What the Padres Should Do

Overview

I’ve held off on posting this one, because this is probably the most complicated decision any front office has to make this summer. The Padres are in first place and are tied with the Braves for the best record in the National League. They have a 2 1/2 game lead over the second place Dodgers, so even if they struggle in July, they should be close to the top of the division by month’s end. So, this should be pretty easy, right?

Buy or Sell

It isn’t that easy. There are plenty of reasons to think that San Diego can’t keep this up, as their success has leaned heavily on guys who are likely playing over their heads. Their starting rotation has a 3.37 ERA, second lowest in baseball, but their FIP of 4.00 is just 10th best in the game. Yes, some of that is good defense, but a bigger part of their run prevention has been leaving runners on base. Their starters have a 77.7% LOB% – again, the highest in baseball.

That’s just not going to last. In most years, no rotation is able to post a full year LOB% of higher than about 75 percent, and while that may seem like a small drop, it doesn’t take much of a change in performance with men on base to make a large impact on wins and losses. The Padres need to expect their current players to produce worse results over the rest of the year, and that complicates what they should do.

Is it worth sacrificing future talent to make a run that may not materialize anyway, especially for a team that is widely expected to trade Adrian Gonzalez this winter? Or, do they owe it to their fan base to make a run at this thing while they still have their star first baseman?

I don’t know. I don’t envy Jed Hoyer, that’s for sure. This is a tough decision to make. You want to take advantage of every chance your team gives you to play in October, but at the same time, the Padres don’t have a large enough margin for error to sacrifice young talent unless they’re sure they can continue to win. And, given how the team is winning games, it’s tough to have that confidence.

It’s a good thing that the deadline isn’t July 2nd, so he has another month to gather information and figure out which way he should go. But, I have a feeling that this may not be an easier decision then than it is now, and it’s probably the hardest call any GM is going to have to make in 2010.

On The Farm

Their farm system has some good pieces, though most of it is several years from the majors. You can be sure that the Padres won’t be moving guys like Donovon Tate or Simon Castro, but they have some interesting secondary prospects who could go in a move that significantly upgraded the team. It’s just tough to see the Padres trading too much out of the farm, given that they’re still somewhat in rebuilding mode.

Budget

Unbelievably, the Padres have $1.1 million in committed money for 2011, and that entire sum represents buyouts of team options – one for Jon Garland and one for Yorvit Torrealba. They hold one on Adrian Gonzalez that will obviously be picked up, but he could very easily be traded this winter. Most of the rest of the roster is either arbitration eligible (Heath Bell, Mike Adams, Scott Hairston) or under club control, meaning that they’ll make something close to the league minimum next year.

So, while the Padres don’t have a large budget, they should have some money to play with, simply because they haven’t spent any of next year’s budget yet. They won’t be players for Roy Oswalt, you wouldn’t think, but they may be able to afford to take on some 2011 money if it helps get them a player who can help them win now and in the future.





Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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Scott A. Robinson
11 years ago

Has an analysis ever been done that shows a correlation between number of wins (or percentage thereof) and each 1% of LOB percentage?

philosofoolmember
11 years ago

I don’t know of one, but it doesn’t seem to me like it would reveal very much. The problem is that OBP is as much a factor as LOB and LOB leaves that out. Then you have the fact that defense is only half the battle. LOB -> RA would be much better, but really there’s no reason to expect LOB to be an especially good metric. Moreover, it’s not a very projectible metric (observed LOB doesn’t correlate well with unobserved LOB), so I don’t see the point.