NL West Report: Why the Padres Can't Win the West

When a team far exceeds expectations, there is always at least one player who far surpassed all projections.  Multiple players have done so for the San Diego Padres, none so more than Mat Latos.

At just 22-years old, Latos was supposed to be effective but experience a lot of growing pains, not unlike Max Scherzer last season; that has not happened.  Latos is ranked 16th in strikeouts, seventh in ERA, eighth in FIP, eighth in xFIP, tenth in BB/9 and 16th in WAR (Fangraphs).  Those numbers put him among the elite pitchers in the National League, even accounting for PetCo.  Don't forget, the 22-year-old was Bud Black's fifth starter to start the season.

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Mat Latos 10-4 17 17 1 1 0 0 106.2 75 29 29 9 28 99 2.45 .97
After starting the season 1-2 with a 6.20 ERA in April, Latos is 9-2 with a 1.56 ERA since May 1.  The Padres have won his last six starts and 10 of his last 12.  He is 6-2 with a 2.60 away from PetCo Park, so clearly, he is not a Petco creation.  The Padres are really riding the right arm of the 22-year-old Latos, but they can't do that much longer.

Regression?  Nope, that's not what I'm calling for, though that would probably be likely as well.  You may notice that I have mentioned Latos' age several times now.  It is important.  Let's check the innings he has thrown in his career:

 Year    IP         Levels
2007 131.1 College, SS-A
2008 45.0 SS-A, Lo-A, Hi-A
2009 123.0 Hi-A, AA, MLB
2010 106.2 MLB

Latos dealt with an intercostal strain multiple times in 2008, yet still found himself in the majors the following year.  He has ace written all over him, and the Padres aren't about to mortgage the future to squeeze more innings out of him, even as division leaders.  As it is, GasLampBall is already asking when Latos will be shut down to limit his innings. 

Truthfully, the shutdown has already started.  Bud Black has manipulated their rotation to push Latos back after the All-Star Break, giving him 16 days between starts.  Essentially, the Padres are going to try to hold off the rest of the NL West while benching their best pitcher.  It is just not going to work.

Tim Stauffer would probably be the best choice to replace Latos when he gets shut down.  While Stauffer has allowed just one run in relief this season, it has been in 24.1 innings.  Fantastic, no doubt, but still a fairly small sample.  He has a career ERA of 4.55 for the Padres, and he would be a big downgrade from Latos.

How much?  If you want to get gritty with WAR, Latos has been a 2.1 WAR pitcher this year.  Considering the 150-180 inning limit he is at, the Padres will remove him for 3-8 starts, probably starting in August.  Even if Stauffer is a replacement level pitcher, the net difference in WAR is less than two games, which the Padres lead the NL West.  So no biggie right?

But this is the issue with this analysis; you can't look at total wins.  The marginal loss of WAR in each individual game is undeniable, and on multiple occasions, it can be just enough to drop a W into an L.  After all, he is the only Padre starter with a win in the month of July.  Then consider Latos would be added to a division chase in September after 3-8 starts of down-time.  Who is to say his arm will respond to his All-Star caliber ability?

The Rockies are charging and the Dodgers and Giants will be retooling.  While the Padres are playing for the future more than they are 2010, the NL West is there for the taking this year.

 

Team capsules after the jump.

 

NL West Report

Arizona (34-55, 5th, L1, 17.5 GB)

Last Week: 2-4.  0-3 vs. Cubs.  2-2 vs. Marlins

Divisional Change: Lost 0.5 games to first-place San Diego.

This Week: 3 game road series @ Padres

You Should Know:  While comfortably three games better than the pace for their atrocious 2004 mark, the Diamondbacks are still on pace for 100 losses, a distinction the Rockies have never held.

News:  First round-pick Barret Loux failed his physical this week.  Josh Byrnes overruled his scouting director when selecting Loux, and Tracy Ringolsby implies the pick may have hastened Byrnes' dismissal.  After all, Loux was not a consensus first round pick, had been ridden hard by Texas A&M late in the season and had surgery in college.  Perhaps Byrnes should have known better.  Contrarily, AZSnakePit suggests Byrnes maybe DID know better, choosing to punt the pick on an injured player who wouldn't pass his physical in order to earn a pick in next year's deeper draft. 

