Sunday, July 8, 2007
And There's the Bell: 1st Half Review
And so ends the first half of the 2007 MLB season. A season where we learned that the best Japanese import pitcher isn't named Dice-K (his name is Okajimi). Where we can't stop the speeding train that is Barry Bonds and the home run pursuit. And where more times than you would expect (or ever want to see) 2 hits are enough to win a game. With an eye on the 2nd Half, here is the Padres 1st Half Review.
The Padres finish the first half alone in first place atop the National League West. This is the 6th time in franchise history that the Padres have lead at the official halfway point. The other 5 times? The Padres went on to win the division.
The Padres finish 11 games over .500 with a 25-20 home record. This all despite the fact that the Padres rank last in team batting average, currently at .241.
So how are the Padres doing it? Run differential. The Padres post the best run differential in baseball with a ration of runs scored = 374 and runs against = 298. The Padres 298 runs against stat is by far the best in baseball, more than 50 runs better than the team in second in that category, the Boston Red Sox.
First the good.
Jake Peavy and Chris Young: As far as team MVP goes, these two are 1A and 1B. Young currently leads the NL in ERA with a 2.00 ERA. Peavy follows Young with a 2.19. By far the key to the Padres winning ways have been their pitching and the two key cogs of the best pitching staff in baseball is these two.
What makes the Padres dangerous as an October team is the proposition that in a 5-game series they could conceivably lineup: Peavy, Young, Maddox, Peavy, Young. Tough to win 3 games against that pitching lineup.
Mike Cameron post-April. Cameron started the season below the Mendoza line, batting .198 to end April. Since, he has batted .305 with 11 HR. This to go along with more gold glove play in center.
Adrian Gonzalez. Prior to the current slump that he appears to be on his way breaking out of (the All-Star Break will help as well, giving Gonzalez some time off). He is the team leader in BA, RBI, and OPS.
Bullpen. What is there to say. Nothing that hasn't already been said. Stellar work and a Hall of Famer closing out games. Keep playing "Hell's Bells" fellas! And oh yeah...did I mention 500 saves from Trevor Hoffman! 25 saves at the break, good enough for 3rd in the NL and a pace of over 50 saves for the season. Not bad. Off-Speed Does Kill!
Now some Bad.
Marcus Giles as a leadoff hitter. Way...WAY too man first pitch swings, too many hacks. The Padres need some more patience from their number 2 hitter.
Throwing out Baserunners. The Braves stole 3 more tonight, bringing the total of bases stolen on the Padres to 101. Amount thrown out? 18. Some of this is due to the pitchers (Maddox and Peavy for one do not hold runners very well). This has to get better.
Offense. The Padres have attempted to rectify this situation by making what may become the two biggest acquisitions in what appears to be a down year for trades. Michael Barrett and Milton Bradley will hopefully add some much needed punch to the middle of the Padres lineup. Bradley got his first Padres start on Saturday, a game I was able to be at (beach towel day people!). An interesting start, hitting an infield single, making a juggling catch in left-center, and hitting a 398 foot flyout. Welcome to Petco. Time will tell if these two moves will pay off. In two games with Bradley, he has hit the ball hard every time, getting two hits again today.
1st Half Awards
Team MVP: Jake Peavy- this team wins with pitching, and there may be no better pitcher in the National League than Jake Peavy. Honorable Mention: Chris Young, Trevor Hoffman, Adrian Gonzalez
Team Silver Slugger: Adrian Gonzalez- this guy is an All-Star in the making and can hit to all fields, hit for power and hit with runners on. Only negative. Too many strikeouts. Honorable Mention: Mike Cameron, Khalil Greene
Team Gold Glove: Khalil Greene- there may be no better defensive shortstop playing right now, especially on slow choppers and balls behind the bag. Anyone who saw Greene's spinning throw from behind second base knows this guy is for real. Honorable Mention: Mike Cameron, Adrian Gonzalez
Surprise Player: Jose Cruz Jr.- Cruz has been asked to play all three positions in the outfield at some point, can bunt, hit to all fields and is a switch hitter. Not bad. Honorable Mention: Heath Bell, Royce Ring
Looking toward the second half, the Padres continue to pitch well. One can only hope that the offense will start to pull their weight. Looks like another race to the finish with the Dodgers, making every LA/SD series huge. As for this last set, the Padres dropped 2 of 3 to Atlanta, a team that has had SD's number the last two years. Uncharacteristically, the Padres gave up 17 runs in the weekend set. On Sunday the Padres, after being somewhat punchless all game, strung together 5 consecutive 2 out hits to push the tying run to second before Marcus Giles struck out. A gutty performance, but where were the hits prior to 2 outs in the 9th?
The Padres need to hit better with runners in scoring position and less than 2 outs. If they can increase their productivity in that one category, it will be near impossible for them to not win a 3rd straight NL West Division Crown.
Just For Fun
Quickly now, as this will be the only post until Friday when the Padres return from the break, here are the National League Awards as I see them for the first half:
MVP: Matt Holliday, Col - leads the league in BA
Cy Young: Jake Peavy, SD - Penny and Peavy will be battling all year. And now throw in Young to this race
Rookie of the Year: Hunter Pence, Hou - a bright spot in a bad year in Houston
Manager of the Year: Ned Yost, Mil - raise your hand if you thought the Brewers would be leading the Central at the break. Put your hands down, your lying.
Comeback Player of the Year: Ken Griffey Jr., Cin- vintage. Straight vintage.
See you all on Friday when the Padres head to the desert to take on division rival Arizona. Stay tuned next week for full coverage of Tony Gwynn Weekend in San Diego and of course the induction into Baseball's Hall of Fame. (22 games...and counting)