There are only five words that come to mind when thinking about the first half the 2010 San Diego Padres just finished: What the hell just happened?
I seriously feel like Phil in The Hangover, when he wakes up the morning after with that “I can’t remember a thing so that must have been really great” grin on his face. Sadly, if the last few days are any indication, the first week of the second half will be the Padres’ “There’s a jungle cat in the bathroom!” moment. Hopefully we can avoid such things.
Just for a primer, remember that the Padres opened the 2010 season with the second-lowest payroll in Major League Baseball. At $37,799,300, San Diego ranked above only the Pittsburgh Pirates ($34,943,000). The Friars were also picked to finish dead-last in the National League West by every major publication, scouting service and expert out there.
They then went 3-6 to open the season before ripping off eight wins in a row and winning 16 of their next 21 games.
The Padres played excellent baseball for the rest of the first half and on July 4th they had the best record in the National League. Entering the All-Star break they sit at 51-37 in first place in the National League West by two games over the Colorado Rockies and just one game behind the Atlanta Braves for the best record in the N.L.
Uh, so what exactly just happened?
Yeah, we all knew the Padres could pitch. In fact, they currently lead all of baseball with a 3.21 ERA (second place is St. Louis at 3.41), and a .237 batting average against. But San Diego has put those numbers up without staff ace Chris Young who only started one game this season.
The reason for the Padres’ success this year has been guys like Jon Garland (8-6, 3.56 ERA), Clayton Richard (6-4, 3.33), Wade LeBlanc (4-7, 3.30), Luke Gregerson (3-5, 19 holds, 2.91 ERA, 0.74 WHIP) and Mike Adams (2-1, 22 holds, 2.19 ERA, 0.94 WHIP). While LeBlanc’s record might not be sparkling, he’s filled in beautifully since Young’s injury. He’s pitched far better than anyone imagined he could and has solidified a rotation spot.
As noted above with Gregerson and Adams’ numbers, it’s obvious that the Padres’ bullpen has been fantastic. Throw in All-Star closer Heath Bell’s 4-0 record with 24 saves (in 27 chances), along with a 1.88 ERA and you’ve got the best relief corps in baseball. Ryan Webb has also been a revelation for the Padres, as in 28 appearances he’s picked up a 3-1 record with a 2.27 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. And lefty Joe Thatcher has been steady in 26 appearances (1-0, 2.04 ERA, 0.74 WHIP).
The Padres have also gotten a stellar season thus far from 22-year-old righty Mat Latos. Latos – who was ridiculously left off the National League All-Star team – has been nearly unhittable this year. He’s put together a 10-4 record, with a 2.45 ERA and is second in the NL with a 0.97 WHIP.
Forgotten in all of the amazing pitching numbers is how the Padres offense – though still anemic at times – has come through with clutch hits and performances time and again.
Led by Adrian Gonzalez (.301, 18 home runs, 58 RBI, .397 OBP, .930 OPS) who is having an MVP-caliber season, the light-hitting Padres have gotten contributions from up and down the roster.
Injuries to guys like Kyle Blanks – who may or may not figure out how to hit in the big leagues, Will Venable – who was starting to figure things out before hurting his back, and Everth Cabrera have hurt production and continuity all season, but somehow the Padres have pulled through.
On top of all that, if anyone has a vote for a skipper other than Bud Black for Manager of the Year honors, they’re insane. Completely, utterly, throwing their own feces at a wall insane. The man has been phenomenal.
The question is, will this last?
Honestly, I have no idea, I’m just kind of enjoying the ride while it lasts. Sure, deep down inside I have a sinking feeling that this team will disappoint me like it always does (see: the last six games of the first half), but hey, I’m a fan so I’m holding out (completely irrational) hope that maybe, just maybe, this is my team’s year!
Aw crap. I’m gonna have to take a tiger back to Mike Tyson’s place aren’t I?