It seems Detroit and Arizona really like each other, enough to want to swap out their entire rosters for each other.  The two teams have shared Jose Valverde, Brandon Lyon, Dontrelle Willis and completed that big trade in the offseason.  Now, the Tigers want Stephen Drew.  Soon after that report, Nick Piecoro found out the Tigers and D-Backs have not discussed Drew in the past week.

Stephen Drew

#6 / Short Stop / Arizona Diamondbacks

6-0

185

L

R

Mar 16, 1983

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Stephen Drew 80 294 43 81 16 7 4 29 31 53 6 2 .276 .350 .418

The Tigers might also be interested in Dan Haren, but Jason Beck correctly points out that Drew is a much more likely target.

Sean McAdam tweets that while Boston is interested in Chris Snyderthey would trade for the catcher this offseason, not before the trade deadline.

Dan Connely tweets that while Kevin Towers is "in the mix" to be the new GM for Arizona, their number one choice is Yankees amateur scouting director Damon Oppenheimer.

Jim McLennan asks "Who is the Diamondbacks' top offensive prospect?" Not exactly a world-beating list.  And if you're curious, Bobby Borchering and A.J. Pollock (their first round picks in 2009) have a ho-hum .319 and .307 wOBA in Single-A South Bend this year, respectively.

The Yankees signed long-time D-Back Chad Tracy.

Chris Young will be in the home run derby at the All-Star game.  He will not be the one I will be rooting for.

Transactions:  None.

Injuries: Brandon Webb threw another successful bullpen session on July 6.

Arizona Diamondbacks Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Kris Benson shoulder 04/29/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brandon Webb shoulder 03/26/2010
Leo Rosales foot 04/29/2010

Star-divide

Los Angeles (49-39, t-2nd, W1, 2.0 GB)

Last Week: 4-3.  1-2 vs. Marlins, 3-1 vs. Cubs.

Divisional Change:  Gained 1.5 games on San Diego.  

This Week:  4 game road series @ Cardinals.

You Should Know:  After starting off his major league career in eye-opening fashion, John Ely has completely fell apart.  Last week, he allowed 12 runs (11 earned) in five innings.  In two starts.  The Dodgers have lost five of his last six starts, so you can bet Ned Colletti is looking for ways to replace his pumpkin.

News:  Los Angeles added their third and fourth All-Stars this week.  First, Rafael Furcal was chosen to replace Jose Reyes, and then Charlie Manuel chose LHP Hong-Chih Kuo to replace OF Jason Heyward instead of another outfielder, like Carlos Gonzalez.

Hong-Chih Kuo

#56 / Pitcher / Los Angeles Dodgers

6-1

235

L

L

Jul 23, 1981

W-L G GS CG SHO SV BS IP H R ER HR BB K ERA WHIP
2010 - Hong-Chih Kuo 3-1 25 0 0 0 2 1 26.1 11 3 3 1 8 36 1.03 .72

The Dodgers' priority is pitching help, though it remains to be seen whether they will be able to find a match.  They were one of four teams scouting Roy Oswalt on July 8, though I would be shocked if Ned Colletti can find a way to make that work.

Los Angeles active in trade talks for Cliff Lee, but according to Dylan Hernandez, Colletti's choice to make James Loney and Chad Billingsley untouchable closed the door on that avenue.  MLB.com's Evan Drellich confirms this.

Bill Shaikin of the LA Times suggests that the financial issues with the Dodgers might extend into this offseasonas well if the McCourt divorce goes to McCourt court.  This does not surprise me in the slightest.  It just highlights how much of a wide open window this year and next is for the Rockies in the NL West.

Transactions:   Signed FA OF and former Diamondback Trent Oeljten and assigned him to AAA Albuquerque.  Placed RHP Ronald Belisario on the restricted list and actived RHP Carlos Monasterios from the 15-day DL.

Injuries:  Manny Ramirez began a rehab assignment this past weekend.  He should be due back soon after the ASB.

Los Angeles Dodgers Injuries

Questionable

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Reed Johnson back 07/11/2010

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Manny Ramirez hamstring 06/30/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Brad Ausmus back 04/09/2010

Star-divide

San Diego (52-37, 1st, W1)

Last Week: 2-4.  1-2 @ Nationals.  1-2 @ Rockies.

Divisional Change:  Lost 1.5 games to 2nd place Los Angeles and 2.5 games to now second place Colorado.  By winning yesterday, they maintain first place for the 12th straight Monday.  

This Week:  3 game home series vs. Diamondbacks.

