When it comes to the Long, Cold Winter series of posts, some teams are just too easy.
Then there are teams like the San Diego Padres. Sometimes they look great, and they end up finishing last in weak National League West seasons (see: 2011). Then, when the teams looks benign and hopeless for a title, they win 90 games (see: 2010.)
I may be beginning to figure this out: in years in which the NL West is strong, such as 2010 – the Padres are strong. It seems like a classic case of playing to your competition. Or maybe it’s El Nino, I don’t know.
Last season, the Diamondbacks stole the NL West from banged-up Giants, playing-under-their-ability Rockies, broke-ass Dodgers and the Padres – who were just kind of…there.
The Padres finished 23 games out of first…behind the 94-win Diamondbacks, the (second) worst record of any playoff team (don’t worry about those 90-win Cardinals, guys…)
Twenty-three games in the NL West can be made up overnight it seems. The division is a carousel of first-place teams (11-Diamondbacks, 10-Giants, 09-Dodgers, 08/07 Dodgers, 06-Diamondbacks/Rockies).
Any team can win, any year. Except, it seems, the Padres. We’ll admit it is hard to score runs in Petco. We won’t partronize, though. It should be hard for everyone to score runs in Petco. Yet, a significant part of the Padres games will be played in Colorado, Arizona, Houston, Cincinnati, Philadelphia…there are plenty of places and time to hit home runs, score runs, and support a decent pitching staff. The Padres just aren’t that bad, and they improved significantly in the ’11-’12 offseason.
The Adrian Gonzalez trade of ’11 netted them Casey Kelley and Anthony Rizzo (who in turn, netted them hard-throwing Andrew Cashner). Mat lLatos turned into a significant haul of Yonder Alonso (one of my favourites since his CWS days), Yasmani Grandal (possibly a stud catcher, and only 23 years old).
Aside from the yet-unproven prospects, the San Diego Padres lineup…really isn’t that bad. A decent catching tandem in Hundley and Baker, Hundley/Bartlett/Hudson (getting old, though)/Alonso across the infield. Their outfield, outside of Petco, is actually a quite good one. If Quentin can come back to normal, Cameron Maybin breaks out, Venable stays good, they can be even better with their backups of Kyle Blanks, Mark Kotsay and Chris Donorfia. [It’s funny that the first two images on Bing search for Mark Kotsay…are very much NOT Mark Kotsay. Well done, Mark.]
How about that rotation? Well, Cashner and Kelley cannot arrive quick enough – as an opening say starter of….Tim Stauffer is just not intimidating. Nothing against Stauffer, but “the ace” of a staff is more psychological than anything, and you want a true number one in there, and Stauffer is not it (prove me wrong, Tim). After Stauffer, you have Luebke, Edinson Volquez, and two of Cashner/Moseley/Richard.
I’ll save you the trouble, Bochey:
Volquez, Luebke, Stauffer, Richard, Cashner. Make it happen.
In short, don’t ever, ever, ever, discount the Padres.