Being able to admit you were wrong about something — especially in the sports world where your opinion can make or break you — is not the easiest thing to do. Back in December of 2014 I jumped on the San Diego Padres bandwagon. I was driving the bandwagon and trying to find room for people to jump and join me. I wrote an article claiming that the San Diego Padres not only were the most improved team in the NL, they would be divisional contenders in 2015.
Currently, the Padres boast a 64-67 record and sit 9.5 games out of first place. Their season is dead and I was wrong. Really wrong.
But how could you not get caught up in the hype? First year GM A.J. Preller makes arguably the biggest transformation of a team in the course of a month ever witnessed in baseball. In the course of a month the Padres traded for Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Derek Norris, Justin Upton, inked free agent pitcher James Shields to a five-year contract and then traded for one of the best closers in baseball, Craig Kimbrel, a day before the regular season began.
The Padres finally had the makings of a contending ballclub. But what the Padres were supposed to be and what the Padres ended being are polar opposites.
What went wrong for a team with so much promise?
There were concerns if the Padres could win with an infield that had one player post a WAR over two in 2014. Middlebrooks was already a suspect player coming off two consecutive injury-riddled years with the Boston Red Sox and his supporting cast around the rest of the diamond didn’t have much promise, either.
The Padres’ outfield defense also raised some concern. Myers — once a catcher in the Kansas City Royals system — would be playing centerfield full-time for the first time in his career. Myers was a sub-par corner outfielder with the Rays, owning a career -11 DRS over his season and a half in St. Petersberg. Kemp, after countless injuries to his legs and knees, is a shell of his former self in the outfield. Not to forget about Upton, who is more know for his long homers, and not so much for his ability to catch flyballs.
The biggest reason why the Padres faltered was sub-par seasons by players that were expected to perform at higher levels than they actually were capable of.
Kemp, coming off a season in 2014 where he posted a .309/.365/.606 slash in the second half, was expected to be more like the Kemp that nearly won the MVP in 2011. This year, Kemp has managed to stay healthy, but suffered a power outage and struggled to find any consistency after his dominant debut month.
Myers was once again plagued by the same wrist injury that caused him to miss almost all of the 2014 season. When Myers has been on the field he has enjoyed mild success. Putting up a .277/.327/.459 slash in 35 games, but he was not the stalwart in centerfield that the Padres were hoping to get.
Norris had a great first month hitting .313 with a homer and 11 RBIs, but from May on has only managed to hit above .230 twice.
Middlebrooks yet again got hurt and eventually demoted to the minors. His future with the Padres is definitely in question.
Justin Upton and Craig Kimbrel are the only two bright spots and the only two trades that Preller made that actually worked for the Padres. Upton has undoubtedly been the MVP of the Padres. Leading the team in home runs, walks, slugging percentage, OPS and OPS+. Even he’s had his down moments, though, batting just .253, 20 points below his career average. Upton is a free agent to be and is likely heading elsewhere at season’s end. Kimbrel has faced more adversity this year then ever before in his career, but has still managed to save 36 games to this point and is on pace for his fifth consecutive 40-plus save season.
One cannot mention the Padres struggles and not mention the pitching staff. In 2014 the Padres had a top five pitching staff in the NL, this year their team ERA ballooned all the way up to 3.96, which is 16th in the MLB. They’re 14th in opponents average and 16th in WHIP a far cry from where they were a year ago.
A lot of this has to do with the Padres having a hard time, surprisingly, keeping the ball in the park. As a staff the Padres have given up 137 homers, which is the 9th most in the NL.
James Shields was not the big game pitcher the Padres hoped they were getting. This year Shields has complied his highest WHIP and ERA since 2010 and has already given up 26 home runs, his highest mark since 2011.
Odrisamer Despaigne took a huge step back after having a breakout 2014 season, Ian Kennedy struggled through a good portion of 2015 trying to find consistency. Andrew Cashner, once viewed as the ace of the staff, also took a huge step back putting up his worst marks in ERA, WHIP, and BB/9 since 2012. Tyson Ross has been the lone bright spot in the rotation. But even he isn’t even putting up the numbers he did in 2014.
Looking towards 2016, Preller is going to have to retool and try another approach at trying to compete. Trying to get once big names or players with injury history that might be able to show a flash of what they used to be might not be the best building block going forward. With a luckluster infield, lack of starting pitching depth, below average outfield defense, losing Justin Upton and stuck with some aging superstars, next year might not be a great in San Diego, either.
But if you want to look at this in a glass half full way, after the Padres fired long time skipper Bud Black and brought in interim manager Pat Murphy, they are one game under .500! The Padres also have some valuable trade chips they could potentially move to try and rebuild with.
The Padres looked like a sexy pick and a team that destined to be better. But they weren’t and I did nothing but make myself look like a fool. One thing is for sure: expectations are a hell of thing. And when they aren’t met, they make you look bad and bring on repercussions. Just ask Bud Black.