Recapping 2018: San Diego Padres Edition | The Process Report

Recapping 2018: San Diego Padres Edition

With the end of the regular season comes a time for reflection for the majority of baseball fans. What went right? What went wrong? You probably have a few ideas where your teams fell short or exceeded expectations, but what about a completely emotionless point of view? Throughout this season I have shown what batter and pitcher production looks like when we regress balls in play to look more like what the players should have seen using exit velocity and launch angle. The offseason will be no different as I take a team by team look at how the season fared for the team, while going a little deeper on a handful of players from each. The order will mirror the final team rankings running in reverse order so you can expect to find some depression leading to elation here. It’s going to take some time, but I would like to get one to two of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts. Here’s a link to the report for this club from last offseason.

Past:

30 – 21: BAL CWS MIA TEX KCR SFG SDP

The San Diego Padres exemplify why spending more money does not necessarily translate to improvement on the field. Four of the last five seasons show the highest payrolls since 2000 even upon adjustment for inflation, but during that time the team has continually trended in the wrong direction. It has been nearly fifteen years since the last great run during the middle of the 2000’s with mostly decline in team wins over that time, but the recent bottom out has yielded a highly regarded farm system that should start the acclimation process as soon as this upcoming season. By injecting some youthful talent that will play for the league minimum it should behoove the team to parlay those savings into acquisitions elsewhere. It’s hard to see the team dramatically outspending only slightly higher past peaks, but there should be enough to make a solid signing or two.

Looking back on this past season showed a pitching staff that showed some volatility, but typically those oscillations came around the league average mark showing alternating runs of pretty good or bad enough performance. That has to leave the team seeing this as an area to improve, but also enough success stories that the foundation might already be poured. Let’s dig into this on an individual basis to see where the promise lies.

The team was already able to capitalize on Adam Cimber’s strong start with the club when they paired him with Brad Hand to pull in bat over glove catching prospect Francisco Mejia. Hand, himself, coming off a breakout 2017 seemed to show enough walk and hard contact warts to lessen the impact of that otherwise very strong strikeout rate. Despite moving two capable relievers the team can still call that facet a real strength. Craig Stammen and Kirby Yates stood out as very strong relievers with Yates showing some overperformance on his contact, but more than making up for it with the superior strikeout rate. You can see below how Yates was able to jack that rate up over the course of the season, while seeing improvement to the walk rate, as well. He’ll give up some real shots in there, too, which is something Stammen seemed to avoid better while keeping the ball down more often.

Craig Stammen

  

Kirby Yates

They also had a group of guys that profile as strong contributors in a once or twice through role. Robbie Erlin, Jordan Lyles, and Matt Strahm have all been starters at points in their careers, but the team was able to use all of them in a hybrid role where they saw a handful of starts, but also plenty of work in relief. A lot of teams made waves with their pitcher usage this year, but the Padres seem to have flown under the radar. Each of the three has battled injuries in the recent past so it looks like the answer was to get creative with their usage to help manage pitch counts. Erlin was around average in the first third before excelling over the middle and then being a little worse than average to finish up his year. The increasing exit velocity over the season might have been concerning, especially as it picked up steam over the final stretch, which seems to be a big reason for the lesser performance to close the season. His ability to avoid the walk helps a more average strikeout rate play up a bit.

Robbie Erlin

Jordan Lyles has often shown good ability to start seasons before past injury ghosts come back to haunt his season. You can get a real sense for that happening again this year as early strong performance fell off a shelf. His expected production allowed on balls in play show a little better than the far worse actual results he saw but you can also see an absolute cratering of his strikeout rate that never bounced back. Now a free agent he might eye a return to San Diego to see if he can sustain early strong performance for once. Moving along to Matt Strahm, a key return from the Kansas City Royals previously, you see that the injury issue limited his playing time this year, but when he got on the field Strahm was electric. He consistently ran a strikeout rate around 30% or higher with a league average walk rate while getting a ton of soft flies.

Jordan Lyles

Matt Strahm

The Padres didn’t just try to hybrid roles for a few guys that fit the profile, they also tried to work a couple of true rookies into traditional roles in Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer. Lucchesi garnered a solid number of punchouts, but it came with the tradeoff of allowing more productive contact. Still, he showed better of the two, and neither were so bad that the team shouldn’t continue to run them out there as hopeful mid-rotation pieces for years. In fact, Lauer looks like he was able to improve over the course of the year mostly due to garnering softer contact as the year went on. Maintaining those gains while doing anything to help boost the strikeout to walk would leave him as a quietly useful pitcher. Lucchesi, on the other hand, is all about that walk rate. The second half of his season shows a very nice gap between strikeouts and walks, an encouraging sign in a young man’s first full big league season. The lesser performance to close the year despite maintaining the strikeout rate seems to stem from yielding a higher launch angle, which might be a sign of the fatigue that didn’t seem to show up on the strikeout side.

Joey Lucchesi

Eric Lauer

The pitching unit for the Padres presented as something like a league average outfit. Around fifteen runs worse, but certainly not a black hole. That label gets reserved for the putrid offense that consistently over the course of the season looked below average or far worse. Despite signing Eric Hosmer for a long time and a lot of money coming into the season San Diego will still need to inject several more good bats into a lineup that held the team back in 2018. There is good cause to believe they can do some of that internally with a couple more solid prospects on the way, but the team will still have holes that might be best filled in free agency or via trade.

