Geoff Young, who writes the excellent Ducksnorts blog among other things, invited three Tigers bloggers - Billfer, Brian Borawski of Tiger Blog and myself - to participate in a round table discussion about the Tigers and Padres. I'm pretty sure most of you know Billfer and that many have read Brian's work. If you don't know Geoff, he is like the Billfer of the San Diego Padres and he has been blogging even longer. In fact, he started blogging before blogging was called blogging.
Anyway, Geoff asked us a bunch of questions about the Tigers and our answers are listed on Ducksnorts. In return, Geoff answered several of my questions about the Padres and they can be found below:
What has gone wrong with the Padres this year and can they still win the NL West?
The better question is, what hasn't gone wrong? For reasons that remain a mystery, catcher and shortstop have been complete black holes; Jim Edmonds was a disaster in center field; Jake Peavy and Chris Young have been hurt, although Peavy is back now; Trevor Hoffman has been inconsistent (and the rest of the bullpen has been even worse)... So a lot has gone wrong. On the bright side, the same can be said for the entire NL West. This is not the same division that saw an 89-win team denied a spot in the post-season; this is more like the 2005 version that sent an 82-win team to the playoffs. Remarkably, the Padres still have a chance to win this thing. They're still not playing great baseball, but they've improved. After dropping 14 of their first 17 series, they won 4 of their next 6 before heading to Yankee Stadium. The odds are long, but there is at least some hope.
I personally like the idea that Petco Park is one of the few new parks that challenges hitters more than pitchers. Do you think the park has been a particular advantage or disadvantage to the Padres?
It appeared to hurt the Padres the first few years. Some of the veteran power hitters seemed a bit intimidated by the dimensions. Last year, though, the Pads beat up on other teams at Petco Park. They haven't been quite as successful at home so far in 2008, but they've still been solid. The problem has been pitching on the road, which is a potential disadvantage of playing 81 games in a pitchers park -- sort of like how Rockies hitters used to fizzle once they left Coors Field. Interestingly, there's been virtually no difference between the Padres' offensive performance at Petco or away from it.
In the past, the Padres have done a great job building cheap bullpens. This year, they are last in the NL in bullpen ERA. What happened?
For as good as Kevin Towers has been at building a bullpen, I'm beginning to think that luck plays more of a factor than I'd realized. I'm not just saying that to excuse this year's performance, but to explain some of the past successes as well. Sometimes when you roll the dice, they come up Scott Linebrink and Akinori Otsuka, other times they come up Mike Matthews and Luther Hackman. Obviously Hoffman has slipped a bit, but so has Cla Meredith, a vital part of the bullpen the past couple years. Joe Thatcher, who was lights out down the stretch last season after coming over from Milwaukee in the Linebrink trade, has been an unmitigated disaster and now finds himself back at Triple-A. Basically a lot of things went wrong that haven't gone wrong in recent years. Fortunately the Padres have uncovered a couple of minor-league vets in Mike Adams and Bryan Corey, and they've helped stop the bleeding, at least for the moment.
Adrian Gonzalez has a .900+ OPS and is on a pace to hit over 40 homers. Do you expect him to level off or is this what we can expect from him this year and the next few years?
He's a stud. People don't know it because he plays in San Diego, but he's a stud. Gonzalez hits the ball with authority to all fields, and his power plays anywhere. He's also a Gold Glove caliber first baseman. Watch his footwork around the bag and how aggressive he is in trying to cut down the lead runner. If Gonzalez played in a larger, more visible market, he'd be a perennial MVP candidate. The only real chink in his armor is that he runs like he's got a couple of pianos on his back, but when you do everything else as well as he does, it's easy to forgive that.
When will Chase Headley be playing for the Padres and how good will he be?
He's just been recalled, and I'm assuming they didn't bring him up to ride pine. Once he settles in, Headley should be a solid big-league regular. There is some expectation of superstardom around here, but that isn't realistic. I'm thinking more along the lines of Mike Lowell, less the obligatory Red Sox hype.
Chris Young has been out of action since taking an Albert Pujols line drive off his head. How is he doing? Can we expect him back any time soon?
He still can't breathe through his nose. I'm hearing possibly around the All-Star break, possibly later. I think a lot is up in the air with Young at this point.
Luis Salazar or Champ Summers?
This basically boils down to porn 'stache or porn name. As much as I'd love to go with the name, Summers just didn't do much here. I'll choose the Padres' all-time leader in games played at third base, Salazar.