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The San Diego Padres: A Masterclass in Underachieving

The San Diego Padres were a top pick for the World Series, and are now fighting for a spot in the playoffs. The Boys in Brown are once again having trouble finding form, with a 3-7 record in the last 10 games. They are also looking at a rough upcoming stretch, as they face the Baltimore Orioles and the Arizona Diamondbacks again. So, who is to blame for this season? A season where, with 44 games left on their schedule, the Padres find themselves 5.5 games outside of a Wild Card spot, and, barring a scorching hot streak, almost assured to miss the post-season.

The San Diego Padres: A Masterclass in Underachieving

Struggling Superstars

Before the season, one thing had the world thinking the Padres would be atop of the standings: their batters. After all, the 2022 team had great OBP, above-average OPS+, and made the NLCS. The off-season had brought them the 5-time Silver Slugger SS Xander Bogaerts, a Machado extension, and the return of Fernando Tatis Jr. a few weeks into the season after his year-long absence. Needless to say, the team didn’t perform as expected. They improved marginally batting-wise, but not to the extent everyone expected, and there wasn’t only one player to blame.

After an MVP-calibre season, Manny Machado took a step back, having arguably one of the worst seasons of his career. Xander Bogaerts is nowhere near his Boston Red Sox form, even after his scorching start. Juan Soto is having a great season currently, but his slow start to the season hurt the team. Tatis has returned from his suspension, yes, but after a year away from the game, he isn’t back to his MVP-candidate form.

The roster overall is top-heavy, and it doesn’t have the personnel to alleviate pressure from the stars. Ha-Seong Kim might be having a career year, and Gary Sanchez is providing quality at-bats, but other than that, the roster is filled with underwhelming hitters, to say the least.

Troubles in Close Games

Despite the hitters underperforming, San Diego currently sits at a Run Differential of +57. That is 4th best in the NL, and better than all the teams in the NL Wild Card spots. They are the only team with a record under .500 with a positive run differential. So where are the losses coming from? The bats are still above average, the starting pitching has been playing great and they play some of the best defense in the league. How are the Padres so low in the standings?

The answer is close games. In 1-run games, the Friars have an outrageous 6-18 record, going 0-10 in extra-inning games. This team either wins big or doesn’t win at all. The bullpen hasn’t been stellar for the Padres, outside of their closer, Josh Hader, but they are not at fault here. The blame, once again, is with the batting core. There have been numerous instances of the Padres batters going silent after hot starts to games. Coach Bob Melvin and the star players have addressed this issue countless times, most recently last night, after blowing a lead to Arizona that cost them the series. But even if they say all the right things, they don’t seem able to solve the issue.

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What the Future Holds

This was supposed to be their big year, the year to compete for a World Series. But given the position of the Padres in the standings, many fans already think about future seasons to come.  A Juan Soto extension is very much in the works right now, standing at about 30 million dollars per year, and accompanied by the San Diego special, a full no-trade clause.

Once it is signed, it will cement what the future of the Padres will be.  Over 125 million dollars in immovable payroll for Machado, Soto, Tatis, Bogaerts, Darvish, and Musgrove for the following years. Two great pitchers, an All-Star Shortstop, and unbelievable talents at 3rd base, Left Field and Right Field. All still in their prime.

A great core, with a great window to win a championship. It is a great opportunity for San Diego to bring a World Series to their trophy case. But nevertheless, it’s an opportunity they must seize. For if they fail to do so, when the back-end years for Machado, Bogaerts, and Darvish take a toll on the team’s overall success, the Padres faithful will have to deal with bitter disappointment.

Main photo credits:

Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Players mentioned:

Xander Bogaerts, Fernando Tatis Jr., Manny Machado, Juan Soto, Ha-Seong Kim, Gary Sanchez, Josh Hader


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