After a complete offseason overhaul, I posited that the San Diego Padres would be a wild card team. Yet, a day before putting up a Major League leading 17th game where they scored one or fewer runs, General Manager A.J. Preller fired 9 year manager Bud Black. Currently, they are sitting 4th in their division. Does firing Black make San Diego the competitor we all expected? Or is this team flawed for other, more foundational reasons?
For starters, the offense has been confusing. Despite the league leading number of games with poor scoring, they have also scored the eighth highest number of runs in the MLB. Even though ranking within the last 10 teams in seven different offensive measures – OPS, slugging percentage, OBP, batting average, home runs hit, strikeouts, and extra base hits, they are somehow getting runners home. Even more odd, they rank 27th in sacrifice flies, meaning these runs are not coming from a small ball approach.
Matt Kemp has been well off his game thus far. After a good start to the year in terms of making contact (his 2015 contact rate is consistent with his career rate), Kemp now sits with a .246/.288/.336 slash line. Continuing his struggles, Kemp has hit only two Home Runs and a mere 33 RBI’s. According to his WAR (-.03), a no name average player would be worth more wins to the Padres.
Interestingly, Kemp has yet to be caught stealing. He has 7 stolen bases so far, a number that is close to matching his total from each of the last three years. Why is this important? It looks like his leg injuries aren’t the cause of his troubles. Therefore, Kemp should bounce back as his incredibly low .168 secondary average and .090 isolated power numbers are far off his averages from those years. I understand Petco Park may be suppressing his Home Run total, but that shouldn’t keep his overall numbers this low and be reflected in away numbers.
A quick look at pitching shows yet another paradox for this team: while ranking first in quality starts and fifth in strikeouts per 9 innings, the staff has given up the 6th most earned runs and has the 6th worst batting average against them. Not to mention the pitching staff has given up the second highest number of Home Runs and the highest number of total bases.
Could a new manager provide a spark in offense or help the pitchers get back on track? Potentially, if the team felt uncomfortable or uninspired around Black. However, I haven’t heard many stories about poor organizational chemistry and Bud Black, though never wildly successful as a manager, was a former pitching coach. In my mind, it comes down to whether or not the Padres will play to their potential, and 66 games is too early to give up on them.
Will it be the firing of Bud Black that makes the difference? I doubt it, though if the Padres make the playoffs, this move will be called a major factor, right or wrong.