Friday, July 22, 2011

So...Who's On First?

Rizzo is gone and Blanks is up.  Jesus Guzman is killing the ball at the moment, and somewhere Brad Hawpe continues to heal.  Bud Black potentially has 3 guys on the roster to play one spot - First Base.  So who gets the call?

Well the answer, as always, is 'it depends'.  Should Hawpe return to the roster, which is not a certainity given his left elbow ligament injury is not one known to heal quickly, they could platoon Hawpe and the two right-handed bats.  However, would you platoon two hitters when one is hitting
  • .231/.301/.344, and the other
  • .322/.344/.559? 
Me neither.  It's more likely that, when Hawpe returns from the DL, he becomes the left-handed bat off the bench.

Which brings us to Blanks and Guzman.  I'm not sure what we can reasonably expect from Blanks.  He was hitting AAA pitching pretty well (to the tune of .351/.421/.716), which looks suspiciously like Rizzo's line before he got called up (.365/.444/.715).  Granted, Blanks has Major League experience that Rizzo lacked, and also has sustained success at the ML level in his history.  I don't think he'll be as lost at the plate as Rizzo became, but I don't think he'll tear the cover off the ball like Guzman is right now.

Jed Hoyer stated yesterday during his interview with Darren Smith that Blanks will get a lot of playing time now that he's up.  If and when Ryan Ludwick gets traded away, it is entirely possible Blanks will man left and leave first to Guzman.  However, Blanks has been playing mostly first base during his rehab in the minor leagues, so it would seem reasonable he'd get most of that playing time in the infield.

Maybe the best way to look at it is this way.  San Diego has struggled offensively all year.  Jesus Guzman is one of the few Padres hitting the ball right now, and even given his limited plate appearances, by OPS+ he's the best bat on the roster.  He's earned the right to play every day.  Bud Black would be justified in riding the hot hand for a while, since he's had very few hot hands to ride this season.  Blanks will get the occasional start in both LF and at 1B for the next week, and once the trade deadline passes we'll see where we are.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Rizzo Sent to AAA, Blanks Recalled

Initially I was not a big advocate for promoting Rizzo before he was ready.  Lately I've thought that, since this is not a year that will produce a post-season berth, why not keep him on the roster?

Well, San Diego sent Anthony Rizzo down following today's 5-3 win in Miami.  This is why I'm not working in a front office somewhere.

One hundred seventeen plate appearances does not a career make.  It is a small sample size, given that most everyday players log upwards of 700 PA's in a season.  But 117 PA is enough to draw some conclusions and see some trends.  Rizzo came up and made some great contact initially, including a RF HR at Petco off Washington's John Lannan.  His high water mark may have been the Boston series, in which he hit 3 balls to the deepest part of Fenway (two doubles and an out courtesy of Jacoby Ellsbury).  Two days later he had the second multi-hit game of his career.

Since, as Geoff over at Ducksnorts noted (slightly updated), he's hit .107/.206/.143 in 63 PA.  He was 6 strikeouts short of striking out every other at bat.  Teams routinely busted him in, and he routinely swung at those pitches, whether they were up, or down, or in the strike zone, or off the plate.  He made very little contact.

He was outmatched.  There was no point in keeping him in SD.  There are things he clearly needs to work on at the plate, and now that he has an idea of what they are he can spend the time to fix them.

Anthony Rizzo will be back.  It won't be until after 1 September, and might not be until next year (although I would be real surprised if he wasn't a roster expansion call-up).

In his place, we welcome Kyle Blanks back to the roster. Finally I can put my Blanks bobble head out and not get ridiculed ('Hey isn't that guy who had a bobble head night when he wasn't on the roster?'  yes, thanks for the reminder.)  Blanks is the original Rizzo: the kid who tore it up in the minors, then struggled mightily at the major league level when holes in his approach appeared (like an inability to hit a pitch low and away).  Like Rizzo, Blanks has legitimate big-league power, and assuming he can hit the pitches he couldn't reach last season will be a middle-of-the-order threat here.  Headley, Ludwick (for the next 10 days at least), and Blanks 3-4-5 is pretty good.

Not Pujols-Holliday-Berkman good, but still pretty darn good.

Padres start a 4-game set in scorched Philadelphia tomorrow.  My regular Thursday Podcast will air tonight, hope you can join me.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Game Reflections - #94 vs Giants

This game was entertaining for 4 innings, until Andres Torres took over. Some thoughts after attending the Padres 7th consecutive loss.

- Why so many Giants fans? Maybe because they are the defending Champs, their games in SF are sold out, and ours aren't. Seems silly to get upset about it. Visiting fans taking over Petco won't stop until this franchise has some sustained post season success.

- Second Lincecum start at Petco this season, second time the Giants scored in the first. It's tough enough to beat the guy without spotting him an early lead.

