FriarBall: February 2008

Friday, February 29, 2008

Spring Training Game 1 Preview: Royals at Padres

Kansas City vs. San Diego
At Peoria Stadium, 12:05 p.m. PT

Shawn Estes takes the mound, maybe I mentioned that already? To counter, the Royals plan on sending Gil Meche, Hideo Nomo and Jimmy Gobble - hopefully at different times - to the mound (sorry for the bad joke, just shaking the rust off). It's spring and it's the official Cactus League opener for both teams so we can now return to business as usual. Go Padres.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Spring Training: Mariners 10, Padres 3

Spring baseball has unofficially begun as the Padres lost the annual charity game against our "bitter" rivals Seattle on Thursday, 10-3.

Despite being blown out in a meaningless game, is reporting that Trevor Hoffman looked sharp, pitching a "perfect inning."

The one part of the story that gets me is the description that Hoffman "threw sharp breaking pitches and signature changeups in the fifth." Now we all know Hoffman has the wicked change that has made him so effective for so long but I thought he had all but ditched the breaking stuff.

Now before I get carried away I am reminding myself that this isn't even an official Cactus League game, but I can't help but wonder if Hoffman might be reaching into his past to maybe give him some new tricks this year and push off talk of his inevitable decline one more season. But again, it's only the beginning of the spring so I guess we will have to wait and see if this breaking stuff is for real.

Anyways, it's nice to have something other than speculation to talk about. So happy spring and enjoy the return of Shawn Estes to the mound tomorrow against Kansas City.

2008 Previews, fantasy style

I decided to add one more, albeit late, post to my 2008 previews. However, I am turning the reigns of this post over to a friend of mine, Derrick. Derrick is a contributor to and runs the blog Ultimate Fantasy Baseball Rankings.

Derrick is not a Padres fan by any means, but we won't hold that against him as he really knows his stuff. So for all of you fantasy baseball players out there, here's an outside look at our guys. So without further ado, here's Derrick:

From a Fantasy Baseball perspective the players that fill the roster of the San Diego Padres 2008 Major League baseball team are ... um, well … bland, to put it politely. The few fantasy relevant names that do stand out range from Jake Peavy, perhaps the best fantasy SP in the game, to Jim Edmonds, a defensively talented CF who seems to have left his bat on the better side of his 30’s.

However there are a few bright spots - along with Peavy there are other reliable fantasy players, such as former #1 overall pick Adrian Gonzalez. Gonzalez will turn 26 this season and has slugged .500 or better in each of his seasons in SD, proving that you can hit for power while playing half your games at Petco. At the same time 20 of his 30 2007 HR’s were recorded on the road, so he’s probably a 35-40 HR guy, but we will not see that as long as the current ballpark dimensions remain. I’m expecting Gonzalez to have nearly a repeat of his 2007 performance in 2008.

Chris Young remains the team’s #2 SP entering the 2008 season and is a good one to have in the middle of your fantasy rotation. Young’s numbers greatly improved in 07, due in large part to the fact that he was able to keep the ball inside the park a lot more often. Young allowed only 10 HR’s in 173 IP in 2007 compared to 28 HR’s in 179 IP in 2006. This helped him lower his ERA to a miniscule 3.12. If not for a late season injury, which led to inconsistent performances during August and September, his overall numbers would have been even more impressive.

The knocks on Young have always been his lack of control and sloth-like delivery. Calling him slow to the plate is a vast understatement. I believe that these two factors are intertwined. Because of Young’s extreme height he has a hard time keeping his body tight and compact through his delivery. As such his delivery is not always the same which makes it difficult for him to harness his stuff. When you watch Young pitch you can almost see him concentrating and telling himself to keep it tight as he coils back to begin his delivery. While this concentration is necessary to maintain some semblance of control it causes his delivery to take more time than it should and allows base runners to focus in on his movements and get a great jump, compounding the problem.

I think it’s quite possible Young ends up posting the same numbers he did last season, but with more IP, K’s and Wins, which would make him a top 15 SP. At the same time I stress that this projection is given with a relatively low degree of confidence. The aforementioned control issues being the main culprit. If Young has problems getting the ball over the plate on a consistent basis I would expect his ERA and WHIP to end up closer to the 4.00 and 1.30 levels respectively because of the increase in base-runners and home runs allowed, again caused by the lack of control.

Kevin Kouzmanoff is a name that drew the ire of Padres fans and fantasy managers alike during the first half of the 2007 season. However, the fantasy managers that stuck with Kouz through the hard times, much like Pads manager Bruce Bochy, were rewarded with a stellar 2nd half that saw Kouz hit .317/.366/.524, with 11 home runs over 252 ABs!

