Psuedo Series Preview: Cardinals at Padres

Starting this weekend, St Louis will make their final foray to the West Coast for the regular season.  Since they start the road trip in my hometown, I had great designs on a 1200+ word essay about the Padres – what to expect, strengths and weaknesses; kind of a Bird’s Eye View reprise.

Then the Mrs. suggested we have margaritas after dinner.  What a great idea.  However, after I made it half-way through the second pitcher, I realized this post will probably not meet those lofty goals. So apologies in advance

San Diego started the season as a media darling.  New GM AJ Preller made lots of splashy trades in the off-season, including and culminating in a blockbuster trade the day before Opening Day to land Craig Kimbrel.  They started the year 10-5, and all that hype about a darkhorse for a playoff birth seemed well placed.

Then Wil Myers got hurt, Brandon Morrow‘s shoulder gave out, Odrisamer Despaigne got way way WAY too many starts, and the season kind of fell apart.  San Diego has been up and down all year.  Currently they stand at 59-62, actually closer to the NL West lead than the second Wild Card spot.  They are hot at the moment, having won 5 0f their last 6 and coming off a series sweep of the Atlanta Braves.

The Team:  Long-time manager Bud Black was fired 15 June, replaced with AAA manager Pat Murphy.  San Diego was 32-34 when Black was cashiered.  They are 27-28 since.  Hmmm. Seems like Black was fired for a reason other than performance.

Murphy has done a decent job, although his lineup decisions leave many scratching their heads.  Derek Norris is not allowed a day off under any circumstances, apparently, which is why future Padres catcher Austin Hedges has only 94 plate appearances in 3 months with the big club.  Murphy also has an obsession with Alexi Amarista starting at short, no matter how low his OBP and SLG numbers go.

Best Position Player:  Justin Upton.  He leads the team in every major offensive category, has a 122 OPS+ and a 121 wRC+.  He’s also been a very good defender – +17 by Dewan Plus/Minus (he’s especially good on balls hit deep).  Upton is really the first Padre to figure out how to hit HR at Petco since Adrian Gonzalez left.  If there’s anybody in the order you don’t want to beat you, it’s Justin Upton.

Best Position Player you’ve never heard of:  Yangervis Solarte.  He hits the ball, like, really hard.  Solarte was characterized as the left-over platter when San Diego got him after shipping Chase Headley off to New York.  He’s since turned himself into the everyday 3B for the Padres.  He’s not real good defensively (-1 on the plus/minus scale), but he’s hit well this year (.268/.326/.422) all over the lineup.  He led off Wednesday against the Braves and went 3-3 with a HR.

Biggest Strength:  San Diego enjoys a well-deserved reputation for bullpen excellence and 2015 is no exception.  Although they struggled to start the season, Shawn Kelley and Kimbrel have returned to their dominant ways.  After a disastrous first month, starting on 25 May Kelley has handcuffed the League to a .191/.220/.227 line.  Kimbrel started off slowly as well, but since losing to Anaheim on an Albert Pujols walk-off single (also 25 May) he’s limited hitters to an even more ridiculous .150/.238/.195 line and saved 24/25 games.  Kelley manages the seventh, and eighth-inning set up guy Joaquin Benoit had the best WHIP in baseball until Wednesday (2 hits resulting in a run).  They are good.  Cards don’t want to be down late this weekend.

Biggest Weakness:  Shortstop.  Amarista hits about as well as you do.  Clint Barmes hit well the first half of the season, and flirted with .300 as late as 28 June; since then he’s hitting .167 on balls he puts in play, in limited action.  The team has tried Cory Spangenberg and Jedd Gyorko there in recent games.  Those two are normally second basemen (although Gyorko came up as a third sacker).  Recently the Padres inducted Garry Templeton into their Hall of Fame.  Some fans on Twitter wished he was starting that night at SS.

Projected Lineup:  Manager Murphy has not been shy about moving guys all around the order, but for argument’s sake here’s probably what he’ll throw out there.  The only true constants are Matt Kemp will hit 3rd and Upton 4th.

  1. Solarte 3B
  2. Alonso 1B
  3. Kemp RF
  4. J. Upton LF
  5. Norris C
  6. J. Gyorko 2B
  7. M. Upton CF
  8. Amarista SS
  9. Pitcher

Starters:  Andrew Cashner (4-12, 4.20) starts Friday against John Lackey.  Andrew beat the Cardinals 2-1 on July 3rd, and got a no-decision in his last start at Colorado last Saturday.  He remains a primary fastball pitcher, pumping it in there at 94.9 MPH (average). He can still reach back and touch 98 when needed.  He also throws a slider and the occasional changeup.  He is only 2-6 this year at Petco.

Ian Kennedy (7-11, 4.20) will face Carlos Martinez Saturday.  He’s 5-3 at home this year. He lost his last start in Colorado last Sunday.  Kennedy also lost to the Cardinals 3-1 on July 5th.  He’s a primarily fastball pitcher with three secondary pitches; He favors the curve ball and change up almost equally (about 16% of the time).  Over his career the Cardinals have manhandled him; he’s 2-5 lifetime against them, 1-2 at Petco.

Colin Rea (2-0, 4.22) will go against Michael Wacha Sunday.  Rea was called up last Tuesday to replace Despaigne.  His fastball sits 91-92 and he spots it pretty well.  In his first start, he left several pitches up that guys like Brandon Phillips didn’t miss.  Luckily for him, the Padres destroyed Cincinnati in his major league debut so it didn’t matter.  He’s still raw, which should make Sunday an interesting start.

Prediction:  Given the pitching matchups, the Cardinals should win this series and have a good shot at a sweep.  Given the state of St Louis’ offense, however, and that the Padres are hot at the moment, this could be a much tighter  series than the records would suggest.  Remember the Cardinals struggle at Petco; they lost 2 of three here last year and are 16-18 lifetime next to the bay.  That said, quality should win out.  Cards take 2 of 3.

Mike has written about the Cardinals since 2006, although less often recently.

  • Cardinal70

    “which is why future Padres catcher Austin Hedges has only 94 plate appearances in 3 months with the big club.”

    Still more than Tony Cruz (81 PA on the year). Not the same, of course, but I couldn’t help comparing.

    • West Coast Redbird

      Well that’s depressing. What’s so frustrating about Norris’ usage is, he’s been awful at the plate for most of the last 3 months, yet Hedges can’t normally get a start the day game after a night game. I don’t get it.

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