(Todays blog is a long one)
At 76-61, the San Diego Padres hold a slim 1 game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West. This team has been under the radar the entire season. To no surprise though. It's to be expected when a team is in the same division of the San Francisco Giants. Barry Bond's takes up most of the spotlight as far as the state of California. It's to be expected when a team consists of guys like Mike Cameron, Brian Giles, Adrian Gonzalez, or Josh Bard. The only guys most people know from this team are Jake Peavy and Trevor Hoffman. If you were to ask people about the Padres, they'd say: "Yeah, wasn't that the team got into that brawl in Wrigley earlier in the season?".
Yeah, they were. But they are also "that" team that blows people away with their pitching. At this point in the season, the Padres are one of the elites of the NL regarding pitching. Being led by Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, and Trevor Hoffman, the Padres are lights out.
2007 Pitching Rankings:
2nd in Wins, 2nd in IP, 1st in ERA, 2nd in BAA, 7th in K's, 1st in BB's (Least Amount), 1st in OPS, 4th in Saves, 1st in WHIP.
I'd be willing to bet that this pitching staff could dominate in the AL. Jake Peavy is arguablely the most dominant pitcher in the major leagues. He is 1st in Wins, 1st in K's, 1st in WHIP, 5th in IP, 1st in ERA, 1st in K's/9 Innings. (NL) And he's only 26 years old.
The combination of Jake Peavy, Chris Young, and Greg Maddux have an ERA of 2.74. The back end of the rotation is what causes any problems. The bullpen is a definate plus also for the Padres. Heath Bell and company have done well all year in relief, and then Trevor Hoffman has basically been Trevor Hoffman. He has 36 saves which is good enough for 3rd, and a 2.76 ERA.
Overall, the Padres have a playoff ready pitching staff. Imagine the Padres coming into the NLCS with the first 3 games lined up perfectly. Peavy, Young, and Maddux. They have the relievers that can come in and maintain leads. They have the closer that will turn the lights off for the opponent. There is only one concern for this team, and I'd think most people know this. It's the hitting(or lack of it) that could easily end their hopes. The Padres are 15th in BA, 11th in R, 14th in OBP, 9th in SLG, and 13th in OPS. As most teams know in football, defense wins championships. But it doesn't hurt at all to have anything of an offense. The Chicago Bears found that out the hard way in Miami. The Padres MUST start producing offensively. Luckily, they have someone that at the moment, is propelling them. Milton Bradley.
In Bradley's time with the Padres, Bradley has maintained a batting average over .300. Since August 22nd after coming off the DL, Bradley has hit 6 HR's, driven in 17 RBI's, all with his average well into the .300's. In the games that Bradley has gotten 1 at bat or more, the Padres went 21-15 and averaged 5.36 Runs Per Game. The offense is primarily led by Adrian Gonzalez. He leads the team in HR's (25), RBI's (81), Runs (83), and in OPS (.851). Gonzalez can not do it all by himself. Guys like Giles, Kouzmanoff, Cameron, and Greene must chip in come playoff time.
If the offense isn't already a concern, just think about what it would be like WITHOUT Milton Bradley. Milton Bradley has a troubling past. Just ask any of the teams that he has played for.
The Long List of Troubles For Milton Bradley
-June 2004 with the Dodgers, Bradley was ejected. Then proceeded to leave his gloves, bat, and helmet in the batter's box, and threw a bag of baseball's onto the field.
-June 2004 with with the Dodgers, Bradley saw a fan throw a plastic beer bottle onto the field. He picked it up, and threw it right back into the stands.
-December 2004, spent 3 days in jail after a traffic violation. He was the passenger of the vehicle, and got into a shouting match with the police.
-In 2005 with the Dodgers, he had problems with teammate Jeff Kent. He accused Kent of racial discrimination.
And there are others. It has to be a concern for the Padres owners and managers. What will Bradley do? Will he become his old self and be a maniac? Or will he buckle down, and strut his stuff on the field like he's been doing? Without him, that's a big spark being taken away from an already stagnant offense.
Come playoff time, I'd consider the Padres to be one of more dangerous teams. Pitching is what is needed in the playoffs. It doesnt matter who a team faces, if they have pitching like San Diego, they have a great shot.
If the playoffs were to end today, the Padres would be the 2nd best team in the NL behind the New York Mets. The Padres would end up playing the Chicago Cubs in the NLDS. The Cubs lack a lot of power in their lineup, and havent been getting anything out of Zambrano as of late. This is a series that I could see the Padres winning. The Division Series are 5 games, and I could see the Padres knocking the Cubs out in 4 games. San Diego wouldnt necessarily match the Cubs in offense, but in the playoffs Im going to take the dominant pitching.
The other series in the NLDS would be between the New York Mets and the Arizona Diamondbacks. Im not going to try and make this into an all out predictions blog, that isnt the purpose. So...
If the Mets were to win the series and move on to meet the Padres in the NLCS, this would be a big time matchup. Most people are all over the Mets bandwagon. And I'm not one of them. If you could prove to me that the Mets are the same Mets of 2006, then I'd be riding them all the way to the sun. But they aren't. One of the biggest differences is how the 2006 Mets were 3rd in Innings pitched, and in 2007 they are 12th. That means they aren't lasting in games and aren't as effective. Also, they are 8th in saves this season, and were 2nd in 2006. The bullpen hasn't been nearly as effective. With less than a month to go in the season, the Mets are 133 Runs short of 2006's total. They are 238 hits shorter, and they are 40 HR's shorter. I don't care if Pedro Martinez is back, the Padres would stand a very good shot in this series. I'd see it going 6 to 7 games, and the Padres pitching staff mowing down the Mets like Forrest Gump did with his Snapper mower.
And as far as the Arizona Diamondbacks...This is another team that has no hitting just like the Padres. 16th in BA, 14th in R, 16th in OBP, 12th in SLG, and 14th in OPS. Absolutely dreadful. To me, this would be a good series as well. The Diamondbacks have an incredible bullpen. The starting pitching is led by Brandon Webb who is having a phenomenal season. And the rest of the bunch have struggled. Because the Padres have a few big bats like Gonzalez, Giles, Cameron, and Bradley, I'd say that the Padres could break through. Both teams are great in pitching, and it would just come down to who could make a few clutch hits. I'd take the Padres in 6 games.
As far as the World Series, not so much. If they were to catch the Angels, Red Sox, Indians, or even the Yankees, I wouldn't like their chances. They have the pitching, but so do all the teams I listed. And they have offense to boot.
Basically I'm saying, watch out for the San Diego Padres. There is nothing better to have in the playoffs than pitching. When you see guys like Peavy, Young, Maddux, and Hoffman, you have to recognize that they are special. It wouldn't take much for this team to make the World Series.