After a thrilling final game in Oakland to sweep the Athletics, the Houston Astros head to southern California to take on the San Diego Padres in a three game series. Houston is 8-2 in the past 10 games. The Friars beat the Dodgers yesterday to stop a 4-game skid, and are 5-5 over their past 10 games. The last time these teams faced each other was in 2012, and the Padres won the series, 5-3.
The Padres, like the Astros, had a very busy offseason as General Manager A.J. Preller retooled the team to make it more competitive. San Diego, like Houston, has an extended playoff drought which currently stands at eight seasons (Houston is at nine). No longer accepting the status quo, Preller made lots of moves, including trading for OFs Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, Justin Upton and Melvin Upton; C Derek Norris; 3B Will Middlebrooks; SP Brandon Morrow; and CL Craig Kimbrel. They also signed free agent ace James Shields. The Padres have been one of the busiest teams (if not THE busiest) in Major League Baseball since the end of the 2014 season.
With the team’s huge roster turnover, fans’ expectations are high for the Padres, while the experts’ predictions are not. Both ESPN and CBS Sports predicted the LA Dodgers to win the NL West, while the forecasters are split about if San Diego will earn a wild card berth.
So, how are the Padres doing so far in this early season? Currently the club from “America’s Finest City” is 11-9, which is good for third in their division.
Their pitching staff, led by Shields, is fourth in the NL with a 3.39 ERA, and tied for eighth with a .241 batting average against. They are tied for second highest in their league in walks (69), while third in strikeouts (162). The Friars are first with 14 quality starts.
Their offense is stout, leading the NL in runs scored (96), hits (187), and RBI (93). As a team, they are batting .268/.319/.433, and are second in the NL with 21 home runs. San Diego has 11 stolen bases with a 68.75% success rate.
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Comparatively, the Astros pitching staff is second in the AL with a 3.18 ERA and .219 batting average against, and are second with 11 quality starts. Houston has not issued many walks (47), good for third best, while striking out 137 batters, good for ninth.
On offense, Houston is 11th in runs scored (70), 11th in hits (139), 10th in RBI (67). However, the Astros are sixth in home runs (22), even though they’re batting a measly .226/.307/.379. The Astros have stolen 20 bases (83.33% success), good for second in the AL.
While San Diego has had a more balanced team effort, Houston’s pitching has kept them alive through April. Houston will be without the designated hitter, so the fans who love NL-style baseball will get to see their pitchers step in to the batter’s box and take some hacks.
We sent a few questions over to Andrew Beccarelli, editor of Friars on Base. Here’s how things shook out:
CTH: As a fan, what was it like to witness the reconstruction of the roster on that grand a scale?
FOB: It was something else and it happened so fast. Most lineup re-buildings take a whole season or off-season. Preller completely remade the look of the team in just a couple weeks. It was exciting and so much fun as a sports fan and writer to have the Padres name being brought up in so many “rumor” conversations for a change.
CTH: The Padres haven’t been as bad as the Astros over the past few years, but both teams have really long playoff droughts (SD-8 yrs, HOU -9 yrs). What is the measurement for success this year, given the major roster improvements?
FOB: I think if the Padres can have both a winning season and either land or be in the running for a wildcard spot this season will be a success because it means that for the first time in many seasons the Padres were competitive and exciting to watch all year.
CTH: Ross and Despaigne seem to be quality pieces. Which of the two do you like better? Do you see the Padres shopping Ross as early as this offseason if stats at similar?
FOB: Hard to pick but I’ve been a big fan of Despaigne since he arrived last season. He plays with a lot of intensity and I’ve always liked pitcher who do that. I can’t see the Padres parting with Ross as he has become the #2 starting pitcher on staff. If the Padres were going to shop a starting pitcher I think Cashner would get the best value; there were even rumors Preller was trying to use Cashner as a piece to land Cole Hamels.
CTH: The Swingin Friar vs The Famous Chicken- do Padres fans have preference ? Outside SD, it feels like the chicken is more recognizable.
FOB: Definitely the Friar. I still remember him, but the San Diego Chicken kind of belongs to the older generation.
Players to watch:
- First baseman, Yonder Alonso, has had a strong start to the season, batting .354/.442/.462 with 1 home runs, 8 RBI, and 10 walks to go along with 2 stolen bases.
- Newly acquired catcher, Derek Norris, has also started strong, batting .324/.342/.493 with 9 doubles, a home run, and 11 RBI.
- SP Andrew Cashner’s record is not impressive at 1-3, but he’s sporting a team best 2.63 ERA with 26 strikeouts. He also leads the rotation with most home runs given up (4).
Here are the matchups for the three game series:
Game 1 (Monday 4/27, 9:10 PM CST):
Collin McHugh (3-0, 2.41 ERA/1.18 WHIP) vs James Shields (2-0, 3.24 ERA/1.12 WHIP)
Game 2 (Tuesday 4/28, 9:10 PM CST):
Game 3 (Wednesday 4/29, 2:40 PM CST):