Mat Still Searching for his t - San Diego Padre Series Preview, April Edition

Season Series: Dodgers lost the 2010 series 8 - 10
Manager: Buddy Black (3 - 2)

San Diego Padre SbNation Affiliate preview of their team.

Rob Neyers take on the team

While everyone else in the West stayed pat, the Padres traded their franchise player, retooled the infield, signed Aaron Harang, and moved some key relief pitchers for what they hope will be their future center fielder.   While Mat Latos was searching for his missing t he hurt his arm and missed his opening day start. He'll be back but he won't be facing us this round. For the Padres to have a future they will need a healthy Mat Latos,  but the combination of  his meltdown last Sept,  and  his problems this spring one wonders if is  he really the guy who can headline a rotation? It was expected that Mat would replace Peavy but I don't think they meant being just as immature, injury ridden, and unable to pitch in big games.  On the other hand he hates the Giants so he's already way a head of Peavy.

Key Additions:  Brad Hawpe, Orlando Hudson, Jason Bartlett, Cameron Maybin, Aaron Harang, Jorge Cantu, Alberto Gonzalez, Dustin Moseley, Pat Neshek, and Chad Qualls.

Key Subtractions:  Adrian Gonzalez, David Eckstein, Yorvit Torrealba, Miguel Tejada, Scott Hairston, Tony Gwynn , Jerry Hairston, Jon Garland, Kevin Correia, Edward Mujica, Tall Chris Young

 Position Breakdown:

1st Base- Brad Hawpe replaces the greatest hitter of the decade for the Padres, however the Dodgers may not notice the difference.  Many Dodger fans remember Hawpe as the Dodger killer who played RF for the Rockies. Against Dodger pitching Hawpe has blasted 20 home runs in a mere 313 at bats for a slug% of .607 compared to his career slug% of .488.  Hawpe was signed for a measly 3 Million to play 1st base for the Padres. You know how James Loney can't hit in Dodger Stadium. This guy has no problem with the hitters eye at the Ravine. A career OPS of 1.082 with 10 bombs in 39 games that he's started.  Just saying........

2nd Base-After searching for that elusive multi-year deal Orlando Hudson finally found someone to bite as the Padres inked him to a two-year deal worth $11.5 Million. The 33 year old seems to have peaked offensively with the Dodgers in 2009,  however according to fangraphs Hudson had a defensive resurgence in 2010 with a positive 9.8 rating. Interesting enough Hudson has always had a huge defensive rep but when you look at the numbers the only time he has been a plus defender is during his time in the AL,  and the only time he's been a negative defender is with his time in the NL. And people wonder why I don't trust UZR.

Shortstop-Ex Tampa Bay SS Jason Bartlett takes over these duties for the Padres. They acquired him for four minor leaguers and while he should be an upgrade over Everth Cabrera you could say the same thing of just about any SS in AAA.  Still Bartlett is just one year removed from an excellent year with the Rays but that has all the trappings of a fluke year. He had an OPS+ of 132 in 2009 but in his other five years has never been above 99 and usually sits in the 80's.

3rd Base- Chase Headley is the only member of the 2010 infield to return. The young 3rd baseman looked like he was coming on last summer with excellent months in July/Aug (plus .820 OPS) but hit a wall in Sept (.544 OPS) bringing his total season into average territory.  He's not going to be the all-star some envisioned for him, but considering the state of 3rd base in the NL, he's adequate.

Catcher- Nick Hundley has been the part time catcher but now has the gig all to himself. He is a bit like Barajas, he's got pop and defense to his name. Could hit 15-20 home runs now that he's getting full time play. His power is his only offensive attribute.

Left FieldRyan Ludwick is probably going to die in Petco. He had a great year in 2008 but that is never going to happen again. He has managed to at least stay healthy after spending the early part of his career in constant injury. He does have some power but had some bizarre splits in 2010 for a right handed hitter. Against LHP he had an OPS of only .609 but .800 on the nose against RHP.  Even for his career he's got an OPS 100 points higher against RHP. You don't see that very often for right handed power hitters.  His career numbers show him with a .652 in Petco his home park for 2011.

Right Field- Looks like Will Venable and Chris Denorfia are in a platoon here at the start of the year. The Padres like the Dodgers in LF are making do with what they have and hoping a platoon will give them the best of both players but even that is not close to an average right fielder. They are both solid bench players fourth outfielder types just as Gibbons, Paul, and Thames are except better.

Center Field- Cameron Maybin was the kingpin in the deal that made Miggy Cabrera a Tiger. The former 10th pick of the 2005 draft has never reached the potential that some saw for him when he slugged a home run off of Roger Clemens in only his 2nd major league game at the tender age of 20. Now he's 24 and has barely garnered a full season of at bats. He has all the tools but does he have the skills? Petco is a hell of a place to find out for a hitter.

Starting Pitching for our Series:

Game 1: Clayton Richard gets things started. While at McCutcheon High School, Richard had the honor of being awarded Indiana's Mr. Football and Mr. Baseball while at the same time pulling in his class valedictorian award. Now 27 Richard gets the job done with a five pitch arsenal. He's nothing special but he's solid and should be part of their rotation for a long time.

Game 2: Imagine my surprise to find ex - Angel Dustin Moseley in the Padre rotation. The one time number one pick of the Reds way back at the turn of the century has never been very good but he had a solid outing in his 1st 2011 start. Hopefully the pumpkin emerges in his next start.

Game 3: Long time Reds pitcher Aaron Harang will take the hill for the finale. Harang had a rough 1st inning in his Padre debut and then settled down to pick up the win. I've always liked Harang and Petco should suit him just fine. Expect him to have a solid year like Jon Garland did last year.

Bullpen: Heath Bell enters 2011as one of the dominant closers in baseball. Trying to get the ball to Bell will be the 2010 standout duo setup men Luke Gregerson and Mike Adams, along with waiver wire pickup Pat Neshek, and ex Diamondback failed closer Chad Qualls.  The only lefty would appear to be Cory Luebke who was part of the rotation in 2010.

From Baseball HQ:

Matchup Notes: How much do you want to start your pitchers in PETCO Park? Well, besides the fact that PETCO suppresses Runs by 20%, BA by 13% for LHB and 11% for RHB, and LHB HR by a whopping 41%, there aren't many other reasons. Check out the below chart for the projected pitchers in this series who have pitched at least 20 innings in PETCO over the past three seasons, and you'll see that only Hiroki Kuroda has fared worse at Petco than overall:

Pitcher  Tm  Overall ERA   ERA at PETCO
======= == =========== ============
Lilly LA 3.63 3.20
Kuroda LA 3.60 4.45
Kershaw LA 3.17 2.22
Richard SD 4.27 2.86
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