearing in mind that in 2013 the Padres expected to see the return of Cory Luebke, potentially as early as June 1. Per Bill James via Fangraphs, Luebke is predicted to make 24 starts Is that optimistic? Probably. One would assume the Padres will take a version of the Nationals plan in dealing with Luebke coming off Tommy John.

But he will return. As will Cashner. (We'll get to that injury on a later post. But...well, F). Not to mention Casey Kelly, Max Fried, Robbie Erlin, and Keyvius Sampson, the future of Padres pitching looks promising.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you that this winter thus far has been thrilling as a Padres fan. PED suspensions, hunting accidents and Jason Marquis does not fire up the fan base. Do I think the team is where it needs to be right now to compete? No. But I think they are closer than some who would scream for the Padres to make a deal would believe.

Let's wait until the off-season is over before we make broad declarations on how well the Padres did in the off-season and whether Byrnes is incompetent.

Make a deal that makes sense. Both for 2013 and beyond. But don't spend money just because you have money.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Grand(al) Illusions

By David Israel
Guest Contributor


It certainly feels like the walls are coming in.

Even if it is just the fences, the last few weeks seem to be a telling microcosm of Padres happenings. The 2012 season just… was. We entered with low expectations, and while Savior’s 5th place MVP season went mostly unnoticed outside of the NL West, we made headlines with the fences debate and a new owner. Yet, things felt… stagnant. We were unsurprised by the early season failure, and too embroiled over the lack of TV coverage (which is still absurd) to notice the second half surge, taking only enough notice of the foundational blocks we’d waited so long to be in place to give us hope for 2013, where a core of Headley, Alonso, Grandal, and half of Quentin might lead us to respectability.

And then the news hit. And it felt… deflating, yet unsurprising, somehow. When the headline alone can cause even the most devout to lose faith…



Thanks for letting me steal this off your twitter page, @Jodes0405.

…it’s probably not good.

The apathy scares me most; that after attending 18 MLB games last year, 14 at PETCO, that it was possible to just be resigned to the mediocrity we have seen year after year, unsurprised when the next great thing for your team gives you reason to question their potential.

Fortunately the offseason does not pause, moving daily towards Pitchers and Catchers. We get to ask if it is spring training yet and speculate about the hot stove season. And, on that note, a wish list for the 2013 Padres:

1) Bring back Mike Adams. The bullpen, still stocked with serviceable pitchers, has lost most of its personality. Gone are the goofy Bell, the swag Adams used to bring to the Penitentiary, and even Frieri’s little kid smile.
2) Grady Sizemore. As much as we’ve come to love Denorfia’s dive, a low-risk incentive laden contract for Sizemore could work. And it would increase female attendance in right field by about 800%. Anything to get those guys who think Yankee Stadium roll call is OK to be less of a presence out there.
3) Brandon McCarthy/Francisco Liriano: McCarthy for his arm and humor, Liriano as a cheap back of the rotation option, where he can be (potentially?) protected by modified bastardized Petco dimensions.
4) Faith. And fewer Tommy John surgeries.

91 Days until pitchers and catchers, when our faith will be renewed again.

Dis

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

In Defense (Sort Of) of PEDs...But Not of Grandal

There are two very distinct opinions I have on this entire story regarding Yasmani Grandal's suspension. They dovetail nicely but it is important that both be given equal time so as to avoid in confusion about what I'm saying. So, let's break this down in two sections. First, regarding Grandal himself.

Part I

I like Yasmani Grandal. What's not to like? The mohawk. The energy. The power from both sides of the plate. Aw, the power. You cannot help but now question, even if its only a slight question, as to whether or not what we saw in 2012 was real. In 60 games, he hit .297 with 8 HRs and 36 RBI. A WAR of 2.6. Again, in only 60 games. More importantly, he was a marked improvement from the minimal production the Padres were receiving from behind the plate.

But now, we wonder. He tested positive for testosterone. I'm not a doctor, but from a layman's understanding testosterone helps build muscles in athletes. As this article from the New York Times from 2006 points out, "Steroids are not going to take someone without athletic ability and turn them into a star athlete, or teach you how to swing a bat and connect with the ball, but if you have a certain athletic presence, testosterone could take you to the next level."

