Right now, the Padres are sitting at 13-8 and are a remarkable first place in the National League standings. This is mostly due to some fantastic pitching by some young players like tonight’s starter Wade LeBlanc – performances which, for various reasons I don’t expect to hold up. The Padres will likely fall towards the back of the pack in what is looking like a loaded NL West, and that’s mostly because they simply don’t have the hitters to carry them over a 162 game season.
Adrian Gonzalez is, as is well documented, one of the best hitters in the league, and he’s lived up to that reputation so far this year, with a .319/.438/.625 line, supported by a crazy 16.9% BB% and .306 Isolated Power (SLG-AVG).
There’s a pretty huge dropoff in the lineup after Gonzalez. Chase Headley has had a great year so far (.337/.382/.446) but he doesn’t take a lot of walks, and as such his on base percentage is greatly supported by a .403 BABIP. He should fall back to earth soon. Will Venable is hitting for some scary power – .268 ISO is nearly twice of league average – but, again, he doesn’t take any walks, and without walks, a 29.6% K rate is going to result in a terrible on base percentage. Venable is currently sitting at a .295 OBP.
I’m a fan of Kyle Blanks, but he will not produce with his strikeout rate where it is right now – 41.5% of at bats. He’s walking and hitting for power, but he needs to start putting the ball in play. When he does, he can be a real threat. I’m also a fan of Scott Hairston, who has a similar issue, as he is currently striking out 36.1% of the time.
Tony Gwynn Jr. has learned how to walk, and is combining a good on base percentage with good outfield defense to become a productive player. PETCO park is perfect for him – I still don’t regret the trade that brought in Jody Gerut. Nick Hundley is a decent catcher – probably around an average hitter, but he’s splitting time with Yorvit Torrealba, who has no on-base skills at this point in his career.
Then we come to the dead weight. David Eckstein and Everth Cabrera are, simply put, poor hitters. Cabrera’s good 2009 was supported by an unprecedented 10.5% walk rate after a 9.3% walk rate in single A and a 23.3% K rate after a 21.1% K rate at the same level. That simply doesn’t happen very often, and is why ZiPS projected a paltry .646 OPS from Cabrera, nearly 100 points higher than what he’s actually posted so far. Eckstein makes a lot of contact, but that’s not really a good thing given his complete lack of power. If he hits a fly ball, it’s essentially an automatic out, and he doesn’t walk at all (3.9% BB rate). He’s just not a productive hitter.
The Padres have what look like some promising pieces, but overall an offense that is well below average. In spacious PETCO Park, the Brewers pitchers should be able to shut them down.