You Should Know:  Seven Padres hitters have an OPS+ over 100.  That does not include Chase Headley

News:  Bud Black says he isn't worried about the NL West race.  At least he wasn't before Saturday's game.  Think that has changed?

With starting outfielder Will Venable on the DL, Jon Paul Morosi asked a scout if he thought the Padres would trade for an outfielder:

"No," scout told me. "Aaron Cunningham is playing better than Venable was."

The Rockies saw that first hand this weekend.

Aaron Cunningham

#28 / Right Field / San Diego Padres

5-11

205

R

R

Apr 24, 1986

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Aaron Cunningham 20 54 8 18 7 0 1 11 1 10 0 2 .333 .339 .519

I'm not sure how knowledgeable that scout is, because Jed Hoyer has said he will try to acquire a middle-of-the-order bat and a starting pitcher, and that the Padres WILL be buyers.  If you were concerned, Hoyer has been okayed to take on payroll in such deals, if necessary, though he'll be looking for a middle of the order bat with solid defense.  I'm not really sure who he thinks he'll be getting to fit the bill.

Know this name:  Keyvius Sampson.  The 2009 4th rounder is tearing up the Northwest League in Short Season at just 19:  .  He dominated Tri City on June 26 and has been garnering interest from many teams.  Check that stat line.

The Padres did take out injury insurance on Chris Young's contract, though Jed Hoyer was quite dodgy when asked whether that included 2010.  Hmm...

Transactions:  Traded RHP Sean Gallagher to Pittsburgh for cash.  Gallagher was received in a mid-season trade for Scott Hairston last season.

I njuries:  David Eckstein is day-to-day with a strained right calf and will return after the All-Star Break.  Chris Young played catch on July 7 and Will Venable will need a minor league rehab to return from back stiffness.

San Diego Padres Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Will Venable lower-back 07/02/2010
Kyle Blanks elbow 05/18/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Chris Young shoulder 04/07/2010
Matt Antonelli hand 04/30/2010

Star-divide

San Francisco (47-41, 4th, W2, 4 GB)

Last Week: 1-6.  4-0 @ Brewers.  2-1 @ Nationals.  There is a trio of teams in the NL hovering around a .400 WP% (Arizona, Pittsburgh and Houston).  In the next tier (.440-.450), there is the Cubs, Brewers and Nationals.  The Giants got healthy against some decidedly weak teams, but considering it was all on the road, and their only loss came against SteKeKn SKaKsbKrK, I tip my cap.

Divisional Change:  After a free fall the last two weeks, the Giants made up 3.5 games on first-place San Diego.

This Week:  4 game home series vs. Mets.

You Should Know:  Buster Posey is really good.

News:  So, the Giants have a young catcher that is pretty good.  In fact, Buster Posey recently had the best 10-game stretch of any rookie hitter in MLB history.  From July 1-10, Posey smacked 19 hits, collected 13 RBI and hit 6 HR.  No rookie ever reached a single one of those numbers in any stretch, let alone all three.  Posey followed that up yesterday with a 1-for-3, 2 RBI, 1-run day, 1 strikeout day.

Buster Posey

#28 / Catcher / San Francisco Giants

6-2

205

R

R

Mar 27, 1987

G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB K SB CS AVG OBP SLG
2010 - Buster Posey 37 134 21 47 5 1 7 23 7 15 0 1 .351 .386 .560
Brian Sabean is sure the Giants won't make the playoffs without making a trade.  I agree with that assessment, though I'm not sure Giants fans should hold their breath for Sabean to pull the trigger on a positive trade.
Lefty Malo suggests the Giants trade Jonathan Sanchez for Stephen Drew.  That's just not going to happen.  Considering the Giants are balking at trading Sanchez for Corey Hart, I can't see them springing it in division for Drew, though they do prefer a lefty bat for AT&T Park.  
Andrew Baggarly heard the Giants were interested in Ryan Theriot, but that interest seems to have withered a bit.

Transactions:   Recalled RHP Joe Martinez.

Injuries:  LHP Dan Runzler suffered a dislocated kneecap and will be out 6-8 weeks.  OF Andres Torres suffered a strained groin, but the injury is minor.  He should return soon after the All-Star Break.

San Francisco Giants Injuries

15-Day

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Todd Wellemeyer quadriceps 06/11/2010
Dan Runzler knee 07/09/2010

60 Day DL / Out for the season

Player Injury Type Injury Date
Mark DeRosa wrist 05/09/2010
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