Before the season started, most people had the San Diego Padres finishing somewhere near the bottom of the standings. Trade rumors swirled about star pitcher Jake Peavy all winter, and as the team went through a change in ownership, the organization seemed to be drifting about without a clear direction.
However, they’ve started the season strong, winning nine of their first 13 games. That, in and of itself, is pretty remarkable. What is really crazy about San Diego’s early season push, however, has been how they’ve done it with the worst hitter in baseball in the middle of their line-up.
Brian Giles is hitting .151/.211/.189 through his first 57 plate appearances. That’s a staggeringly bad .189 wOBA. Even taking Petco Park into account, Giles has been worth -6.5 runs with his bat so far this season.
You name it, Giles is failing at it. He’s generally a very good contact hitter – his K% is 15.1% this year. He usually can be counted on for some walks, even when the hits aren’t falling – he has a 7.0% BB%. He has solid gap power – his ISO is .038. Through the season’s first two weeks, he’s essentially hit like a pitcher, pounding balls into the ground when he does make contact and ending rallies with bad at-bats.
Giles is, of course, better than this. There’s no way his skills have declined so fast that he went from a +4.7 win player in 2008 to the worst player in baseball in 2009. He’s going to start hitting, with the only real question being when. That the Padres were able to go 9-4 while Giles was flailing around like a fish out of water bodes quite well for them.
I still don’t think they’re going to the playoffs, but in the face of a total flop from their best player, they’ve picked up the slack and gotten off to a strong start. Given the results of the first 13 games, they’re almost certainly better than most of us thought.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.