This begs the question as to whether or not the 2012 half season of Yasmani Grandal was in fact a bill of goods. We won't know the answer to that for some time. The most damning evidence in any of these cases is a marked drop-off in performance (conversely, what helps Braun in the public mind, at least somewhat, is that he reproduced at the same level in 2012).

More importantly however is how long this has been on going. Experts seem split on the short-term effects of testosterone. But the long-term effects are clear. Was Grandal using as a 1st round draft pick in 2010? Was he using when the Padres traded away their ace pitcher to bring him (among others) to San Diego? If it turns out that the Padres gave up Mat Latos for a player who's prospects are now built on a foundation with a very serious crack, then he will not only have cheated himself and his competitors but the franchise that has pegged him as a cornerstone of a talent-filled youth movement.

One final thought on Grandal. Regardless of what comes out of all this and regardless of what you are about to read next, this is an incredibly selfish thing for Grandal to do. Whether PEDs should be illegal in sports or not (more on that in a moment) is irrelevant for now. Because they are illegal in MLB. And Grandal knew it. And did it anyway. He now takes his tremendous talent off the field for 50 games, and has hurt his teams chances at being competitive. Simply put, this was selfish.


Part II

In law school I went to a sports law symposium once where the keynote speaker was David Cornwell, former Assistant General Counsel for the NFL and former attorney for Shawne Merriman during his PED issue. He made the argument that perhaps instead of pushing PEDs into dark rooms and alleyways (hyperbole obviously) that they should be made legal in sports.

Before we continue I think it's important to make the following statement. In absolutely no way do I condone abusing any drug, legal or illegal. From a health perspective, it is clear the damage that abusing drugs whether it's steroids, cocaine or alcohol is a very real danger to one's health. In no way should it be condoned.

But this isn't an argument about the health risk. If players are made aware of the risk and choose to take those risk nevertheless, so be it. This is about the "Performance Enhancing" aspect of this. Because that's why these suspensions are so serious. Professional sports leagues don't care that much about player safety. Not as much as they care about compelling sport and profit.

So if we view this problem from a perspective of "performance enhancing" then I think the question is fair. Why aren't they legal? Through time we have allowed people to ingest, in some form, any number of things to help aid one's performance. Most people begin their morning with coffee. A caffeine boost to get your day started. Caffeine is nothing more than a chemical being ingested to "enhance" your "performance." Test takers take medication to help them concentrate. Sleeping pills, pain relievers, and even prescribed steroids are all used to help every day people get through the day.

So where do we draw the line? Obviously I'm not suggesting that caffeine is in the same ballpark as a steroid. Only using an obvious exaggeration to point out that this bright line we have drawn is a moving target.

If players were allowed to use PEDs then the primary reason that leagues make them illegal (unfair competitive advantage) ceases to exists. The science has caught up with the athletes. Legalizing it could lead to safer use amongst player, perhaps off-setting some health concerns. There is some evidence that these drugs in fact help players recuperate from injury, aiding in the healing process.

And if health is the concern, and at this point we all accept that some portion of athletes are using, does that not make it more unsafe for players who don't use?

I don't know the answer to many of these questions. But in a week where recreational marijuana was made legal in two states, I'm left wondering the same for PEDs. Perhaps legalizing it is the easiest way to get control of it.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Frozen Donkey Wheel of Petco Park

In the ABC drama "LOST" Benjamin Linus is told that he must move the island to save the island. This obviously seems like an insane, and impossible, request to make of anyone. Nevertheless, Ben, who's sole purpose in life has been the protection of the island, does as he is told. In the Season 4 finale, he turns a frozen donkey wheel that results in the island disappearing from it's physical location.

And all of this has really just been an excuse to tell you that I love LOST. Great show. Screw you guys who hated the finale.

I hope that moving the fences in at Petco Park is a more simple process than locating and turning a mystical frozen donkey wheel.


As you have no doubt heard by now, Petco Park's dimensions are changing for the 2013 season. Corey Brock had the story yesterday and you can read it here.

