|Padres Offense is All Abysmal||| Print ||
Written by Lewie Pollis (Contact & Archive) on May 13, 2011
Last season, the San Diego Padres shocked the baseball world by winning 90 games. The team that was supposed to finish comfortably in the cellar of the deep NL West had a 6 1/2-game division lead as late as August. The Friars were still in first place as late as September 25.
Not many people thought the Padres would repeat as serious contenders in 2011. Their success last year was widely regarded as a fluke. In addition, the Friars lost their best player when they traded Adrian Gonzalez to the Boston Red Sox, which also signaled to the fans that the front office wasn't expecting to compete this year.
But they weren't supposed to be this bad. Through 35 games, the Padres are 14-21, good for last place in the NL West and the second-worst record in the National League.
The problem isn't pitching. The Padres' 2.98 ERA is second in the league; even adjusting for the offensive-dampening effects of pitchers' haven PETCO Park, San Diego's staff has an ERA+ of 85, indicating that they are 15 percent better at run prevention than the average MLB team.
The reason the Padres are struggling this year is their abysmal offense. The team has scored just 108 runs to date, an average of just over three runs a game. WOBA, an all-encompassing offensive statistic that weighs each batter's action in terms of its relative value on a scale roughly equivalent to on-base percentage, has the Padres at just .283, the second-worst mark in baseball. Even adjusting for PETCO Park, San Diego's bats are 19 percent worse than the league average.
Looking at the Friars' lineup, that isn't likely to change anytime soon.
Will Venable, the Padres' leadoff hitter, exemplifies the team's offensive mediocrity. Never much of an offensive threat, the speedy right fielder is hitting just .224. Even with his fantastic plate discipline (9.8 percent walk rate) Venable's on-base percentage is just .303.
The middle of the order has usually consisted of some combination of Orlando Hudson, Chase Headley, Jorge Cantu, Brad Hawpe and Ryan Ludwick. Hudson (113 wRC+, the relative value of his offensive contributions as measured by wOBA, with 100 as "average") and Headley (117 wRC+) have been decent by PETCO Park standards, but not so for the other three.
In Ludwick's case the problem may be luck: his .218 BABIP (career: .304) is the culprit behind his .189 average, and his .825 Power Factor suggests that he still has some pop. Still, it is somewhat troubling that his fly ball rate is up to 57.1 percent. In a park as big as PETCO, anyone who hits that many air balls is going to make a lot of outs.
Cantu, meanwhile, is also hitting below the Mendoza line (.198) and his wRC+ is just 68. He, too, can trace some of his struggles to bad fortune, but his low BABIP (.200) is partly a reflection of poor hitting: just 16.2 percent of his batted balls have been line drives (a career low), and he doesn't have the speed or power to do well with hitting grounders or fly balls. His bat would be passable if he were a middle infielder or a catcher, but not as someone who gets most of his playing time as a pinch-hitter or first baseman.
Then there's Hawpe. After 29 games, his slashline reads: .194/.248/.290. Once a patient, powerful hitter, his walk rate has dropped to 5.9 percent and his ISO now stands at .097. Perhaps he's been a bit unlucky (.274 BABIP) but without plate discipline, power or speed, his hit rate won't get much higher. Even after adjusting for his home park, Hawpe has a 52 wRC+, making roughly half as valuable as the average MLB hitter.
The bottom of the order is somewhat more promising, as both Cameron Maybin (105 wRC+) and Nick Hundley (116 wRC+) have been above-average hitters, though neither has ever played this well over a full season before and both could therefore be candidates for regression. For what it's worth (not very much), the Padres' pitchers have hit terribly as well, even by pitchers' standards: they have the fourth-worst composite OPS (.243) in baseball.
As a whole, the Padres' offense probably isn't quite this bad. Their .266 team BABIP suggests some poor luck is in play, and their 9.9 percent walk rate (second-best in the league) is a mark of good plate discipline. But the Friars' lineup is undoubtedly one of the worst in the league, and no matter how well they pitch they won't win many games if they can't score runs.