Are the 2015 San Diego Padres fatally flawed?

middlebrooks

“They already had the pitching, now they have the hitting too.”

That was the rallying cry for those who felt good about the San Diego Padres after A.J. Preller was hired and quickly took a sledgehammer to the roster.

 

Improved Hitting (?)

Gone were the weak bats of Rene Rivera, Cameron Maybin, Chris Denorfia and others. In their place were former all-stars in Derek Norris, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton. Will Venable and his .224 batting average went from below-average starter to above-average bench player with the trade of Matt Kemp.

This team was going to be among the league leaders when it came to hitting, right?

Well, kind of. Even after this weekend’s offensive slump, the Padres are still 11th in the league in runs scored and RBIs. They’ve been even higher than that for most of this season, leading many to conclude that the offense is drastically improved over last year’s and that it’s Bud Black’s fault that the team hasn’t turned that into extra wins.

However, those stats aren’t painting a clear enough picture. The offense hasn’t just been inconsistent, it has arguably been bad with an occasional inning of luck being turned into runs. Look at these rankings for the offense this year:

21st in walk rate
28th in strikeout rate
23rd in batting average
26th in on-base percentage
26th in slugging percentage
26th in weighted on-base average
23rd in weighted runs-created plus
22nd in offensive runs above average
25th in wins above replacement

With the amount of hitting talent on this roster, that is disturbing. This team doesn’t seem to do anything well at the plate.

However, their prowess at the plate is something to be proud of when compared to how well they’ve done with the glove….

 

Fielding Woes

19th in fielding percentage
25th in total errors
28th in defensive runs saved
29th in ultimate zone rating
28th in revised zone rating

They’re bad. The more you go digging, and I’ll save you the headache of going any deeper, the more it becomes blatantly obvious that the 2015 San Diego Padres are one of the three worst defensive teams in the league. What hurts even more is that, when looking at the same stats, the Padres were a top 10-15 defensive team last year.

I’m not just talking in terms of making plays against making errors. Many of the players out there this season for San Diego have poor range, or poor arms, or take poor routes to the ball. That’s the stuff that you normally don’t see when watching a game, but it can hurt you in a number of ways. For instance…

 

2014 Padres pitchers vs. their 2015 numbers

30-year old Ian Kennedy should be in the prime of his career, and should be having one of his best seasons ever. That’s why the Padres were happy to pay him nearly $10 million this season, up from $6 million last year and $4.2 million the year before. Instead, he’s posting his worst season since 2008, when he was so bad that the Yankees sent him back to the minor leagues and left him there until trading him to the Diamondbacks.

28-year old Andrew Cashner should be in the prime of his career, and should be having one of his best seasons ever. That’s why the team was happy to pay him over $4 million this season, up from $2.4 million last year and $500k the year before. He’s coming off his best season ever in the majors, and having his worst season ever in the majors. He’s currently giving up a career high in hits allowed and ERA+, and the only season where he had a higher WHIP or ERA was his rookie year.

28-year old Tyson Ross was set to be Darren Balsley’s biggest accomplishment. After a few inconsistent years pitching for the Oakland A’s, the Padres traded for Tyson and he immediately turned into a good pitcher that could occasionally touch greatness. Last year, Ross was a well-deserve All-Star and looked ready to be something of an ace pitcher. Instead, Ross is currently in the middle of his worst season as a Padre. He’s posting his worst ERA+ and his worst WHIP since 2012 with Oakland, mostly because he’s giving up way more hits than he has to this point during his run in San Diego.

It’s not just the starters, either. Dale Thayer is nowhere near the pitcher he was last season, and Ramona’s own Nick Vincent is having his worst season in San Diego despite posting his best AAA numbers ever when the team sends him to El Paso.

 

An Unfixable Problem?

It would appear, to this point, that A.J. Preller has built a flawed roster, one filled with superstars that led the fans (and the media) to think that the team would compete for a division title and more.

Even if the team starts hitting dramatically better than what they have so far, and 72 games into the season there’s not a lot of reason to believe that they will, the defense won’t magically get better…which means the pitching won’t magically get better either.

Perhaps Bud Black was doomed from the start, and perhaps Pat Murphy’s hiring won’t help to turn things around. Nobody knows. However, one thing that is obvious to everyone is that we should not have counted on the pitching producing the same results with a dramatic dip in defense.

If A.J. Preller and the Padres decide to be “buyers” at the trade deadline, it would be wise for them to look for ways to improve their defense, instead of simply trying to add another bat or another arm.

 

Below, Annie Heilbrunn looks at the upcoming schedule for the Padres and how important this stretch of games is for the team’s future.

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