As I was beginning to write this, Cameron Maybin delivered a tenth-inning walkoff home run to give the Braves a 2 to 1 win in both the game and the series against the Arizona Diamondbacks. The walkoff came after a solid outing from Shelby Miller–who rendered the D’backs hitless for the first 7 innings of the game–and it provided me with the perfect intro to begin this Series Preview for the Padres.
In case you’d forgotten, Maybin was one of the many talented players who the new Padres GM, A.J. Preller traded away this last offseason. Preller gave the club quite the shakeup. To summarize, the strategy was trading away talent in exchange for big names and big contracts. It is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. I’m not going to dig much into the details of it here, as it was already handled near perfectly by Rany Jazayerli at Grantland.
At the end of the day, the team that was “supposed” to be a serious contender is now five games under .500. The lineup consists of a revolving door of mediocrity, with Justin Upton being the only solidly above-average bat. His numbers are around what we’ve come to expect out of Justin in recent years, albeit with a slight drop in his power numbers thanks to spending half his games in an extreme pitcher’s park. What he’s lost in power, he’s made up in baserunning. Upton is currently on track to steal 20 bags for the first time since 2011. His 2.8 WAR is the highest mark on his team, with catcher Derek Norris being the only other position player worth even 2 WAR. How they’ve managed to even score four runs per game this season is beyond me, and I don’t expect it to continue through these last two months of the season.
While their offense hasn’t been impressive, it’s their run prevention that’s been their biggest problem. It would be easy to blame their pitchers, but their team FIP ranks 17th in the MLB, indicating that they’ve been roughly average in terms of striking guys out, limiting free passes, and preventing the long ball. The issue is the balls that are put in play, as no one in the field is particularly good at turning batted balls into outs. Their outfield is especially troublesome, with Justin Upton, Will Venable, Matt Kemp, and Wil Myers all struggling to track anything down. These are all guys with well known defensive shortcomings that Preller chose to ignore. Luckily for us, this is the perfect match up for our low power, high contact offense, which should hopefully be able to string enough runs together to keep my bet with Dan alive.
This series will see us face rookie Colin Rae, followed by James Shields and Tyson Ross. Rae isn’t anyone to write home about, and was only called up because the Padres needed a warm body to fill out their rotation. That should make for an easy first game were it not for us sending out Williams Perez to face him. Game two will likely be even more difficult, with a struggling Matt Wisler taking on Big Game James. Shields hasn’t been as good as we’ve come to expect from the former Royal. Much of his struggle have been in giving up nearly twice as many home runs as he has in recent seasons. It’s far too early to think there’s any underlying issue there. Considering the Braves are not ones to put anything in the seats anyway, he shouldn’t have much of an issue on Tuesday. And if those first two games didn’t look tough enough, Wednesday will match us up against Tyson Ross. Ross would be having a stellar season were it not for the lack of support from his defense. He still gives up his fair share of walks, but he’s striking out more guys than ever and currently ranks third in baseball with a 63% ground ball rate. We’re going to need Teheran to look like he did last Friday if we want to stay in this, and even then we’ve got to hope the bullpen doesn’t come in and unravel it all. The Padres certainly aren’t great, but neither are we, and this series could end up being more of a challenge than many might think.