Reliving the 2017 Season: San Diego Padres Edition | The Process Report

Reliving the 2017 Season: 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 team. The order will mirror next June’s draft slotting 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 two to three of these out each week which should allow for every team being covered before our glorious game returns to continue threshing our hearts.

Past: DET SFG PHI CWS CIN NYM

For the 2017 San Diego Padres, and their fans, there was never any doubt about contender status. They were an also ran from the start, but that knowledge provided a good bit of freedom to give guys plenty of leash to see if they could sink or swim. This manifested in all the Rule-V guys they drafted prior to the season, but also in the playing time that could be afforded a plethora of flawed players to see if they could overcome, or at the very least, mitigate their weaknesses enough to let strengths shine. While the outcome was never really in doubt the team did get to test drive some very fine pitching, though the bats left much to be desired.

The arms were really good to start the year before settling into a comfortable spot as better than average. After the trade deadline saw them flip a few capable arms the results started to creep into less exciting territory, which may doubly be a reflection of the assorted good arms starting to run out of gas down the stretch. Outside of a mid-season peak the bats were about as bad as it gets over the course of the season. They started badly and ended up where they started with the scorch stretch in between almost seeing them approach league average. It’s a bad offense, but it is easy to replace bad players with better ones than it is to upgrade guys that are ok, but not good, or great.

The Padres saw their pitchers walk too many, but notching a league average strikeout rate is nice to see. The expected production on balls in play (xwOBA*) shows a better than league average rate, though observed performance was a little worse than average. Altogether you’re looking at a pitching stable that put up around 30 runs better than league average. Flipping over to the bats we again see a fairly large discrepancy between observed and expected production on balls in play with the former still worse than league average, but the expected quite a bit worse. It was an offense that struck out far too often without seeing the normal progression that you expect in walk rate from all those deep counts. At 190 runs worse than average it is quite possible that this was the worst offense in the game last year, and certainly the worst reviewed so far.

Starting with the good side of the equation you can see why the Padres had such an enormous asking price for Brad Hand. The southpaw reliever was exceptional striking out a third of batters while running a league average walk rate and well better than average production on contact. As mentioned the team flipped Trevor Cahill, Ryan Buchter and Brandon Maurer to the Royals prior to the deadline. Both Cahill and Buchter had been solid performers to that point, but Maurer was closer to league average. With hindsight this ended up being a fairly strong trade as everyone fell apart once getting to Kansas City, and it did give the team an opportunity to view other players.

Some of those young guns, like Dinelson Lamet and Luis Perdomo, looked like capable mid-rotation arms, or even better in the case of the former. While this sounds like a fine foundation the team will lose Chacin to free agency so there will be a bit of subtraction before any sort of addition. Adding to the top would be very helpful in sliding everyone else down, but it is doubtful that San Diego will spend the type of capital to make that move.

With Hand and the enigmatic Kirby Yates returning the team has a nice start on the bullpen, but another guy I liked most of last year, Jose Torres, quietly performed very well. You can also add in Phil Maton and whatever they get from Carter Capps. It still feels premature to think the Padres will be making a run at this thing in 2018, but they should emulate this past season by figuring out what will work in the rotation, building up relievers, and then flipping them for assets that can contribute more production over a broader window.

We can see above that Clayton Richard might have been the workhorse of the rotation by facing the most batters, it was actually Chacin that set the pace for their starters from a performance perspective. His bookends to the season were incredibly strong, but even in the middle he was mostly no worse than a league average guy. That has a ton of utility in an organization looking for any sort of rotation stability. While Chacin is a free agent, he has typically been pretty unheralded. With plenty of similar or better arms available in free agency it would make a lot of sense for San Diego to bring him back on a smart deal to add volume to a rotation that could sorely use it.

  

Lamet posted eye-popping strikeout rates for a starting pitcher, though as is the case for many youngsters this also led him down the walking path, as well. That he allows league average production on balls in play should help mitigate some of the worst aspects of high walk rates, but if he can improve either facet without losing much from the strikeout rate you could be looking at a solid breakout candidate next year. Both the start and the finish were essentially around the average, but in between he enjoyed a sustained run of very strong performance. There may be a little inflation here due to league and park, but Lamet could be a strong buy low heading into the upcoming season.