Watch for Kouzmanoff to continue to build on his 2nd half success in 2008. A .290, 25 HR, 90 RBI season, while probably at the high end of his abilities, would not surprise me at all.

I hate to write this on a San Diego Padres Blog, but my journalistic oath requires me to be honest (I just lied, I’ve taken no such oath) so you heard it here first: This will finally be the season that we witness Trevor Hoffman age before our eyes. I know that none of you want to hear this and I understand if you are screaming the following at your computer screen right now, “Hoffman was nearly 40 last season and looked just as good as ever! His ERA was under 3.00 and he recorded over 40 saves for the 4th consecutive season! How can you possibly think that he is on the decline?!?”

The emotions behind these statements are strong and love for a long-time, trusted ally transcends logic. This is why I am here to help you see through the love-fog and save yourself fantasy heart-break. Hoffman’s velocity has obviously declined. He no longer has the ability to reach back and rely on his stuff to get a strikeout when he needs one most. He has to live on the edge of the plate a lot more than he used to because of his declining stuff, which leads to a higher BB rate. He is having a hard time keeping the ball down in the zone which has led to more of his outs coming from fly balls. All of these little signs of decline combined with his ever increasing age lead me to believe that Hoffman in 2008 will have his worst ERA since 1995 (3.88) and his worst WHIP since his rookie season (1.40).

Please understand, I’m not projecting a total collapse and Hoffman, barring injury, will still start and finish the season as the Pads 9th inning guy. Just look for his numbers to be not quite as sharp as usual and for his Saves totals to be in the 30’s rather than the 40’s.

A few other players on the roster this season that will be fantasy relevant in some formats are Greg Maddux (watch for his numbers to improve with a full season in SD He still doesn’t BB anyone and most of his outs are still of the ground ball variety), Mark Prior (big ? but he’s worth a late-round flier, or at least keeping an eye on), Scott Hairston (has the power to hit 20-25 HRs in Petco), and Heath Bell (has had the stuff for years, finally put it all together last season – if Hoffman goes down he’s a lights out closer).

If you like to go after young guys with upside look no further than two of San Diego’s best, Matt Antonelli and Chase Headley. Both could end up with starting spots out of Spring Training, but more likely will be sent back down to AAA for a bit more seasoning and recalled later in the season. I believe that both are ready to contribute to some degree at the Major League level and it is only a matter of time before these two offensively talented hitters get their opportunity to do what they do best for a team that desperately needs what they do best.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Estes returns to the mound

Well it looks like the search for a No. 5 starter is about to get a little more crowded, and a little more fragile, as Shawn Estes makes a long-awaited return to the mound in the Cactus League opener on Friday against Kansas City.

It's been almost two seasons since Estes last pitched for SD and I'm sure that many casual fans are wondering either who this guy is or are probably thought Estes has retired.

Looking at Estes' career stats on, he was an All Star in 1997 and owns a career record of 99-90 with a 4.71 ERA in 1,634 1/3 innings - 6 of which have been for the Padres (0-1 with a 4.50 ERA in 1 game).

I don't know which is scarier, thinking Estes could be the No. 5 guy until Mark Prior comes back, thinking Prior could be the guy or knowing Glendon Rusch is in the mix. Just thinking about that trio, combined with No. 4 starter Randy Wolf makes my arm start to hurt.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Enough with the past and optimism

So, spring training is under way and games begin soon. But as the local papers scramble to help feed our need for news on the Padres we get stories like this one about Brian Giles, another optimism piece talking about his progress relating to returning from surgery.

But the one thing that has always annoyed me in regards to the media is its tendency to drudge up the past in order to fill space. Hey, in case you haven't heard Matt Holliday never touched home and the Padres barely missed the playoff because of it.

Oh the drudgery of the offseason. Well at least we know that we are now safe until the season starts, and the first time we face the Rockies, and if we meet up again with the playoffs on the line. At least it will all be played out by 2009 right?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Should we be worried about the OF?

A lot of talk has been made about the No. 5 spot in the rotation or who will man LF but as we get closer to the start of spring, I can't help but think we are in need of two full OF rotations.

With Scott Hairston only penciled in at left, what would happen if he fails to pan out and both Jim Edmonds and Brian Giles are seriously bit by the injury bug? Who fills in?

