Pitching & Defense

Future very rich man Joe Musgrove Photo by AP

When the news broke that the Padres were going to start the 2022 season without their star shortstop Fernando Tatis Junior, the prevailing forecast for this team was to stay around .500 until he returns and then compete for a playoff spot with him. Manager Bob Melvin said they hoped to bank a few wins above .500 before Tatis’ return and on Melvin’s return from his own surgery, he led the team to their 25th win of the season. The Padres have played 41 games this season. One quarter of the way into the season and they have banked more than a few wins above .500 as they sit 27-14.

Fangraphs projects 93 wins for the ‘22 Padres. That would give the Padres the sixth most wins of all MLB teams if the forecast becomes reality. The Giants project to 87 wins and I won’t tell you what the dodgers win total is predicted to be because I ain’t no dodger lover. All right, it’s 96 wins. Fangraphs are a bunch of dodger lovers. The Padres pitching ranks 8th in baseball, with the starting staff ranked 7th, and relief staff 10th. The defense is ranked 7th. With the offense mid pack (15th) it is most likely the recipe for success has been pitching and defense.

The defense for this team might be a little under-rated. Yes the PR arm of the Padres touted their Longest Opening Streak Without An Error campaign for a few weeks, but went quiet afterwards. Machado, Jurickson Profar, Ha-Seong Kim and Jake Cronenworth all rate as first division defensive players at their positions. Even Eric Hosmer has shown improvement by the metrics, and grades out as the 6th best defensive first baseman in MLB. He’s cut down on that weird backing up into foul territory to catch a short hop too. We won’t talk about his bat because he is pretty much turning into a pumpkin, but on defense their is hope for Hos.

The pitching staff is being led by the starters. And the best starter is Joltin’ Joe Musgrove. Joe is on a Cy Young campaign and most certainly is All Star worthy. But the pleasant surprise of the staff has been Mackenzie Gore. He is fast on Joe’s heels for the team lead in fWAR and ERA. Both were absolutely brilliant against the Giants this weekend. The Padres will need to manage Gore’s workload, but at the quarter mark of the season he only has 35IP. At this pace 140IP would more than double anything he has ever thrown in his professional career so you could see him move between a starter and the back half of a piggyback more as the season progresses.

Nick Martinez has moved back into a starting role as it looks like the Padres might try a six man rotation for a while. They play 29 games in June with 8 games remaining this May. The schedule is brutal for everyone due to the lock out, so some creativity will be applied by most contending teams to keep arms fresh while trying to not over tax a bullpen. The lessons learned from Jayce Tingler should stay fresh in everyone’s minds. Hopefully the Padres bullpen get some reinforcements soon as both Michel Baez and Adrian Morejon are doing well in their rehab assignments in the minors. Steven Wilson is back up on the squad as Mike Clevinger gets fifteen days rest for a tricep strain. That deep starting stable is shaping up to be a huge strength for the club, so kudos to AJ Preller for learning a tough lesson from ‘21.

I remember when Kevin Towers preached pitching and defense was the way to win the NL West at Petco Park. It seems the Padres have finally figured out how to actually employ a team to achieve it. Can this construction actually bring home a title? Even as well as the Padres are playing, they are still behind the dodgers. They do have the third best record in the National League. The horses have rounded the quarter pole in pretty good position for the back stretch. Let’s hope Bob Melvin is the right jockey to bring them to victory at the wire.

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