Padres Week In Review (WIR): Time To Turn The Page

Christian Villanueva

In the midst of their third ‘road’ series of the season, the Padres head to Monterrey, Mexico to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the week prior, San Diego hosted the New York Mets for a short three-game series before heading to San Francisco to take on the Giants. The Padres will be considered the home team for the three-game international series from Estadio de Béisbol Monterrey before heading back to San Diego for a nine-game homestand at Petco Park, hosting the Washington Nationals, St. Louis Cardinals, and Colorado Rockies.

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By the Numbers

Heading to Monterrey, the Padres are (11-21) on the season and sit in the NL West cellar chasing the division leading Arizona Diamondbacks by nearly a dozen games.

In series matchups, San Diego has a (2-8) record and has dropped five consecutive series in-a-row. The Padres’ last series win came against the San Francisco Giants at home (April 12th-15th).

As expected, the starting pitching has been woeful. But raising more eyebrows has been some managerial choices made recently by skipper Andy Green.

Green was named manager of the San Diego Padres in October of 2015. This year’s April yielded Green’s worst record in his three-year tenure with the Friars, including his first season at the helm where the Dodgers outscored the Padres 25-0 in a three game sweep at Petco.

April 2016 win % – .375% (9-15)

April 2017 win % – .407% (11-16)

April 2018 win % – .333% (10-20)

From the front office to the grandstands, no one was expecting this team to compete. The Padres performance through the first fifth of the season has been embarrassing at times, leading to some speculation of Green’s capacity to cultivate #HotTalentLava into Major League rock.

In particular, Green’s use of closer Brad Hand has come into question during the last week of April.

On April 25th, Green used Hand in the bottom of the seventh inning in a game in Colorado. The score at the time was 4-1. Hand threw 19 pitches in one inning of work. The Rockies would go on to win that game 5-2. Chasing three runs on the road, why use your closer in that situation?

Even if Hand had pitched sporadically in the week leading up to the Colorado series, Green never clearly stated why he chose to use Hand in the seventh. It seemed unnecessary to use Hand that early in a game that the Padres were losing on the road.

Five days later, Green called on Hand to complete a five-out save in the series opener against the Giants. Hand struggled with command, giving up three runs in the ninth as ex-Padres catcher Nick Hundley provided the walk-off single in San Francisco’s 6-5 victory.

Hand labored throughout his appearance and struggled with fastball command.

On the season, Hand has seen a noticeable uptick in allowing opponents to square up balls in play against him, notching a .300 batting average in balls in play (BABIP) and .311 on base percentage (OBP). In 2017, Hand posted a .265 BABIP (.035 fewer) and .261 OBP (.050 fewer).

Using Hand in situations where the Padres trailed earlier than the ninth inning, and/or to secure more than three out saves, Green has drawn criticism as the results have been inopportune.

But it isn’t just the use of his closer that has people scratching their heads.

When Hand was struggling in the ninth against the Giants, Green chose to play ‘no-doubles’ defense for the first time this year rather than the usual shifts loading infielders to one side of the infield or the other. This defensive choice also pinned the outfielders closer to the wall, protecting the spacious gaps at AT&T Park, which allowed Evan Longoria to deliver a bloop single that provided the catalyst to San Francisco’s comeback.

Green took ownership of the defensive gaffe, but it didn’t change the result. San Diego blew a three-run lead and watched a precious win evaporate against a division rival.

There is plenty of blame to dole out when trying to describe the Padres’ struggles in 2018. With losses continuing to pile up, more eyes are drawing toward the three-year manager who is expected to have this franchise ready to compete in a few more seasons.

Green’s job appears to be safe, for now. But Green’s managerial decisions have not been safe from warranted criticism. When mismanagement directly leads to losses, frustration mounts from the fanbase to the dugout.

Key Injuries

Wil Myers injured his oblique on a big swing in Saturday’s victory against the Mets.

And so, he begins another stint on the disabled list (DL), his second this season. It’s likely he will miss at least a month.

Hunter Renfroe is also on the 10-day DL with right elbow inflammation.

Padres fans should want both Renfroe and Myers to be healthy and successful. However, there likely is not enough room to carry both outfielders (in the not too distant future) with the emergence of Franchy Cordero.

For the Padres to get anything of value in return, or in Myers’ case, a club willing to eat a back-loaded contract, they need to be healthy. Injury not only provides stagnation in production, it breeds reluctance and an inability to trade these pieces as general manager’s around the league take note, caveat emptor: buyer beware.

Another concerning injury that happened this past week was to catcher Austin Hedges. Hedges left the second inning the opener against the Giants with right elbow tendinitis.

It’s a big blow to the organization, as the franchise has been tight-lipped in regard to the severity of the injury to their defensive star. Hedges had struggled mightily with his offensive production this year. But what cannot be challenged is Hedges’ defensive prowess and ability to manage a pitching staff – with starting pitching identified as the weakest positional link on this year’s club.

Currently, there is no time-table set for the return of Myers, Renfroe, or Hedges.

¡Vamos Villanueva!

A bright spot this season has been the emergence of third baseman, Christian Villanueva. For his impressive play, Villanueva was named the National League’s Rookie of the Month for April.

In April, Villanueva led all rookies in hits, runs batted in, home runs, runs scored, batting average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and total bases. Stuck behind Kris Bryant in Chicago, Villanueva has dazzled in his first time as a starter with San Diego.

Arguably, Villanueva is a defensive liability as he has committed five errors in twenty-four games. But when you can flat out dominate at the plate, there’s an awful lot to be optimistic about, as the Padres collectively are striking out at a historic rate.

Villanueva, along with Franchy Cordero, are examples of what the future could be in San Diego. Until then, we celebrate the team’s small victories. April was rough for the Padres. Accordingly, it’s time we turn the page and hope that as the weather heats up for the summer, hopefully the Friars will too.

 

Dennis Gulyas – Part-Time Producer with The Mighty 1090 Radio Network

Follow Dennis on Twitter @DennisGulyas

 

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