Obviously the Chase Headley experiment out in LF would have to be revisited but what would we do for longer term CF and RF replacements? Do we call up 2B of the future Matt Antonelli to pitch in for Giles or does Paul McAnulty get another shot? And what about center? Rule V draftee Callix Crabbe is listed as the backup for 2B and all 3 OF spots but would anyone be comfortable sending out an OF of Hairston/Headley, Crabbe and Antonelli/McAnulty?

All of these questions are starting to make my head hurt and I can tell it is getting late because I have been rambling for a while now so I will say this, whenever Kevin Towers finally picks up that extra OF, it won't be too soon because the alternative is looking a little too ripe for my taste.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

What draws you to baseball?

With the first game of spring training still over a week away, I thought that now I would pose this question to the audience out there - What is it that draws you back to baseball year after year?

For me, no matter how many times I wanted to just kind of forget about it during the mediocre years of the Padres, I still found myself drawn to the team once the end of February rolled around. While I can't quite decide what it is about the game (probably the strategy involved and the battle of wits between managers when making moves), I still remember the exact moment I became a fan.

I believe I mentioned this when Tony Gwynn was inducted into the Hall of Fame but as a really young kid I began collecting football cards. However, one day my best friend brought over his baseball card collection and showed me this card:

While there may be nothing extremely exciting about this card, for some reason I was drawn to it and Gwynn from then on. Whatever effect that card had on me still holds me to this sport this day and even though my wife can't understand why I will watch full Padres games on TV whenever I get the chance, I personally know it goes back to that first card.

So now I open up the floor and ask, What draws you to baseball?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Padres book shoutout

Since we've hit the last news lull before the season, I thought I would send some publicity to Geoff Young over at Ducksnorts, who has just uploaded previews of his upcoming book, Ducksnorts 2008 Baseball Annual.

According to Geoff, the book should be available in the next few weeks and it will be a great read for Padres fans. So check out the preview and tell Geoff that Friarball sent you.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Let the optimism begin

If there is one thing that I love about Spring Training (or maybe I really despise it, I can never tell) it's all of the optimism that floats around.

The oft-injured starter that hasn't played a full season since the Padres last made the World Series? "I'm in the best shape of my life."

The struggling slugger who had career lows in BA, HR, RBI, etc. but wasn't injured? "I've been working out all offseason and have put on 15 pounds of muscle."

The perpetual minor leaguer hoping this year is the year he finally cracks the big league lineup? "I've lost 10 pounds so I am more lean and mean."

But regardless of the canned line of optimism, the truth is this - the slate is wiped clean, everyone is optimistic their team is ready to win it all this year (except maybe Pirates fans, sorry Pittsburgh) and until the first pitch is thrown we have no idea how out of shape the team's fatty is this go around.

Happy spring everyone.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

2008 Previews: Closer

Trevor Hoffman is and always will be the closer until he retires. With that said, how much longer can the aging saves leader keep hitters off-balance with an 85 mph fastball and a changeup as his only pitches?

The key to the changeup is obviously making the pitch look like a fastball in relation to release point and arm speed, but when the velocity drops on your fastball as you get older (and don't use PEDs) how much are the two pitches really different.

Hoffman has always been one of my favorites and to me, signifies the post-Tony Gwynn era Padres but sometimes time just runs out. However I am predicting that will not be this year.

Saves are about as easy to predict as wins with a lot of the actual results dependent on others but I am going to say Hoffman posts another 40+ save season, blows less than 5 and keeps his ERA in the 2.50 range.

However, if the last week of last season really was indicitive of how much longer Hoffman can hold on, I am still confident we will get those numbers out of our closer. The only difference may be that Heath Bell would be the one posting the numbers.

The 'pen will again be the strength of this team and us making the playoffs will once again come down to how much work it can conceivably do without running down.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

2008 Previews: Bullpen

Note: This section will not cover closer Trevor Hoffman, that will be covered in tomorrow's final preview post.

If there is one thing the Padres have an abundance of, it's arms in the bullpen. Both Kevin Cameron and Justin Hampson proved to be pleasant surprises and with another strong showing by Cla Meredith, I am confident middle relief will be covered, no matter who else fills out the pen.

The setup role should be pretty well set too as Heath Bell had an outstanding year last year and seemed to fill in well once Scott Linebrink was traded. Bell should be the closer of the future, but unless he develops Hoffman-like consistency, his effectiveness may run out before he gets a chance.

If the starters can get deep into games with leads, the pen will hold onto most of them. If there is one thing I am not worried heading into this season, it's the pen.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

2008 Previews: Starting Pitching

It's no secret by now that the Padres have one of the best, if not the best, 1-2 combos in the majors when it comes to starters. Jake Peavy and Chris Young got off to an amazing start and if it wasn't for a pesky injury after the All Star break, Young may have been a stronger Cy Young candidate.

