If there was one word that could describe the San Diego Padres, it could only be enigmatic. The Padres have one of the most loaded rosters in the league with both excellent young talent and highly paid veterans. However, they have had a harrowing experience trying to match up to the ever-amazing LA Dodgers.
Under their new manager Bob Melvin, the Padres have a perfectly adequate record at 89-73. That might not seem like it’s too bad, but the amount of talent on this team makes it look like underperformance.
Manager: Bob Melvin
Top Position Player: Manny Machado (7.3 fWAR)
Top Pitcher: Yu Darvish (4.2 fWAR)
To whit to the point above, the Padres have a number of excellent pitchers and position players. Manny Machado paced all San Diego players in fWAR, and among the position players, Jake Cronenworth (4.1 fWAR) and Ha-Seong Kim (3.7 fWAR) round out the top three. Cronenworth is a relatively well-hitting second baseman, while Kim is a adequate hitter with good defense at shortstop.
As for the pitchers, Yu Darvish led the Padres hurlers with 4.2 fWAR. He has had a bit of a resurgence this year with a 3.10 ERA over 194.2 innings pitched. Following Darvish, Blake Snell (3.7 fWAR) and Joe Musgrove (3.5 fWAR) round out the top three pitching players by wins above replacement. These two pitchers have excellent ERAs at 3.38 and 2.93 respectively.
One potential weak spot for the friars is the relative thinness of their bullpen. They have several good relievers, but not anyone that can really lock down an opposing teams offense. The key for their bullpen will be whether Bill Hader can pull himself together after being traded from Milwaukee. That is a reliever who could dominate an offense, but his 7.31 ERA with the Padres does not inspire a lot of confidence.
For those wondering, FanGraphs lists Juan Soto as only providing 1.2 fWAR while on the Padres. They do not think highly of his defense, and give him a negative value for his defensive play. This, in combination with his relatively low power numbers (only six home runs) while with the Padres, has resulted in a relatively low value.
Even with all of their talent, the Padres face a a long road to get to the Yankees. As one of the Wild Card teams, they will have to win three separate series against excellent teams to reach the World Series. The first team that they will have to face is the ever inimitable New York Mets. Those same Mets who came a hairsbreadth away from winning the National League East division title.
Even though the Mets failed to win the division title, they still have won over 100 games. This first series will be no cake walk for the Padres. Even if they manage to defeat the Mets in the Wild Card series, they will then have to face off against the Dodgers in the next series. The Dodgers have been the best team in the National League over the entire season.
To be fair to this team, they have managed to win four out of six games against the Mets this season. Less encouraging for them is the fact that they have faced the Dodgers 19 times, and only won five of those contests (.263). Those are not good numbers when considering that their road to the World Series absolutely leads them through the Dodgers.
This team has somewhat underperformed, but it still retains an absolute ton of talent. This is still the same team that traded for Juan Soto, Brandon Drury, and Josh Hader. Unfortunately, this is also the same team that is missing Fernando Tatis Jr. There is a very real possibility that the team’s premium bats along with high end starting pitching could propel them on a deep run into the postseason.
It’s unlikely to happen, but stranger things have occurred. If Soto or Machado catch fire during one of the series, they could provide all the impetus necessary to carry them forward. However, with the relative thinness in their bullpen, they could have trouble finishing off games without burning their starters.