The Padres made official their signing of James Shields today, the latest piece of San Diego's offseason rebuilding puzzle. Whether or not the Padres manage to also land Cole Hamels, San Diego is a contending team right now.
It's a big leap for the Padres, who haven't topped 77 wins since 2010, and have averaged 86 losses per year since Matt Holliday reached the vicinity of home plate in Game 163 in 2007.
I don't think the Padres are favorites in the National League West in 2015, as Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times asserted in his Monday cave etching. But the team is at least in the division picture. At Baseball Prospectus, PECOTA projects the Padres as a wild card team with 85 wins.
The Padres expected resurgence has Lyle Spencer buzzing about Southern California baseball at MLB.com:
We might have to go back to New York and the golden era of the 1950s to find a time and place comparable to what Southern California has now with the Dodgers, Angels and Padres. Stars abound, and all three teams are legitimate contenders, linked by Interstate 5 running from Los Angeles through Anaheim down to San Diego.
The sport's most complete athlete, Angels American League Most Valuable Player Award winner Mike Trout, and its best pitcher, Dodgers National League MVP and Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, play here. Albert Pujols, Trout's partner, is arguably the best player of his generation. Matt Kemp, the new Padre and far from done at 30, preceded Trout as the game's premier all-around player in many minds. The Angels led the Majors in 2014 with 98 wins; the Dodgers were fourth with 94.
Baseball fans in the land of sand, waves and palm trees never have had it so good.
That made me wonder. The Padres are the newest of the three teams, having started in 1969. When have the Dodgers, Padres and Angels been good, together?
The answer: not often
In the 46 years there have been three teams in Southern California, the Dodgers, Padres and Angels have all finished at .500 or better in the same season just eight times, the last time coming in 2007 when the Angels (92-70) won the American League West, the Padres (89-74) lost to Rocktober in the wild card tiebreaker, and the Dodgers (82-80) went along for the ride.
In 2014, the three teams combined for a .553 winning percentage, fueled by the Angels (98-64) owning the best record in baseball, the Dodgers (94-68) having the second-best record in the NL, and the Padres (77-85) managing to win 77 games despite an historically putrid offense. That was the second-best combined winning percentage of these three teams in any season, behind only 2004 (.560), when all three teams won at least 87 games.
|Best Southern California baseball years|
|Year||Dodgers||Padres||Angels||Combined win %|
|Bold = division winner; Italics = wild card|
PECOTA projects the Dodgers (97-65), Angels (91-71) and Padres (85-77) to combine for a .562 winning percentage in 2015, which if it holds would be the best combined showing for all three teams in the same season.
It will be a chore, as the Dodgers have never made the playoffs three seasons in a row, and haven't won 90 games in three straight years since 1976-78. The Padres have only won 90 games four times in their history. The only time those two teams have won 90 games in the same season was 1996.
Will we see a repeat of 1996 nearly two decades later? I don't know, but there is certainly some hefty competition out west this year.