One week into the 2018 Major League Baseball season is too small of a sample size to make declarative observations about the entirety of the San Diego Padres’ campaign. However, after just a handful of games, it is abundantly clear that this Friars squad is not ready to compete with the “big boys” across the league.
Through two series of play, the Padres are literally the worst team in baseball. With a 1-6 record, San Diego has played from behind early and often, yielding minimal success. They may as well have remained winless, had it not been for a career night for Christian Villanueva who hit three home runs in the Friars lone victory.
They have faced legitimate competition early in the season. The Milwaukee Brewers were a team that won 86 games last season, finishing just one game back of a National League Wild Card spot. The Colorado Rockies posted 87 wins, securing the final Wild Card spot in the division and destroyed the Padres in the head-to-head season series in 2017 with a 12-7 record. Both teams, the Rockies and Brewers, have expectations to be vying for the postseason in 2018.
San Diego’s starting pitching, as expected, has struggled mightily. Save two gems – an Opening Day start from Clayton Richard and a matinee masterpiece by Joey Lucchessi in the series finale against the Rockies–the Padres starting pitchers have struggled with command, which has led to 22 earned runs in 36.2 innings pitched, and a collective 6.00 ERA.
The bullpen has had its fair share of gaffes. Rookie Adam Cimber allowed the game winning run in an Opening Day extra-inning affair against Milwaukee. Brad Hand followed suit the next night blowing a save, a rare occurrence for the “Brotato.” Hand allowed five runs in the 9th inning, punctuated by a two-out, two-strike three-run homer to Ryan Braun.
Hand has two losses in three appearances, including a 9th inning meltdown of his own Thursday, where he walked three and allowed three unearned runs in 0.2 IP. Hand has watched his ERA balloon to 6.75 in 2018 and has nearly matched his loss total of last year (4) within the first week of this year (2).
Manuel Margot has looked lost at the plate. Margot had been hitless in three consecutive starts before Skipper Andy Green gave him some much needed rest Wednesday night. Margot has been ineffective in the leadoff spot, posting a .125 BA, three hits, three walks, 5 K’s, and a paltry .222 OBP.
Eric Hosmer has been exactly who the Padres thought they were getting when he signed a record off-season free agent deal. Hosmer has played Gold Glove defense, cutting down runs at the plate, saving errant throws at first, and providing steady savvy veteran leadership.
Freddy Galvis has been exceptional defensively as well. Even more surprising have been the offensive contributions Galvis has made. With clutch knocks, like the bottom of the ninth Opening Day single that tied the game, Galvis leads the club in batting average (.333), is tied for walks (4), and is first in on-base percentage (.429), first in hits (8), and has struck out only four times.
Chase Headley has been disappointing. Willing to eat Headley’s $13 million dollar salary Headley to acquire SP Bryan Mitchell (who was lackluster in his first start), has provided zero return on investment and has invited scrutiny upon General Manager A.J. Preller’s offseason move. Headley is hitless on the year with one walk and six strikeouts in twelve at-bats. Headley had an opportunity to win the season opener in extras against the Brewers. With only one out in the bottom of the 11th, Headley stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded. A simple fly ball could have won the game. Instead, Headley grounded into the rare 5-2-3 double play. Inning over, and the Padres would cough up the lead in the top of the 12th.
Further exacerbating the struggles have been injuries. Beyond Dinelson Lamet’s elbow injury in his final Spring Training tune up, further damaging an already anemic starting rotation, two more untimely injuries have taken place.
Franchy Cordero, nursing a balky groin, has been moved to the 60-day DL, signaling that the injury is more severe than the Padres had first anticipated. Wil Myers also experienced elbow pain in Monday’s game. The elbow has been diagnosed as a triceps/nerve issue with initial tests showing no structural damaged. Myers has been moved to the ten-day DL and Andy Green is not sure when Myers may be available to return. The injury once again provides speculation on Myers’s durability, which could decrease his value should San Diego attempt to trade him to make room for younger players, like Hunter Renfroe and Cordero, when healthy.
The Minor League season for many of the Padres’ farm clubs opens play on Thursday. Many anticipate that San Diego’s minor league system is set to explode with #HotTalentLava with players like SP Mackenzie Gore, and middle infielders Fernando Tatís, Jr. and Luis Urías quickly ascending through the ranks.
For fans, the season’s beginning has been the most disappointing. Facing a playoff drought that is twelve years and counting (including the most controversial of plays as Matt Holliday never touched the plate in the 2007 tie-breaker “play-in” game versus Colorado) Friars faithful have had little to celebrate.
While the ambiance and amenities that Petco provides are world-class, San Diego’s product on the field has been atrocious. Owner Ron Fowler has stated numerous times that the franchise is still a few years away from being ready to compete for division titles. Until then, we wait and have been offered to buy into the mundane mantra, “Trust the Process.”
As for myself, I have begun to lower my expectations for 2018 and, in addition, to adopt my own rallying cry, “Embrace the Tank.”
If the Padres really are a few years away from seeing their #HotTalentLava become #MajorLeagueRock, what good does it do for them to improve on their 71-win performance in 2017?
Stockpiling talent is essential to building a competitive ballclub, as pundits and casual fans alike point to the Houston Astros as the prime template to follow to build a successful championship caliber club. Those same Astros that won 101 games en route to becoming the 2017 World Series Champions, also averaged 54 wins in their rebuilding phase (2011-2013). The process took four years.
Just how good are these Astros? The Padres get a chance to find out first hand as they head to Houston for a three-game series starting on Friday.
Until then, we wait. Will it be painful to watch? Absolutely. But if you lower the bar, and understand that by losing more now, the Padres will receive better draft picks that can potentially assist the club later, you can begin to build equity into the losses. Assuredly, there will be many.
Say it with me, “Embrace the Tank.”
Dennis Gulyas – Part-Time Producer with The Mighty 1090 Radio Network
Follow Dennis on Twitter @DennisGulyas