What About Those Intangibles?

June 4, 2013


In one of my first blogs on this site, that’s what I predicted the Padres’ 2013 season would come down to. In other words, there were so many unknowns coming into the season, the only way they would have a winning record would be if everyone of them went their way.

As I saw things nearly four months ago, there were eight intangibles. I will now take a look at each one, and see how things have worked out since the season began in April:

1. Chase Headley picking right back up where he left off. Did he? Well, yes and no. A few weeks before the season started, Headley fractured the tip of one of his finger bones, and so was expected to miss up to the first month of the season. While he was only to return to action just two weeks into the season, his absence undoubtedly contributed to San Diego’s dismal 5-15 start. 

Since returning, Headley had a decent first two months. But in the last ten games, he has slumped badly, going 6 for his last 44, a .136 clip. So overall, his numbers (.236/.340/.385) are not where they should be.  

That said, the Padres are a far better team with him, because you know that eventually, he will come out of his slump. Even if he does not repeat his 2012 success, Headley is a solid major league third baseman.

2. Cameron Maybin finally arriving as a consistent hitter. This is one intangible that, thus far, has been answered with a resounding “no.” He began the season at 3-for-33, or .091. As it turns out, he has a serious injury on his right wrist that may require off-season surgery. After the team placed him on the DL, Maybin began a rehab assignment, and figures to return to San Diego sometime in mid-June. 

Thus far, Maybin has proven to be a bust, as he has not improved upon his 2011 numbers that, while decent, were never spectacular (.264/.323/.393 with nine home runs and 40 steals). He remains under contract through 2015. 

There is still time for him to turn it around, but thus far, Cameron Maybin is showing why two previous teams, Detroit and Miami, already gave up on him.

The silver lining is that in his absence, a combination of Chris Denorfia, Kyle Blanks, Will Venable, and Alexi Amarista have done a laudable job covering center and right field. 

3. Carlos Quentin’s Knees Holding Up. They have held up, for the most part. Manager Bud Black continues to be cautious with Quentin, giving him a day off every 3-4 days, and starting him at DH in AL parks. He did serve an eight-game suspension after he charged Zack Grienke in Los Angeles. 

After a deep slump in mid-May, Quentin’s bat is finally starting to heat up. If the Padres are not in contention in six weeks, he could be traded to an AL team where he can be a permanent DH–which frankly might be best for him. 

4. Corey Leubke and Andrew Cashner coming back and making huge contributions to the starting rotation. Leubke is still recovering from last year’s rotator cuff surgery and does not figure to be back in a Padre uniform before the All-Star break. August may be more likely.

The big to-do about Cashner was that he refused management’s request to play winter ball, and then he badly injured his pitching hand in a hunting accident. The team wondered if this might set back his preparation significantly. 

As it turns out, it has not. After making five appearances in long relief, Cashner made his first start on April 20, and has not looked back. Overall, he has a 3.65 ERA with a 1.22 WHIP and .245 BAA. Not bad. And while he has struggled in two recent starts (allowing four earned runs over six innings in both cases), Cashner seems to have arrived, and has begun to silence the naysayers who were mad about the Anthony Rizzo trade. If Cashner’s numbers hold up, this team has an outside chance of making a playoff run. 

5 and 6. Freddy Garcia and Jason Marquis being at least serviceable starters, and Casey Kelly rising to the occasion. I lumped 5 & 6 together for obvious reasons: they both have to do with starting pitching. 

Garcia never made the team, and Kelly had to have the dreaded Tommy John Surgery. But Jason Marquis, while not being a super-star, has been much better than expected. So far, he is 6-2 with a 3.82 ERA. He has gotten pounded in his last two starts, bringing his WHIP up to a rather high 1.49. 

Given that he will be 35 in August, and that his lifetime ERA is 4.57, the bottom will give out sometime. But so far, Marquis has been fairly reliable. Again, better than anticipated. 

7. Jedd Gyorko showing that he is the next Jeff Kent. No one can blame Gyorko for his bad start (9-for-40, or .225 BA). After all, he was suddenly thrust into a starring role with Headley missing time, and he had to switch between second and third–not easy things to ask of a rookie.

But since then, Gyorko has been solid, at .291. Overall, his line is .278/.338/.434 with 30 runs scored, 14 doubles, 6 home runs, and 21 RBI. As a bonus, his defense at second has been much better than advertised. 

Only time will tell if he’s the next Jeff Kent. But Jedd Gyorko has become a rookie of the year favorite, and a huge net plus for the Padres. 

8. The 2013 Dodgers being the 1992 Mets reincarnated (i.e., “The Worst Team Money Could Buy”), and the Giants and D-Back Likewise flopping. Wow! Who would have guessed the Dodgers would be so awful this year?

Of course, it didn’t help LA that Quentin broke Grienke’s collar bone in their April face-off. Nor did it help that two of their other starting pitchers, Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, are going to miss significant playing time, with Billingsley slated to miss the entire rest of the season. Lastly, losing Hanley Ramirez and then perennial MVP favorite Matt Kemp for significant amounts of playing time also hurt the team very deeply. 

That said, you still have to win, and the Dodgers are dead last in the NL West. 

On the flip side, the Arizona Diamondbacks, the defending World Champion San Francisco Giants have played as well as expected, while the Colorado Rockies have thus far over-performed.

One last intangible that I neglected on my February 8 blog…

9. Everth Cabrera. When the season began, shortstop was a huge question mark. Management was rightly unsettled, as Everth Cabrera had never proven himself to be an everyday player, especially at this demanding position. And while he was a significant improvement over the departed Jason Bartlett, Cabrera hit a terrible .195 against lefties in ’12.

Coming into April, the plan was to have Cabrera share playing time with Logan Forsythe. But with Forsythe dealing with plantar fascilitis, a painful condition with his feet, the job went to Cabrera, almost by default. 

Cabrera has not disappointed. In fact, he has greatly exceeded expectations. As he did last year, he is again leading the league in stolen bases, with 23. 

But there’s more: his current line is .276/.361/.396, and he appears to have solved southpaws, batting .333 against them. 

His defense has also been spectacular; as of this date, he has only committed three errors while having started every game. 

If one had to pick a team MVP up to this year, it would probably be Everth Cabrera. 

Overall Analysis

Only in the best of years does everything go according to plan, with a few pleasant surprises to boot. As an example, remember 1998? That year, the Padres acquired Kevin Brown, then one of the three best pitchers in baseball, to make a run for the pennant. Not only did he perform, so did the other cogs in the team that year: Trevor Hoffman had his best season, Tony Gwynn was Tony Gwynn, and Caminiti and Finley were still doing their thing.

But one very big intangible went their way that year: Greg Vaughn came back from a dismal 1997, and surprised everyone by launching 50 home runs–still a single-season team record. If they hadn’t had to face the 117-win-season Yankees, they might have had a shot in the World Series. While ’84 was the most exciting Padre season, their ’98 was undoubtedly their best. 

Where am I going with this history lesson?

2013 is not 1998. 

In other words, Corey Leubke is not going to make an early return, Cameron Maybin is awful, and the starting pitching is on the whole subpar. 

On the other hand, Everth Cabrera has been terrific, Yonder Alonso is improving, and Jedd Gyorko is living up to expectations. 

 All told, the Padres are 26-31. This means that following their 5-15 start, they are 21-16. I continue to stand by my earlier prediction that they will finish 80-82. However, I would love to be proven wrong.


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