- Chase Headley started but was pinch-hit for in the bottom of the first. A right calf strain was eventually reported. Either he hurt it yesterday or he hurt it trying to corral Ludwick's good but futile throw to the plate.

- Padres put two on with one out in the first and left them. What else is knew.

- Ross' HR was crushed.

- Maybin reached on an error to start the second and was doubled off when Rizzo lined to second. That play was equal parts bad baserunning and a great diving catch by Mike Fontenot.

- Lincecum's back to back wild pitches led to the Padres run. I don't think I'd ever seen consecutive wild pitches live before.

- Cardinal beat writer Derrick Goold tracks 'As So Often Happens' moments. Those innings where a player makes a great play in one inning, then comes to the plate in the next half and reaches base. Andres Torres had one of those moments in the bottom of the fourth/top of the fifth. His catch of Kyle Phillips' line drive on the warning track prevented 2 runs. He then knocked in SF's third and scored their fourth runs, essentially ending the game.

- I couldn't figure out why Moseley hit in the fifth until I remembered Thursday's game went 12 innings. Bullpen was shot.

- Frieri had an awful inning. Back to back doubles, two intentional walks, and a wild pitch with the bases loaded. Maybe it's me; whenever I see him pitch he gets lit up, can't find the strike zone, or both.

- HP umpire Ted Barrett's zone was a little inconsistent; not many high strikes, and sporadic outside strikes that appeared to be balls. Hudson struck out on one of the latter in the eighth, as did Denorfia to end the game.

- Ryan Ludwick is slow. Cody Ross made a good play on Luddy's shot in the eighth, but still.

- Bass pitched pretty well.

- Giants fans gave Sandoval a standing ovation after he grounded to first leading off the ninth. His 22-game hitting streak snapped with that AB. I'd not seen that before either, and have to respect fans paying that close attention to what's going on between the lines. Well done.

There's not much positive to take out of this game other than Bass' performance and the two shots off rookie Luis Martinez's bat. Not XBH hits for a second consecutive game. Only 1 run scored. All that can be said is, try again tomorrow in a favorable pitching matchup (Luebke v. Zito).

Thursday, July 14, 2011

2011 Pre-All Star Break Grades

As we head into the home stretch of the 2011 season, let's take a moment to grade the roster through 92 games.

A:  Mike Adams, Heath Bell, Aaron Harang, Chase Headley, Tim Stauffer.  Hard to rank Bell anything below A as the lone Padre All-Star in 2011.  He's had a lot of tightrope saves this season, but the bottom line is he's blown only opportunity to save a game in 2011 - and that one is the only one he's blown in 12 months.  Mike Adams remains unhittable in 2011.  Harang has reinvented himself as top-shelf pitcher, and leads the team in wins.  Headley has broken out this season, he's the best hitter on the team by OPS+.  Stauffer has become the Padres ace, and picked off where he left off in 2010.

B:  Cameron Maybin, Ryan Ludwick, Chris Denorfia, Cory Luebke, Dustin Moseley, Luke Gregerson.  Broken out thus:
  • B+:  Maybin, Denorfia, Luebke
  • B:  Moseley, Gergerson, Ludwick
Maybin has exceeded expectations at the plate, and played a stellar CF.  Denorfia has also exceeded expectations at the plate, and ill-timed dives aside has been a capable corner outfielder.  Luebke probably deserved a 'A' rating - he was fantastic out of the bullpen, and lights-out on the mound.  Just a revelation this season.  Moseley has pitched very well as a starter, better than expected when we got him.  Gregerson has been as dependable as ever, although his success is completely predicated on how well he controls his slider.  Ludwick?  Ryan Ludwick is the lightning rod on this team.  He has hit a little worse than his career average but has been the best hitter on the club at driving in runs.  His defense has largely been fine, but when he makes a mistake it's a spectacular one.

C:  Ernesto Frieri, Mat Latos, Chad Qualls, Josh Spence, Rob Johnson, Nick Hundley, Kyle Phillips, Anthony Rizzo.  Broken out thus:
  • C+:  Latos, Qualls, Spence, Phillips
  • C:  Rizzo, Johnson
  • C-:  Hundley
Latos has regressed from his impressive 2010, but we had to expect some slip given his high innings load and the league having an entire off-season to analyze his pitching patterns.  He has been equal parts spectacular and awful in 2011.  Qualls is a professional reliever and has pitched as we expected.  Spence has been awesome so far but he's only thrown 8 innings, so it's hard to rate him higher.  Kyle Phillips is a plugger and has been a good addition to the team while Nick Hundley nurses his various injuries.  Johnson has been average.  Rizzo has been adjusting to major league pitching, which is exactly what we should have expected once the club called him up.  Hundley is below average because he quit hitting after the third week in April and has spent significant time injured this season.

