Even after the San Diego Padres completed the then-most expensive free agent signing in Manny Machado, few expected the Californian team to compete in the next two or three years. Five months later, the Padres find themselves eight games back from the National League Wild Card with extremely slim chances of postseason baseball for the first time since 2006. But make no mistake – if any team underestimates the Padres, they may have to pay dearly.
San Diego probably won’t play playoff ball, but they will surely play season-enders to any contender. And it just happens that the Padres will face the toughest schedule in the last month and a half in all of baseball, with PlayOffStatus.com measuring .520 strength of schedule. Among their remaining opponents is every single NL playoff contender, except the Braves, the Cardinals and the Mets.
The 2019 Padres became even lower-profile after a chaotic starting rotation overhaul. We’ve talked about the problems rookie Chris Paddack has had, but that’s nowhere near what has followed with the other starters on the mound. Matt Strahm struggled, got dumped into the bullpen, Logan Allen struggled, got traded to the Indians. Joey Lucchesi and Eric Lauer have been the only brights light in the tunnel.
Paddack has already recorded wins over St. Louis, Arizona, Atlanta and the Mets – and he has 1.88 ERA in those games.
Despite the loss of the powerful bat of Franmil Reyes, the team, provided it adds a couple of good free agent arms in the winter, is very promising. That has already been made clear to a handful of playoff-hopeful clubs. The Padres have an over-.500 record against the Diamondbacks, the Cardinals and the Nationals, and have also won series against the Mets, the Brewers, the Rockies and the Giants.
The likes of Fernando Tatis Jr., Manuel Margot and Hunter Renfroe have been problematic to many teams already in 2019. Machado and Eric Hosmer have been more consistent as the year has gone by. There’s no doubt that they have most of the ingredients for a winning team on the field – efficient and explosive bats, situational hitting and solid defence. Things that would’ve mattered a lot if they had even a bit of starting pitching in existence.
Hosmer has driven in 80 runs already, which ranks him tenth in the National League. Machado now leads the team in home runs with 26, and don’t get me started on Tatis Jr.’s season. Whether you think he should or shouldn’t be NL Rookie of the Year, he’s close to being among the best hitters in Major League Baseball. San Diego has also had a successful bullpen, 4.81 ERA being the tenth-best in MLB and Kirby Yates’ 33 saves leading the way.
But the 2019 season won’t be remembered as a really disappointing year for Padres fans – at least not as much as the previous couple of years, now that they’re turning in the right direction. This team is hungry and is more dangerous than any team that is not in a comfortable postseason position because they are, not taking the rotation into consideration, a good team from top to bottom. And taking postseason baseball away from good teams like the Brewers and the Phillies would solidify that statement.