Despite once again missing half the season, Wil Myers showed as the most productive hitter on the team. As much an indictment on the rest of the club as it is a further tease for the what if Wil Myers could give you a full season crowd. He came out of the gates like his normal wild horse self, but it would not last long as most of the rest of the season saw him as a league average hitter, and more mainstream numbers will have him looking even worse due to those actual results being well below. Obviously, injuries were at play, but the team continuing to try to build defensive versatility out of marble by having him play third base did no favors to the bat or his battered face. The presence of Eric Hosmer and some talented outfielders marks Myers as a good trade chip, but this upcoming year’s $3M salary will balloon to $20M for the next three and a fourth that has a $1M buyout club option in play, as well. A trade makes sense even if the return isn’t eye-popping, but finding a destination might be more difficult.

Wil Myers

While Myers started strong before stabilizing as a league average bat, another one of their big-righthanded bats went the other way. Hunter Renfroe was around average or worse in what was essentially a poop or get off the potty season as the Padres look to clear space for the waves of talent on the way. Renfroe has shown some flashes in the past mostly built around his power, which tends to come from the very good loft that he generates. He hits the ball hard, but a good notch or two below the very best, and as the season went along he stopped walking. That leaves a guy that might work best as a low-OBP masher in the mold of a Mark Trumbo. Competent play in the outfield could lead him to being an above average player, but it’s hard to see Renfroe pushing into the good or better class of player that teams want to build around. He could be another guy the team would like to move, and a change to a more favorable offensive environment might help goose even more of those high fly balls out of the park.

Hunter Renfroe

The reason the club might be less hesitant to move former building blocks like Myers and Renfroe, other than each proving they’re more contributing secondary piece than guy you want to build around, is due to the emergence of players like Franmil Reyes. I’d add Franchy Cordero to the conversation, as well, but he didn’t amass enough plate appearances to run his charts. These two young sluggers could be more traditional corner outfield guys that mash at the plate and hold their own in the field. Reyes certainly showed everything that you could hope for as he improved dramatically over the course of the season as shown by his performance, but also encouraging was his precipitous fall in strikeouts while slowly and slightly amping up the walk rate to league average levels. His spray chart shows a guy that is capable of hitting the ball as hard as anyone in the league. There are some no doubters in there when he gets the ball into a higher launch angle, but you can also see quite a few topped balls that likely stayed on the infield. If Franmil can maintain his non-ball in play gains while adding a bit more loft at the highest level you could be looking at a monster lurking in the wings.

Franmil Reyes

Making up roughly a quarter of the payroll and coming off his first season in San Diego means we’re going to talk about Eric Hosmer. We don’t have to talk about the silly contract he signed that could have bought the team two league average players and probably a lot more over a similar span of time if you don’t want to, but we should one of these days. It’s true that Hosmer looked really good over his first third of the season. He was showing himself to be a well above average hitter on top of the grit and leadership and other intangibles that you’re actually paying him for so I’m sure folks like Dave Cameron in the heart of this front office were stoked to see their brilliant idea playing out so well.

Then the rest of the season happened. Hosmer rarely peeked above the average the rest of the way with a pronounced slump in the middle of the season that looked even worse in reality. Previously, the offensive contributions looked like gravy atop one of the very best leadery gritmonsters putting the team on their back to Johnny Hustle their way into third place, but now they looked like an anchor that would take the team back to the cellar. Of course, it’s likely that Hosmer went through some sort of injury issue as most players do in a year, and it’s also possible the weaker league started to figure him out after a couple of months. It’s a testament he stayed in the lineup if he was playing hurt, as anybody making the most in the room shouldn’t be allowed to miss time if they can drag themselves on the field. Diminished walk rates and falling exit velocity are not good signs over the course of the year, but the biggest issue continues to be his worm-burning ways. The spray chart shows a guy that does hit the ball hard, but virtually all of that good contact is down and in the dirt. For the umpteenth year in a row Hosmer just needs to get the ball off the ground and he could be a perennial All Star. Let’s see it before we continue the tune.

Eric Hosmer

Below you will find the rest of the prominent players from this past season and how they broke out in four different ways. I will save the commentary here as the charts speak for themselves once you’ve got an idea of what you’re looking at, and by cutting down on the verbiage it allows for looks at more players. Each chart looks at a rolling 100-plate appearance (or ball in play) average with the top left showing each player’s true and actual wOBA* over the course of the season. Top right shows the rolling strikeout and walk plus hit by pitch rates, and the bottom left shows the exit velocity and launch angle combinations for every ball in play. Lastly, the bottom right quadrant shows each player’s exit velocity and launch angle over the course of the season. Feel free to start a conversation on twitter if you have any questions or want to talk about any of these players. More than happy to have those chats.

Christian Villanueva

Carlos Asuaje

Cory Spangenberg

Jose Pirela

Manuel Margot

Austin Hedges

Travis Jankowski

Freddy Galvis

Adam Cimber

Phil Maton

Luis Perdomo

Tyson Ross

Bryan Mitchell

Clayton Richard



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