D:  Jason Bartlett, Orlando Hudson, Alberto Gonzalez, Will Venable, Brad Hawpe.  Bartlett - very little production at the plate, too many errors.  Hudson - very little production at the plate, too many injuries.  Al. Gonzalez swings at too many bad pitches.  Venable was so bad he got sent down for a time.  Hawpe strikes out too much.

Incomplete:  Anthony Bass, Luis Martinez, Jesus Guzman.  Not enough playing time.

Tonight the Padres play the first of 70 remaining games in 2011.  At 40-52, their odds of making the playoffs are virtually nil. There will be changes coming to the roster, and we'll chronicle them here.  Podcast tonight if you have time after the game.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Spiking Chad Qualls

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."  John Lennon

That's my best explanation for the silence over here these past 6 days.  In the interim, San Diego scored 2 runs (one gifted to them courtesy of the Phil Cuzzi Foundation) at Seattle, then hung 5 runs each on 2 San Francisco All-Star starters.  They'd be going for the sweep today if not for the rare Mike Adams hiccup in last night's eighth inning.  Well that and 17 consecutive Padres retired by the Giant bullpen to close out the game.

I want to go back to Wednesday's 5-3 triumph for a moment, because this headline caught my eye today:

"Quals Being Excoriated in San Francisco"

First, excoriated is one of my all-time favorite words.  Increase your vocabulary:  'excoriated' means to denounce or berate severely, to flay verbally.  Hat Tip to Chris Jenkins for using it in his lede.  Second, this article shows how ridiculous sports talk has become.

Sports are played with emotion.  This is more obvious in some sports, like football, than others.  Sometimes I think people consider baseball more a 19th century-type gentlemen's competition instead of an emotional gut-check.  Those folks aren't privy to a good rivalry where it's apparent emotion runs high.  San Francisco vs San Diego developed that edge last season down the stretch, and it's carried over this year, if the last 3 games are any indication.  Whether or not the players admit it, these games have had a playoff edge, which shouldn't exist in July between the first and 4th place teams in a division.

So there's that going in.  Then there's the inning itself.  Andres Torres is a pest. Pest Pest Pest Pest (I mean that in the most respectful way), as evidenced by his 16-pitch walk that started this fracas with one out.  Qualls threw every pitch he had at Torres, who kept fouling the good ones off and taking the ones he couldn't hit.  Despite the fact that ball 4 looked like strike 3 on the replay, he worked the walk.  Chad, knowing the Giants were down 2 and that Torres was probably going, threw over a couple of times to keep Andres close, but Torres stole second anyway.

Now he's an even bigger pest.  Torres gets to third on Crawford's 4-3 groundout, and when the 2-2 pitch skips away from Hundley he takes off for the plate.  Normally the runner beats the throw home, because the catcher has to grab the ball, make a perfect throw to the plate that the pitcher covering can handle, and said pitcher has to both block the plate and apply the tag on the runner.  Hard to do.

Qualls did it.  Inning over, 2-run lead preserved.  Having finally retired the Pest, he spiked the ball and exulted.

Could he have handled it in a more Victorian way?  Sure.  I'm glad he did what he did though.  It was an important run kept off the board, he made a play he had no business making, and finally retired a guy who had been a major pain in his side that half-inning.  A little raw emotion is good for the soul. 

You got a problem with the occasional emoting on the field of battle?  Go watch badmiton.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ludwick 2011 vs Gonzalez 2010

On Wednesday Ryan Ludwick drove in his 51st run of the year.  I got to thinking - how does his 2011 compare with Adrian Gonzalez's 2010?

Ludwick has appeared in 78 of the Padres 82 games this season.  His current stats:  .258/.324/.405, 109 OPS+, 10 HR, 51 RBI, 28 walks (1 intentionally), 61 strikeouts.  His total run production (wRC+) is 110.

Gonzalez through 78 games last season:  .297/.389/.518, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 57 walks (13 intentionally), 58 strikeouts.  Adrian's OPS+ is not displayed by Baseball-Reference, however they do have a stat called tOPS+, which measures how he did during the first half of the season relative to his average production during the first half.  Gonzalez tOPS+ was 105, so it's safe to assume his OPS+ exceeded 109.  Likely his wRC+ too.

I did not post these numbers to depress you.  I posted them because the RBI number jumped out at me.  RBIs, as you probably know, are more a reflection of how good the lineup is in getting folks on ahead of a hitter vice how good that hitter is.  But, for all of Ludwick's faults, he is driving runs at the same rate Gonzalez did in 2010.

Believe it or not, from an RBI perspective the Padres did manage to replace Gonzalez's production with Ludwick.  That despite the awful first 3 weeks of the season Ludwick threw up.

There likely will not be any posts this weekend, so until next Tuesday have yourselves an enjoyable, and safe, Fourth of July weekend.  See you then.