As highlighted in the article, the major moves are as follows:

• Moving in the wall that runs from the right-field porch to right-center 11 feet. The wall will also be lowered to match the height of the sub-eight-foot wall in left and center field.

• The out-of-town scoreboard in right field will be relocated. Seating modifications in that area will be announced later. In right-center, the wall will move from 402 feet to 391 feet.

• The wall in left-center will be moved in from 402 feet to 390 feet.

• The visiting bullpen, currently down the right-field line in foul territory, will be moved to center field behind the existing home bullpen area.


Again, I'm assuming by now you are aware of this. The "Move in the Fences!" argument has been perhaps the longest standing inter-Padres fan base argument in the franchises history. And those who campaigned, loudly, for such a move have achieved their goal. It does leave one wondering: what on earth will we argue about now?

But enough about that. The question is whether this is the right move or not. And anyone who tells you that they know for certain that this is a mistake or the right decision is lying. The walls are moving in 11 ft and 12 ft in right field and left field. That's substantial. An article on Fangraphs from January 3, 2012 shows that the effect of Petco on left-handed hitters was devastating regarding their ability to hit HR's. But you'll see an increase in left-handed hitters to hit singles, doubles and triples. Is sacrificing those singles, doubles and triples worth more HRs? Time will tell whether those numbers are effected at all.

It stands to reason that next year will see an uptick in HRs. And likely to follow, an uptick in offense.

What remains to be seen is how much of an effect this will have on the Padres pitching staff and bullpen, a strength for the Padres during their tenure in Petco Park. What further remains to be seen is whether this will increase the teams ability to lure free agents to San Diego. We aren't likely to know that for a few years once some data exist on how Petco Park plays.

On the more immediate horizon is this question: following a career year, will moving in the fences make Chase Headley more likely to sign an extension in San Diego? Was that part of the equation? I don't know the answers to these questions.

I was never for moving in the fences, as detailed in this blog post from 2011. But if the modification of the fences leads to a more successful team, I'm all for it. Because that's all that should matter. Will this make the team better? That's the only question that matters. Any argument regarding entertainment value of one style of baseball vs another is pointless and meaningless. Is this a smart baseball move? They've done their research in making this move. But does anyone really know?

And that's the takeaway here. The moving of the fences in raises a lot of questions. Questions that no one, despite all the data and research they've done, can answer. What is not up for debate is the fact that the Padres, in 8 years of Petco Park, experienced 4 of the most winning seasons in their franchise history. Whether the park had some, a lot, or anything to do with that is not clear. But to move the fences, despite the team's relative success, is a bold move.

In LOST, once the wagon wheel was turned, it caused the island to begin jumping through time. This was only stopped by detonating a hydrogen bomb.

Unintended consequences lurk with any move like this. That doesn't necessarily mean those consequences are negative. But right now, we simply don't know.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Night

And on October 3rd, 2012 on a early Fall night in Milwaukee the 2012 San Diego Padres season came to an end. And never has a 76 win season been more celebrated.

Baseball is a microcosm for life. Except in one, very distinct, way. Life, your losses stay on your record. It's one long season. In baseball, everything is cyclical. Everything starts anew in the Spring. And I can't wait.

For now, the Padres 2012 season is over.

The Padres end with 76 wins. That's 2.5 more than Vegas predicted, and probably about 15 games more than anyone expected back when the team was 19-40. A 100 loss season seemed eminent.

Then something crazy happened.

On May 18th, the Padres outright released Orlando Hudson and moved Bartlett to the DL list of lost souls. They were 14-26.

I remember vividly where I was when it happened. As non-on the field moments go, this felt BIG. Not Adrian Gonzalez traded big (was sitting on my couch obsessively updating Twitter waiting for the news) or Mat Latos trade (Christmas shopping with my wife in Pasadena). But nevertheless, this felt important. I was leaving court, driving out of a parking garage and had just turned on Darren Smith when I heard. It was, at the time, the highlight of the 2012 Padres season.

They finished May on a 3-13 run after this. Things were not turning around immediately. But the team felt, I don't know, more fun to root for. Youth on the field. Making errors one can come to expect from youth. But also bringing with them excitement.