With Greg Maddux coming back we have a solid enough No. 3 starter that he should guarantee us at least 10 wins once again, despite the fact that Maddux is clearly not the pitcher he was. However, his years of experience have made it possible for him to remain effective.

Any fan worth his weight knows the biggest question for the Padres is who will fill the last two spots in the rotation. Low budget signings Randy Wolf and Mark Prior should be adequate to fill the roles if they can remain healthy, but that's the $64,000 question this season.

Both Wolf and Prior tend to be fly ball pitchers and their home run to fly ball ratios should see the most improvement because of their new surroundings. Should the need arise, both Justin Germano (last year's No. 5 starter) and Clay Hensley headline a list of youngsters who will be itching for another chance to earn a full-time rotation gig.

It remains to be seen how effective Germano really can be - is he more of the pitcher we saw in the first half (only 1 loss), or is he closer to the guy we saw struggle in the second half? A similar questions could be asked of Hensley, but he too is also trying to battle back from injury.

Regardless of who fills the last two spots, someone is going to have to step up in a big way.

Monday, February 11, 2008

2008 Previews: Right Field

Keeping with the theme of aging outfielders, the Padres will again turn to Brian Giles to man the right side of the outfield.

When healthy, Giles did an admirable job in the leadoff spot last year, creating pressure on the pitcher when he reached base despite the fact he was no real threat to steal or advance extra bases with his speed.

His power is fading along with his health but with no real alternatives for the outfield lets hope Giles can silence the doubters for one more year. His BA will probably be around last year's .270 and don't expect much more than 10 HR. Giles is slated for the leadoff spot again at this point but don't be surprised if Giles finds himself coming off the bench for a younger, faster player by the start of the summer. I have no idea who that player will be, but Giles is probably one injury or slump away from losing his role on the team.

It's probably not the best year to be a Giles.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

2008 Previews: Center Field

Mike Cameron was getting old, had an expiring contract and spent some time on the DL last year so we let him leave. Kevin Towers' grand move to replace him? The older, and more often hurt Jim Edmonds.

Now don't get me wrong, I loved Edmonds. But that was back in 2004 when he was still producing Web Gems on a nightly basis and played more than 120 games a year.

On the plus side, we get a guy who has continuously proven he can cover a large space and we didn't have to give up a whole lot to get him. Now we just need him to stay healthy.

Even if Edmonds plays more than 120 games this year, he still won't quite put up the numbers he was putting up five years ago. However, it shouldn't be too much of a stretch for a .260 BA with 20 HR and 60 RBI if all of the pieces fall into place.

The other wild card to this scenario is who will play CF when/if Edmonds gets hurt. That's something that I don't even want to venture a guess at right now. Hopefully by the end of the spring, we will at least know the name of Plan B.

Friday, February 8, 2008

2008 Previews: Left Field

Before we get to the muddiest of all previews, I would like to bring attention to a story from saying we are close to bringing in Tony Clark to back up Adrian Gonzalez at 1B. Whether or not Clark has much of an impact on the offense, one thing Clark will do is help the Padres nail down the trophy for the tallest team in the league. At least we will win something.

Now on to LF. According to the Sports Lunch today with Kevin Towers and Bud Black, our starting lineup is set to feature Scott Hairston as our regular LF (thanks to Gaslamp Ball for the post on the lunch).

Hairston did great things when he came over from the D-backs last year and it would be awesome to see him do more of the same. Like Khalil Greene, Hairston probably won't have the most impressive BA, but given a regular opportunity to play he could put up 20 HR.

The one thing that will hinder Hairston is his lack of patience at the plate, but given that he is only 27, he could get better with time.

If Hairston falters there are a wealth of guys looking for any opportunity to play (including Chase Headley), and it could still be possible that Towers could bring in another player at some point.

LF is definitely one of the biggest questions heading into this year but if Hairston can lock the job down we should be in great shape.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

2008 Previews: Third Base

Kevin Towers traded for Kevin Kouzmanoff before last season, giving up on what fans thought was another talented prospect (and who could still be a good talent despite his struggles last season) in Josh Barfield.

In April, it looked like we got hosed as Kouzmanoff struggled to adjust to being a full time major leaguer but by June Towers once again looked like a genius. Given that Kouzmanoff should be better adjusted this season, he should easily surpass last year's numbers and I think he even approaches a .300 BA, 25 HR and 95 RBI. Not too much of a stretch but considering his second half last season it could be too modest.

