Padres Series Preview

081111-padres_mediumThe Padres come to town today.  Along with their mirror-image division rivals, the Rockies, they are the most difficult club to evaluate in terms of player performance because the effects of their parks are so darn huge.  But that effects their offense and defense the same way, so we can at least be confident about their overall w% estimates.  And they say that while their run differential is very close to even, the component stats (i.e. estimated runs scored and allowed, based on their other statistics) indicate that their rather poor winning percentage is a right in line with their performance.

The Reds, of course, continue to see their winning percentage slip despite continuing to have good overall numbers.  ...  I think I've already whined about that enough, though.

The Padres play in an extreme pitcher's park.  But even after (attempting to) adjust for that, wRC+ indicates that they have a below-average offense.  Their pitching, however, is only average--starting pitching has been good-not-great, while their relief has probably gotten slightly better results than they deserve for their performances.  Fielding-wise, they look somewhere in the vicinity of average.  In short, there's just nothing this Padres team does exceptionally well.

Position Players

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There's one adjustment that might need to be made here: Nick Hundley is apparently very close to returning.  He's a solid offensive player, and will plug the largest hole in their lineup when he takes over as the primary catcher for this team.  

The Padres have some other interesting players.  Cameron Maybin is turning in a very solid year after almost being left for dead in Florida.  He's one of those guys who has always had the talent, and may finally be putting at least some of that talent into baseball skills.  Kyle Blanks is recently promoted after missing most of last year with an injury.  He has a lot of power, and seems to be a bit overlooked because of his disappointing year last year.  I'm also interested in this guy James Darnell.  He's an offense-first prospect, and is one of these guys who was never all that highly touted by scouts (given his absurd production...he was a 2nd-round pick) and yet has always hit.  His minor league numbers are extremely impressive and the projection systems adore him.  I'll be interested to see what he does--he has until Chase Headley returns to show he can handle major league pitching.

Former Red (and a personal favorite, for no obvious reason) Chris Denorfia is unfortunately still on the disabled list, and isn't expected to return until after the series.

Probable Starters

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Mat Latos and Tim Stauffer do it in different ways, but both are excellent pitchers regardless of the PETCO effect.  Latos profiles as a fairly classic power pitcher with solid command and not-extreme flyball tendencies.  He may have lost a mile on his fastball over his past year, but he has still had a fine season and is genuinely scary.  Stauffer, who moved to the rotation after starring in the bullpen last year, has a better strikeout rate than people expect.  Nevertheless, his main weapons are his ability to avoid walks and induce ground balls.  The Reds will have to hope they can contain the Padres' weak offense, because it may be difficult to score runs against either of those two starters.

Game three is a different story.  The resurgent Dontrelle Willis has me believing in him and his groundballing ways, while Wade LeBlanc is the kind of pitcher who really could only be successful in San Diego: no strikeouts, tons of fly balls, and isn't even stingy with the walk.  

Bullpens

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The Padres are always known for having a good pen....but I'm really not that impressed.  Mike Adams was a stud, but they traded him at the deadline (for a good return, it's worth noting), leaving a fairly unimpressive bullpen.  Heath Bell used to be a 10+K/9 guy, but this season has substantially regressed.  The same is true of Luke Gregerson and the soon-to-be 33-year old Chad Qualls.  Their other big guy, Ernesto Frieri, was just placed on the disabled list.  

Honestly, especially with a resurgent Aroldis Chapman, I think I'd rather have the Reds' current bullpen than the Padres'.  That's not something I have been able to say a lot over the past month or so...

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