The San Diego Padres, predicted by almost every scouting service to be one of the worst teams in baseball this season, currently sit atop the National League West with a 16-9 record. The Friars are just two games behind Tampa Bay for the best record in baseball, have won 13 of their last 16 games and just finished a weekend during which they shutout the Milwaukee Brewers in three of four games. The same Brewers team that led the NL in runs entering the series. The Padres outscored Milwaukee 21-2 over the four game stretch.
What the hell? Why do the Padres think they have any right to pretend to be good and just tease me long enough to believe in them before predictably breaking my heart? They can’t just do that to me. It’s not right.
The Padres ended April in first place in the NL West for the first time since 1998, the year they won the NL Pennant. They’ve got a pitching staff that’s blowing away virtually all opponents and it doesn’t even have its ace, Chris Young, who is currently on the disabled list.
The thing is, the Padres have often had pitching, but they haven’t had the hitting to back up an often decent rotation and stellar bullpen. In 2010, they have shown the ability to hit, and that’s shocked everyone.
I knew this team would be better than the past few seasons, that much was obvious. San Diego added speed, athleticism and power by having Kyle Blanks, Will Venable and Everth Cabrera playing for a full season. The question was whether or not the team would come through, or struggle with the pressure on them now.
They’ve come through so far as the Padres are ninth in the NL in runs, 11th in hits, eighth in home runs, 11th in batting average, and 11th in OPS and showing the team’s emphasis on speed, the Friars lead the major leagues in stolen bases (29).
In addition to the whole roster stepping up, third baseman Chase Headley has stepped up to become the player everyone around the Padres organization knew he could be. The 25-year-old Tennessee product moved from left field to his natural position of third base in the offseason after the Padres dealt Kevin Kouzmanoff to make room for Headley. He’s rewarding San Diego’s faith in him by hitting .327 so far. He’s currently sixth in the NL in hits (32), and shockingly tied for second in stolen bases (eight).
Headley has become a perfect compliment to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, who is having his typical excellent season so far despite a bit of a slump. Gonzalez is currently hitting .294 with six home runs, 17 RBI, a .408 OBP, .553 slugging percentage, 16 walks against 17 strikeouts and .961 OPS.
As mentioned before, the Padres have been tearing up the basepaths, with Headley (eight), Venable (six), Tony Gwynn Jr. (five), Cabrera (four), Scott Hairston (three) Jerry Hairston Jr. (two) and David Eckstein (one) committed to the new team philosophy of stealing bases.
So not only is the team young and athletic, they’re fun to watch too.
On the pitching side of things, San Diego ranks third in ERA in the NL (2.76), first in shutouts (six), second in batting average against (.229) and second in strikeouts (205).
Offseason acquisition Jon Garland had two rough starts to open the season but is now 3-2 with the NL’s eighth-best ERA at 2.06. Clayton Richard, acquired in the Jake Peavy trade last summer, has been excellent (1-2, 3.00 ERA), while Kevin Correia is on his way to having a second, consecutive career year (4-1, 3.86 ERA, 1.25 WHIP). Wade LeBlanc, who came up when Young went to the DL, has been nothing short of dominant (2-0, 0.52 ERA, 1.27 WHIP).
Meanwhile, the bullpen has been fantastic as always. Closer Heath Bell is 1-0, with seven saves in eight chances, a 1.80 ERA and 16 strikeouts in 10 appearances. Luke Gregerson (12 appearances, 3-2, seven holds, 2.03 ERA, 0.60 WHIP) and Mike Adams have also been nothing sort of stellar.
So why are the Padres so good right now? They pitch, hit just enough, can run and are young and hungry despite the 29th highest payroll in baseball. And they’re incredibly likable.
They’re totally going to blow this and break my heart as soon as I’ve talked myself into them. God I hate baseball.