Like the rest of the infield, last year's super utility man Geoff Blum traded one super sized state for another, meaning the Kouzmanoff's days off will most likely be handled by "3B of the future?" Chase Headley, provided Headley isn't the permanent fixture in LF.

Looking at the complete infield picture, I applaud what Towers has us sending out on a game-to-game basis, even if Tadahito Iguchi is just a rental until Matt Antonelli is ready. If Kouzmanoff's bat continues to get better, he could provide much of the pop that missing out of last year's lineup (not that he didn't provide pop in the first place, we just needed more).

Now if only the OF was as complete looking as the infield, we would be the team to beat in the NL hands down. But that is another topic for another couple of days.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

2008 Previews: Short Stop

We continue our look around the horn by looking at the short stop position, or more accurately, Khalil Greene. The 28-year-old is in the prime of his career and should be able to avoid distraction after he recently signed a 2-year deal.

Greene has an impressive defensive highlight real to go along with the power he has developed on offense. But one thing this guy will never do is win a batting title. After watching his HR total jump from 15 in each of his first 3 years in the league to 27 last year, Greene should be able to reach the 20 HR mark again and should see more than 80 RBI to go with a .250 batting average.

Much like Tadahito Iguchi at 2B, Greene should be the only guy we really see at SS this year with a couple of journeymen giving him a day off here and there. With Greene and Adrian Gonzalez at the heart of the lineup once again, this offense should be able to put up enough runs to support its pitchers.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

2008 Previews: Second Base

Unlike the previous two positions, second base will be the wild card for the Padres last year. After the failure of Marcus Giles to secure the position last year and having to rely on the now-departed Geoff Blum, SD went out and signed Tadahito Iguchi for 2008.

A quick refresher on Iguchi - he spent last year with the White Sox and the Phillies - hitting .267/.347/.400 combined with 9 HR and 43 RBI. His HR total was half of what it was the year before despite moving from one hitter-friendly park to another. Those expecting his HR numbers to bounce will be sadly disappointed as he has lost some of his power due to his age (he is now 33) and the rest will go due to his new home park (like we need to repeatedly bring this up but what the heck).

Good news for us is that Iguchi is not known as being a power hitter anyway. What we should see from Iguchi this year are numbers similar to last year, which will also include a handful of stolen bases. The numbers won't blow anyone away but at least with Iguchi we have a pretty good idea of what we are getting.

The main part of this deal though is the fact that his presence allows Matt Antonelli another year to prepare for what should be a solid major league career. If that extra year really makes a difference, I am okay with Iguchi keeping the seat warm.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

2008 Previews: First Base

If you go just by the "official" depth chart posted on, the question is not how much further will Adrian Gonzalez progress this year, but who will back him up if he should miss any significant time?

Gonzalez played in all but two games last year and played in 156 games in 2006, so health shouldn't be an issue but you never know. That said, things look good for Gonzalez to surpass most of his numbers from last year and despite being stuck in Petco, his power numbers continue to rise. He should be a legitimate bet to hit another 30 HR and knock in another 100 RBI at least this year.

Gonzalez is blossoming into something truly special and it should be fun to watch him take that next step this year. I am probably most excited to see what Gonzalez can do this season. This area will be a strength of the Padres this year.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

2008 Previews: Catcher

Wow, it's amazing how time gets away from you. Starting today (and hopefully continuing regularly until Spring Training starts), FriarBall will be looking at the Padres by position, heading into Spring Training and offering thoughts on how the team stands at each position.

Starting with the catchers, it's nice to know that while we may not have a standout superstar behind the plate we do have two competent catchers that would challenge for playing time on most teams in the majors.

While I would assume Josh Bard will be the "starter" this season, it is likely both he and Michael Barrett will each see plenty of plate appearances and have the opportunity to provide offense to the 2008 squad.

Bard really seemed to have a breakout performance last year but at age 30, he should continue to get better with more playing time and I don't see any reason why he can't improve upon the .285/.367/.404 he put up last year.

Barrett will be more of a wild card this year as he tries to rebound from a down year by his standards. Between Chicago and San Diego his batting average dropped from .307 in 2006 to .244 last year. While '06 was definitely a career year for the 31-year-old, he should be able to bounce back somewhat this year. His power numbers may not recover because of the Petco factor, but he should be able to hit more in the .280 range again and he should see upswings in his on base and slugging percentages as well.

The best thing about this tandem is the fact they are a tandem. If one gets hurt the other should be ready to take on more work without issue, and this may be the lone spot on the squad that is not in trouble if an injury occurs. Depth often decides post season runs as much as performance, and neither of those should hinder the catching position in '08.