June was a modest improvement. 12-15. Not great, but a far cry better than the 17-35 in April and May.

They didn't play under .500 in a month (3 days in October not withstanding) again.

They went 33-21 in July and August before a .500 September and a 1-2 October.

"Bad early. Good late." - Bud Black

That pretty much sums up the Padres season.

I was as despondent as I have ever been as a Padres fan at the beginning of the year. I am as optimistic as I have ever been at the end of one.

There will be time this Winter to discuss the amazing season of Chase Headley, what the Padres need to fill in the pieces in 2013 and the health of a very young pitching staff.

For now though, let's enjoy a great second half of a season, a sale that may have revived baseball in San Diego, and dreams of what 2013 may hold.

As Yonder Alonso put it on Twitter tonight:



That one more month is coming...April 2013.





Saturday, September 8, 2012

Extending Chase Headley


Chase Headley continued his torrid post-trade deadline pace last night by hitting 2 HR and knocking in 4 RBI, leading the Padres to yet another win in this 2nd half of 2012.

All told, Headley since August 1 is hitting .338, with 14 HRs, and 46 RBI. He will almost certainly hit 100 RBI this season, a feat not accomplished since Adrian Gonzalez in 2010.

But you all know this. I don't need to sell you on Chase Headley anymore.

What I'm here to talk about is extending Chase Headley. And what it might take to do that.

Chase Headley is currently paid $3.475 million on a one year deal. He is arbitration eligible in 2013 and 2014. Basically, Headley is a steal right now. But those days are about to be over.

So what kind of contract would it take, realistically, to keep Headley? And at what number do the Padres say "that's too high" and walk away? Let's compare:

Chase Headley 2012
WAR: 4.9
Slash Line: .287/.370/.488
HR: 26
RBI: 98
UZR: 5.2
SB: 14

Aramis Ramirez
The Milwaukee Brewers, attempting to recoup the loss of Prince Fielder from both an offensive standpoint and a fan interest standpoint, signed the 34 year old 3rd basemen to 3 yrs/$36 million. The Brewers have been rewarded with a .295 BA, 21 HR, and 89 RBI for a WAR of 4.1.

From an offensive standpoint, Ramirez is having perhaps the most comparable season. It's not a perfect comparison. For one, Headley walks far more than Ramirez (69 vs 39) which translates to a higher OBP (.370 vs .358) and is a bigger threat to steal (14/20 vs 7/9). Ramirez, for his part, out slugs Headley (.523 vs .488).

But the biggest difference is their age. While Headley turned 28 this season, Ramirez turned 34 this season in his first year of a 3 year deal.

Conclusion: A comparable WAR and offensively numbers but older, Ramirez was worth the limited risk of a 3 year contract at $12 million a year.


Pablo Sandoval
Like Chase Headley, Pablo Sandoval was a homegrown talent. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2002, Sandoval made his debut in 2008. He is a fan favorite in San Francisco, garnering the nickname Kung Fu Panda which as translated into a marketing an apparel boom for San Francisco. He is now playing his first of his 3 years on a contract signed this past off-season. It is a contract that gobbles up his arbitration years and was a viewed as a reward for Sandoval's renewed conditioning and weight loss regimen to rebound from a poor 2010.

Using his 2012 numbers is a bit difficult as he has been injured quite a bit this season. I'm not factoring in injuries in doing these comparisons because, frankly, they are unpredictable. Though it is worth noting that the Giants got only 117 games out of Sandoval this year and thus far 85 games this season. Surely this played into their decision somewhat. But, using the 2011 numbers, which in effect were the basis for the Giants decision to extend Sandoval, seems a more fair comparison.

In 2011, Sandoval was good for a BA of .315, 23 HR, 70 RBI. A slash line of .315/.357/.552 and a WAR of 5.9. That WAR was good for 3rd amongst 3rd basemen in MLB.

Conclusion: Sandoval is a fan favorite and one of the best 3rd basemen in baseball when he is healthy. But his weight and conditioning are a constant struggle have lead to another injury filled season. Sandoval will be under 30 when this contract expires. 3 yrs/$17.5 million.


