San Diego Padres
Time goes by like pouring rain: The Padres have tried Chase Headley at third base and in the outfield and haven’t been satisfied with him at either. Maybe the Padres are going at this all wrong. The question shouldn’t be where Headley will play, but where he’ll hit. There can’t be a player happier to pack for a road trip than Headley. Inept at home — .226 career average, .338 slugging — he’s competent away from it — .290 average, a .141-point OPS improvement to .790. Headley will be 27 in May and has accumulated 1,500 big-league at-bats; if he doesn’t improve at Petco, it might be time for the Padres to find him a new home.
I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door: Pitcher Simon Castro almost got the call last year, but the Padres played it safe for four starts and recalled Cory Luebke, three years Castro’s elder. With a rotation projected to include some combination of Aaron Harang, Dustin Moseley and/or Wade LeBlanc, Castro won’t be in the minors long, if at all. He throws strikes, gets out and avoids home runs — a perfect combination for Petco. He should do as well in his new home as Headley does poorly there.
What is this man doing here? Gregg Zaun will be 40 years old in April and missed half of last season after shoulder surgery. He might be slow to take a hint, but he’s in camp hoping to win the backup job, which he just might. He comes by his longevity naturally — his uncle, catcher Rick Dempsey, played until he was 42. The Padres are Zaun’s eighth team, and he said he signed with them because he wants to be “part of a good team,” and wants “to be playing meaningful games in September and October.” Forget that the two thoughts are almost mutually exclusive. As a backup, he’ll be OK — his on-base percentage has topped .340 for seven straight years. Much more than that doesn’t bode well.
Outlook: No, the Padres won’t be as good in 2011, despite general manager Jed Hoyer’s protestations to the contrary and his declaration that this year’s roster is more talented. But forget about Adrian Gonzalez’s offense; this has more to do with pitching.
Last year, Padres’ opponents scored only 581 runs (or 3.6 per game), two less than the world champion Giants. That wasn’t all Petco Park — the Padres gave up only seven more homers on the road and walked 15 batters less. The difference between the Padres’ home ERA (2.92) and road (3.91) was a run. The Giants, the team closest in style and in the standings, had a home/away differential of .6 runs.
The Padres aren’t likely to repeat that run-prevention success with a rotation projected to include Harang (5.32 ERA), Moseley (4.96 in 65 innings) or LeBlanc (4.25). Replacing 25 awful Kevin Correia starts with 25 like Harang starts doesn’t help. And the Padres may not have believed in Jon Garland’s success (14-12, 3.47 ERA), but they haven’t replaced it, either. Tim Stauffer maintained his health last year, but he only made seven starts and has never topped 82.2 innings in a season. He’s healthier than Chris Young, but . . .
The bullpen should be very good again, but what happens if Heath Bell’s contract talks get acrimonious and he wants out come July?
The Padres’ offense will obviously miss Gonzalez, although a return to health and blossoming by potential slugger Kyle Blanks could mitigate that. Still a roster filled with Orlando Hudson, Ryan Ludwick, Brad Hawpe and Jason Bartlett is uninspiring at best. The only thing more dull than the Padres’ offense this year might be a team full of David Ecksteins.
Ninety wins didn’t seem probable last year and the Padres won that many. It seems even less likely in 2011.
Remember when: Here’s a clip from the most exciting moments in Padres’ history when they bat. Hint: It has nothing to do with their offense.
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