Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Successful Season in 2011?

Success is in the eye of the beholder. And arguably, your idea of success is dependent on what view you take of a situation.

For example:

The 2010 Padres won 90 games after winning 75 games the year before = Success

The 2010 Padres had the best record in the National League in late August and missed the playoffs = Not Success

Mat Latos went 14-10 with an ERA of 2.92 in 2010 = Success

Mat Latos went 1-5 with an ERA of 5.66 in September of 2010 = Not Success

Success. Virtually impossible to define and impossible to agree on. Ask 100 Padres fans whether the 2010 season was a successful season, and chances are you would get a near 50/50 split of yes and no. And both sides are probably right. To a point.

So how do we define success for the 2011 San Diego Padres?

For one, the expectations have been risen by the 2010 season. Not a bad thing until you look at the overhaul the Padres went through. Only one infield position will be manned by the same player as last year (Chase Headley-3B). The trade of arguably the best player the Padres have had in the past decade leaves a hole not only in the lineup but on the defensive side of the ball. Major pieces of the bullpen (Muijica and Webb) and starting rotation (Chris Young and Kevin Correia) are gone.

In place of these major changes, the Padres front office has built a team that is perhaps more athletic and more balanced. Balance looks to be the buzzword surrounding this team this year and if you haven't heard it enough yet, just wait. But despite the PR spin of terms like "balance" there is truth to that. In a previous post, I compared the current middle infield vs the middle infield revolving door the Padres used in 2010

I'm all in on Bartlett and Hudson.

I'm also all in on Harang. Maybe I've had a bit to much Kool-Aid but a strikeout pitcher who's Achilles Heel is homeruns moves to Petco Park? I'll take my chances.

Questions abound, of course. Cameron Maybin is a great fit for the cavernous center field of Petco Park. A guy with 5 tool potential but right hits like Pedro Serrano (all straight balls, nothing that moves).

Hawpe is a downgrade defensively at first, there's no debate about that. But how much of a downgrade and how much will that hurt and infield that, overall I think will be better defensively. Mat Latos has struggled in Peoria so far this year and there is some concern that the massive workload increase from 2008-2010 is a debt that is coming due.

So what is success for the 2011 San Diego Padres? I think its fair to say that there is perhaps more excitement internally about where the team is heading, with the additions of Anthony Rizzo and Casey Kelly, then where they are. That doesn't mean 2011 is a lost season as we all bide our time waiting for the first basemen of the future to get here (and while we are on the subject, how about we temper some expectations this time. Less "savior" talk would do a world of good. Yes, Rizzo is having a great Spring. But so did Kyle Blanks last Spring. Chase Headley has fallen victim to the otherworldly expectations when he was touted as the "savior."). It does mean that, perhaps more than any other season in recent memory, getting a handle of the 2011 Padres before the season starts is near impossible.

But they still have great pitching. Outside of first base, they are stronger defensively. The back end of their bullpen remains in tact and they have a lineup sprinkled with players who have huge upside (Maybin, Venable). Plus a division where there is no clear favorite (though I think if you win a World Series, you are the de-facto favorite).

So success for the 2011 Padres to me is simply this: be competitive. Winning 90 games is hard and probably unrealistic. Winning 82-85 games? More than doable. That win total puts the Padres in the thick of the NL West into August and at that point, as we are all too familiar with, anything can happen.

But keep this in mind. Success can be defined in a number of ways and our definition of it will change throughout the season. At the beginning of last year, I thought .500 would be a success. By the All-Star game, a division title was success. Looking back on the season, despite not making the playoffs, 90 wins to me was a success.