The above are obviously 3rd basemen which is the most accurate comparison for Chase Headley. From a statistical standpoint, their are other 3rd basemen having similar seasons as Headley but their contract situation, either due to being far too large (in a big market) or in the midst of a rookie contract (and thus far too small) are not comparable. Examples: David Wright, Brett Lawrie, David Freese.

Below are a few players who have similar WAR's (as with any stat, this one is imperfect and is used here to find players, relatively speaking, similar to Chase in value) in comparable markets to San Diego and their contracts.

Alex Gordon (LF): WAR 4.7

From a franchise standpoint, the Royals compare to the Padres in a lot of ways. A small market team that has tried to build longer lasting success through the draft a strong farm system, the Royals have now begun reaching that point of locking up some of their younger homegrown talent. It has lead to a better season in 2012, though certainly not where the Royals want to be.

One of those young homegrown talents is Alex Gordon. And if the All-Star Game and HR Derby are any indiction, a fan favorite in KC.

Slash Line: .298/.367/.454
HR: 11
RBI: 63

By every metrix Gordon is having a down year in comparison to 2011, which was the season that earned his contract extension. In 2011, .303/.376/.502 and won a Gold Glove with a WAR of 7.1. Like Chase, Gordon was a heavily hyped prospect (2nd overall pick in 2005).

This 2011 season (again, a more fair comparable as it's the season that earned the contract which is the situation we are in with Chase) resulted in a 4 yr/$37.5 million contract extension for a player that is 28 years old.

Conclusion: Homegrown talent at the same age locked up for less than $10 million.

Ben Zobrist (RF): WAR 4.8

Zobrist was traded to Tampa Bay in 2006 for Aubrey Huff (you read that right). So in that way, he is not "homegrown" though he has been with the Rays for 6 years now. In 2010, he signed a 3 yr, $30 million extension with options in 2014 and 2015. He was rewarded for his breakout year of 2009 which looked like this:

.297/.405/.543, 27 HR, 91 RBI, WAR 8.3

This year, in his 2nd year of this deal, he is hitting .266/.373/.468 WAR 4.8. Hilariously, this is his Wikipedia page for his 2012 section: "On September 7, 2012, Zobrist hit a walk off homerun vs. the Texas Rangers. This event made Buggy very sad." I don't know what that means.

Conclusion: Rewarded for a breakout year that he has yet to repeat, Zobrist remains a integral part of a team consistently in the playoff hun. 31 years old. 3 yrs, $30 million.

Miguel Montero (C): WAR 3.2

Another homegrown talent, Montero is the highest paid player on this list. Well, he will be. Signing a 5 yr, $60 million contract this May. Playing into this decision was the Diamondbacks perceived lack of a suitable and comparable replacement should they lose Montero. Not seeing a comparable replacement for the price they were willing to go for Montero, Kevin Towers locked up his young catcher for the foreseeable future.

He is the 4th highest ranked catcher in MLB per WAR (3.2), ahead of Joe Mauer, Matt Wieters and Mike Napoli.

2012 Slash Line: .285/.384/.451
Age: 29

Conclusion: A homegrown talent at one of the more important positions on the field, the Diamondbacks locked up one of the best catchers in the NL at a hefty price, driven mostly by a lack of a suitable replacement.


Of these players, the most comparable to Chase Headley in my mind is Alex Gordon. Similar hype, similar breakout year numbers in a similar market.

As such, 4 yrs/$40 million seems to be, in my mind, a fair market value. Would I go as high as Montero? I don't know. The difference here then with pretty much everyone listed on this list is that the Padres believe they possibly have a replacement for Headley, at a far cheaper price, in Jedd Gyorko. But prospects are unknown commodities. And works in progress. It's worth noting that the top prospect in the Royals farm system is Wil Myers, an outfielder, and despite this they still locked up Gordon. OF obviously being a different beast however as their are 3 possible positions to play vs only one 3rd basemen on the field.

5 yrs/$55 million. That's the deal that I'd give Headley. It's less than Montero. It's comparable in yearly salary to Ramirez for a far better (and younger) player.

Whether the Padres can do it remains to be seen. But they should.