Posted by Brady
.247/.321/.377. No, that isn’t Nick Punto’s triple slash stat line. It’s close. But, that is the collective offensive output of the first place (for now) San Diego Padres. They don’t hit, and have a team total of 110 home runs, 27 of which belong to Adrian Gonzalez. They are a bad offensive club in every sense of the word. All they can really do is steal a base, but, you do have to get on base to do that. So, how are they in first place (for now)? Remember last offseason when when the Seattle Mariners said they were building around pitching? It didn’t work. San Diego hits just enough to have the “pitching and defense” mantra work for them.
The Friars are easily the best defensive club in baseball, with an MLB-leading UZR of 47.3 (bringing up the caboose? The Indians. -47.3). With an ARM rating of -1.0, which while under the league average isn’t terrible, the Padres catch damn near everything. Who’s anchoring the outfield? Tony Gwynn Jr.
He is leading that outfield, having saved 13.1 runs with his range, and 2 runs with his lack of errors. Gwynn, also has one of the weaker arms in the starting outfield, posting a -0.8 ARM. But, he is a centerfielder, and he does get to the balls he needs to, and he’s just under league average in ARM. He is, without a doubt, the leader of the San Diego outfield. He is to the outfield, what Chase Headley is to the infield.
The young third baseman does it all in the field. Incredible range. Headley has
posted a 14.4 UZR, or an 18.8 UZR/150. Headley is literally twice the defender that Kevin Kouzmanoff was at any time during his tenure with the Padres. Sure, Headley can hit. His 10 home runs, a .272 average, and a .336 OBP attest to that, but defense truly is his bread and butter. Headley, combined with the man at the other corner at PETCO, Adrian Gonzlaez, is needed with San Diego’s extreme groundball starting pitchers.
San Diego has used 8 starting pitchers this season, and only 2 of them have a GB% under 40% (Chris Young and Wade LeBlanc, and Young is only a spot starter). But it really is Mat Latos who stands heads and shoulders above the Padres starters. With an arsenal that includes a 94 MPH fastball and a curveball that rivals Adam Wainwright’s as one of the most amazing I’ve ever seen, Latos has held batters to a .254 BABIP. And he does a lot of it himself. A 9.25 K/9 to go along with a 2.25 ERA and a 3.05 FIP make him one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball this year. What you do hit is probably going on the ground, right to Headley or Gonzalez. And what you are getting in the air, is probably going right to Tony Gwynn Jr.
Once you get past Latos and the rest of the starters, you have to deal with the San Diego bullpen. They’ve nicknamed themselves “The Penitentiary,” and for good reason. When they come in, the game is locked up. Joe Thatcher and Heath Bell both of a LOB% over 80%. The Pads have used 6 relievers that have struck out more than one batter per inning. And when it come to scoring off of them? Good luck! Thatcher is the proud owner of a 1.42 ERA and a 1.46 FIP. Bell sports a 1.78 and 1.90. You had better get your runs off the starter, because you sure as hell won’t be getting them off of the bullpen.
And do I even need to talk about the almost anemic offense? It’s been Adrian Gonzalez. Name an offensive category, and Gonzalez is leading in it. He is the complete player, and we all know it, and there is nothing I can say about him that hasn’t already been said.
If this San Diego team can shape up, and figure out what the hell has happened over the last 10 games, and get into the playoffs, with their pitching, and defense, and ability to hit just enough, they could easily be the National League Champions.