What to look for in second half of Padres season

DS Padres vs Pirates 4

The Padres entered the All-Star Break with a 41-49 record, fourth in the National League West and 10 games behind the division-leading Dodgers. After an offseason filled with big-name signings and high expectations, the season started off strong – on April 21, they were 10-5 – followed by a slow calibration to .500, where they hovered for about a month before manager Bud Black was fired (and the wheels seemed to really come off for the team).

Headed into the second half of the season, there are some definite questions surrounding the Padres:

WHO’S HERE AND WHO’S NOT?

General Manager A.J. Preller has his work cut out for him at the trade deadline if the team truly believes it can contend in the second half, which is the sentiment we’re hearing from owners Ron Fowler and Peter Seidler. Things can change quickly, though, so it’s a mystery as to whether or not Preller will try and move some key pieces – rumors include Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Andrew Cashner, Will Venable, Ian Kennedy and even James Shields – or whether he will stand down and play out the rest of the reason. It seems reasonable to think he’ll make some trades, especially with upcoming free agents, so the question becomes: What will he get in return? Would he go for prospects and try and replenish some of the minor league players he traded away in the offseason? Or will he try and get a player who can help win NOW? And to take that a step further, SHOULD he just forget about this (sad) season and try and rebuild the depleted farm system instead? What is going to happen to this team in two, three years if he doesn’t? What is baseball? What is LIFE???

Bottom line: QUICK, CRAWL OUT OF THE RABBIT HOLE!! GET OUT! NOW!

See how quickly that escalates? Let’s move on.

 

NORRISSAURUS REX IS EXTINCT … PERHAPS FED WILL REVIVE?

Okay, Derek Norris is not extinct YET, but he will be if he doesn’t get some more time off. The guy started 72 games through the All-Star Break and took a blow to his body in most of those. Seriously, he’s like a walking bruise. Norris started only 93 games TOTAL in 2014. It’s not that he’s not ready to step it up – clearly, he proved early in the season that he is – it’s that catcher is a demanding position and he just needs some dang time off. Play him a lot, but not THAT much.

Norris was hitting .283 with 32 RBIs and four home runs from the beginning of the season through the end of May. Since June 1, he’s hitting .165. ONE-SIXTY-FIVE. Let the man rest.

Keep an eye on Tim Federowicz, the Padres backup catcher who went on the disabled list in Spring Training due to a meniscus tear in his right knee. Fed made a rehab start with the Fort Wayne TinCaps this past week. If he can get back on the roster he can relieve Norris, and backup-backup-catcher Austin Hedges can go back to Triple-A and see some regular playing time, which he isn’t getting with the big club.

Bottom line: Get Fed back, let Norris rest more often. Or don’t get Fed back, but play Hedges and let Norris rest more often. See the theme here?

 

GET BETTER SOON:

Starting pitcher Brandon Morrow has been on the disabled list since May 3 with right shoulder inflammation. He’s throwing simulated games now but will likely need the allotted thirty rehab days once he starts his assignment … So, the soonest he can join the team is mid-August in a best-case scenario (when is anything ever best-case with the Padres)? By mid-August, will this team even be relevant? Does his return matter? Then you have outfielder Wil Myers — who definitely makes this team better — expected to return early to mid-August, but his forearm strength will likely be weakened after having a bone spur removed from his wrist. It might not even be worth bringing him back at that point. Infielder Cory Spangenberg (left knee contusion) isn’t progressing as quickly as the team hoped, but maybe this extended break has done him well.

 Bottom line: You know the emoji of the monkey covering his eyes? Insert here.

 

OFFENSE PLEASE:

The Padres have a team batting average of .238 – third-worst in all of major league baseball – going into the All-Star Break.

 Bottom line: Sigh. Find yo bats, boys. This is all too familiar.

 

DEFENSE PLEASE:

Errors, or just sloppy fielding in general, have cost the team too many times this season. Preller built a roster with a shaky defense and it’s been exploited so far.

Bottom line: Sigh. Find yo glove, boys. This is all too familiar.

 

PITCHING PLEASE:

This is a staff that, collectively, has improved as the season’s progressed, but really underachieved the first few months. Keep an eye on Tyson Ross, who walked a lot of opponents the first half but only gave up six runs over his last 29.2 innings and pitched a one-run complete game in late June. Ross was the team’s All-Star last year (195.2 innings pitched and an ERA of 2.81) and eyes are on him to see if he can build off his last few starts and pitch well in the second half.

Bottom line: Ummm … shrug?

 

MENTAL MATTERS:

Since Bud Black’s firing, this team looks like its aged twenty years. It’s not Pat Murphy’s fault; rather, it’s a front office situation that left players with a rookie big league manager who is not only trying to find HIS way, but also trying to learn the players mid-season. The timing is unfortunate; the players, all too aware of the shakiness of the situation. It will be interesting to watch how Murphy evolves over the next few months.

Bottom line: These players look mentally tired. Perhaps the All-Star Break will revive them and the fruits of that will be seen on the field.

 

STREAK IT OUT:

The Padres’ longest win streak this season has been four games. Can they string together seven, eight, nine wins and just go on a tear? To do so, they’ll need consistency, which has been a struggle this season. Whenever pitching is good, offense or defense isn’t — and vice versa. Somehow, someway, this team needs to click collectively.

Bottom line: They’re going to need a tear if they’re really looking to contend the second half of the season. If not a streak, then phrases like “The Padres took seven of the last 10 games” or “This is a team that won their last three series” need to be uttered.

 

WHAT THE HELL HAPPENS NOW?

Look, I have a tendency to get five steps ahead of whatever is happening in my life before a friend or someone in my family inevitably steps in and says, lovingly and also annoyingly: “Most of the things we worry about never happen.”

Blech.

But, they’re usually right.

HOWEVER …

Let’s consider the alternative for a moment, shall we?

(I’m dark like that.)

Preller traded away many of the Padres’ top prospects – think Joe Ross, Trea Turner and Matt Wisler — and also took on the highest payroll in franchise history ($109 million). They have more than $60 million committed to players already on the roster in 2016 and have inherited the bloated contracts of guys like Melvin Upton, Craig Kimbrel and Matt Kemp (assuming Preller doesn’t trade them away).

It hasn’t worked.

Is it a fluke year? Are they just snakebit, like Fowler said? If Preller continues to sign or trade for big-name players who, for one reason or another, are being pushed away from their respective teams … Is it a formula for success that will eventually hit?

Or do you blow it up, start replenishing the farm system and give the organization a few years to catch up and really make a run for it with young players in the future?

The former is more flashy and, although a gamble, likely includes veteran experience and All-Star players (and baggage). The latter sells less jerseys and is less sexy, but is also proven, as we’ve seen with teams like the Royals and the Astros. Patience has paid off.

The question is: What works best for this city and this particular team?

Preller is about to give us his answer.

 What’s yours? Leave it in the comments below.

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