Saturday, September 1, 2012

Hot August Nights (and Days)

The Padres just finished the best month of baseball since August of 2007.

The team that, at one point, was 20-41 on the season, just won 18 games in a month for the first time in 5 years.

Even the most optimistic of fans could not have predicted that a team with 13 players on the DL, including 3/5ths of the starting rotation and their closer somehow put together a month equal to a team featuring Jake Peavy, Greg Maddux, Chris Young as the starting rotation and Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff and the Giles brothers.

Such a month deserves a blog post.

August Behind-the-Numbers

Team BA: .264 (7th in NL)
Highest since August 2011

Team ERA: 3.79 (6th in NL)

HR: 26 (8th in NL)
Ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

OBP: .328 (4th in NL)

Favorite Game of August: 8/21/12 vs Pittsburgh. Headley's 2 run HR walk-off.

2nd Favorite Game: 8/27/12 vs Atlanta. Casey Kelly, one of the key pieces of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, makes his MLB debut going 6IP, 0R, 3H, 4SO and throwing 87 pitches.

But perhaps most telling to why the offense is suddenly clicking. Strikeouts. In April, only 1 team in the National League struck out more than the Padres (192).

In August, only 3 teams struck out less than the Padres (194).

And when they get on, they are getting over. The Padres stole more bases than all but 1 team in the N.L. in August (25). Nor do they squander base runners, grounding into the fewest double plays in the N.L.

Were they a paper tiger, beating up on lesser competition thanks to the scheduling Gods? Hardly. The month of August featured 21 games vs teams within 5 games of a playoff spot or better (Cincinnati, Atlanta, San Francisco, Pittsburgh, Arizona).

Ask any Padres fan and my guess is they will tell you that, as a fan, this has been the most enjoyable month of this season by a long shot. But it's a fading memory unless it leads to bigger things. In 2009, the Padres ended the season in August and September going 32-23. This followed a June and July in which they went 17-37. And was later looked at as the first inclination that the 2010 team would win 90 games.

If the Padres play September above .500, it will be the 3rd month in a row they've done so, something they did only once in 2011 (14-14 in May). More importantly, it may be the same bellwether for 2013 as it was back in 2009.

Already you have seen the front office take notice that the team as constructed is perhaps closer to contending than previously believed. Chase Headley wasn't moved, and in turn the Padres were rewarded by Chase who lead the league in HR and RBI:

The rest of the baseball world is starting to notice as well. Just this week, two articles came out highlighting the recent Padres surge and the prospect of a competitive future that now may be closer than previously believed. Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports, wrote that the Padres look like a team that may contend "sooner rather than later."

Fangraphs tempered their expectation somewhat, writing this week that "suddenly .500 looks less like a goal and more like an expectation."

But really it comes down to this. Baseball is suppose to be fun. It's a pastime. We watch because it's fun to watch. Except, for most of this year, it hasn't been.

Until now.

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