Perdomo probably has more familiarity than Lamet as this was his sophomore season, but he wasn’t quite as good. I saw him as a little worse than average, but when looking at his season you can see a guy that would be fine in the back end of most rotations. His worst performance came at the end of the season, and it was fairly consistent in it’s shape. Perhaps this is a sign of fatigue that may or may not be an issue in the upcoming season. If his finish had been as strong as the rest of his season there would be a bit more hype here, but as is, he should represent a nice gamble in dollar days.

 

While the pitchers showed plenty of good, if not great arms, they really pushed the needle by having few downright bad performances. The same cannot be said of the bats where you find a low ceiling at the top and plenty of guys at the bottom that received far too much playing time considering their contributions. In the case of Hedges the glove is probably enough to weather the (lack of) bat, and guys like Spangenberg or Aybar may merely be placeholders until the kids come along.

Depending on your level of optimism you can take Margot’s season either way. On one hand he cost around 10 runs at the plate with his bat, but if you factor in that he was a true 22 year old in his rookie season then perhaps that 93 xwRC+ is just a taste of the delicacies to come. The glove in center probably makes up that ten runs leaving him as something of an average player already so if he can just cut the strikeouts a smidge or see his xwOBA* progress to his actual results you could be looking at a wonderful player.

Moving to the top we see a familiar name in Wil Myers who still hits the ball hard and at ideal angles when he does manage to make contact, but the strikeout rate strongly reduces the numbers of plate appearances where the ball is actually put in play. The walks help, but how much of that comes from being one of the few power threats in a lineup bereft of that facet? Jabari Blash or Hunter Renfroe represent the other big thumpers, but both come with enough downside on non-balls in play to make the power somewhat moot. Jose Pirela splits the difference by essentially being league average in all three areas, though he did outproduce expectations on balls in play to a fairly strong extent.

A good glove and the wheels to boot make Manual Margot the type of high floor player that many teams like in their premium defensive positions, but it will take progression with the bat for him to move from that average to potential superstar band. Most of the season saw him as a below average hitter, though he did manage to avoid any sort of severely prolonged or deep, deep slump. He even showed a hot stretch towards the end of the year, though it was followed by a fairly linear descent back below the average. As a very young player making his debut at the highest level it is easy to discount the bad stretches and hope for more of the good, but it will fully be up to Margot to make good on his high level of promise.

Wil Myers has always had a distinct sound when he barrels the ball, but the problem has been getting him to do that very thing more often. The strikeouts take away from what could be a strong skillset, but you get the sense that he fits better as a complimentary stick in a good lineup rather than the guy that needs to carry a bad one. He mostly avoided the deep slumps that had plagued him in the past, but with that came very few strong stretches that in the past lifted his overall numbers into nice places. What you’re left with his a guy that was a little better than average at his best and a little worse than average at his worst. Heading into his age 27 season as one of the few guys on the team getting any sort of money the expectations thrust upon Myers will be enormous. Finding a way to cut the strikeouts without losing the power or the walk has always been the key to unlocking his prodigious talent, but the same can be said for thousands of others that left the game unremarkably.

In totality, Jose Pirela was essentially a league average bat this past season. You can see that he arrived at the station on very much a lumpy path. He started out pretty poorly, but did see actual results leading his expected performance before coming to agreement in a very good place. Many smart folks don’t like to put much stock in end of season numbers due to the lower replacement level around the league as teams start to toy with notions of next year, but Pirela could be a guy that simply took some time to adjust after posting sensational numbers in triple-A ball. Of course, he’ll be 28 next year so this could also be all that he will ever be as he enjoys the waning peak years of his prime, but he will be afforded all sorts of opportunity next year on a team that will again look to improve knowing that they’re not quite there yet. As such, Pirela could be another nice find in dollar days.

Leaderboards

With now seven teams having been put under the microscope the database continues to flesh out. In order to gain context for the figures listed above it can be helpful to look at the 20 best and worst hitters and pitchers for the teams already covered. Below that you will find how the teams rank out in these metrics.

  



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