Monday, May 31, 2010

Touchdown

Padres scored 18 points, er, runs tonight against some team from New York. One more than some football team from New York scored in San Diego on Jan. 17. Wonder what kind of kicker Jerry Hairston Jr. is.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Veteran knack

* Jon Garland's competitive style recalls Woody Williams. Garland refuses to "give in" to dangerous hitters. If he misses his target, it's usually outside of the strikezone. Unlike Williams, Garland has a good sinkerball. He went eight games without allowing a home run until giving up one in the first inning today.

* Garland is skillful at using sliders and cut fastballs. Tidbit -- the Padres' catcher gives him the same signal for either of those pitches, then Garland decides which one to throw. If he wants more break, he'll go to the slider.

* For the second consecutive Sunday, the Padres landed a crucial single in front of an outfielder who was playing too deep. Nationals left fielder Josh Willingham set up 290 feet from Tony Gwynn Jr., a left-handed slap hitter. As a result, he was unable to catch Gwynn's floater to left field, giving the Padres a tie-breaking run in the fifth inning today. Gwynn Jr. is not a threat to hit a deep flyball to left field.

* Nationals PR man John Dever used to work for the Padres and saw a lot of Ken Caminiti here. Dever refers to Nats third baseman Ryan Zimmerman as "Ziminiti" because he makes highlight plays like Caminiti used to make. Today, Zimmerman fielded and slugged like the MVP Caminiti of 1996.

* Today the Nats were trying to win their first series in San Diego since 2001, when the franchise was in Montreal.

* Scouts say there's nothing flukey about Mat Latos' strong start. Latos has the fastball and slider to become a No. 2 starter, maybe better if his changeup and curveball come along.

* Adam Dunn is the rare slugger who enjoys playing in San Diego. "I love this ballpark," Dunn told me on Saturday. When he was with the Reds, Dunn had some big games at Petco Park. Friday night, he hit a 400-foot drive that caromed off the wall in Death Valley for a double. "I didn't think it was going to be a homer," he said. "I didn't even know that it hit the wall."

* Hate to say it because I think their job is more difficult than generally thought, but the umpires aren't having a great year. Can't recall seeing so many backdoor breaking balls that appear outside yet are called strikes. Must be a tough pitch for umps to read, but it's grossly unfair to the hitter. The hitter is tasked with trying to hit a pitch that starts outside of the strikezone and never gets to the outside corner yet is called a strike. Padres pitchers seem to be getting a few of those calls, including a few by Bob Davidson today. UPDATE:Davidson dealt Adrian Gonzalez one of those calls, too.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Snapshot

The season is past the quarter mark and Padres have the National League's best record. Does anybody care outside of San Diego? Of course not. Does anybody care inside San Diego? Hmmm.... http://tinyurl.com/35muhya

Thursday, May 27, 2010

WCB

West Coast Bias looks at the Peavy trade and other stuff. http://tinyurl.com/3aawa6h

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Midweek notes

* Before tonight's game, a few Cardinals players were debating who is the fastest player in the majors. One mentioned Pirates outfielder Andrew McCutcheon. Two others nominated Padres rookie Luis Durango.

* Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa probably would like to adopt David Eckstein. "He's the toughest guy I've ever been around," LaRussa told me today. "He's a winner." Eckstein, as you may recall, won the World Series MVP award with the Cardinals in 2006.

* How did Padres prospect Logan Forsythe suffer a hand fracture last month? He socked a bat rack.

* Anger-driven hand injuries are becoming a Padres tradition. Khalil Greene fractured his hand two summers ago by wacking a storage chest (the Padres, trying to recoup Greene's wages, contended that Greene injured himself on purpose and may have done so one other occasion). At the Astrodome in 1995, Brad Ausmus fractured his hand when he punched a water cooler.

Padres farm director Randy Smith said Forsythe, who moved from third base to second in spring training, had been playing adequate defense. This isn't Forsythe's first major injury. Trying to hustle up a single in his first week of pro ball, Forsythe went headfirst and tore up his thumb. Padres exec Grady Fuson described that one as a "dumb move."

* My sleeper pick for Padres second baseman of the future: Single-A shortstop Drew Cumberland, 21. I wrote two years ago that Cumberland's propensity for throwing cutters argued against a long-term stay at shortstop, but his upside at second base is intriguing to the Padres. When Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera went to Lake Elsinore on rehab recently, Cumberland moved to second base. It's his future home. Cumberland is a good hitting prospect. He has pretty good arm strength. He runs well. As part of the Padres' system-wide emphasis on aggressive baserunning, Smith challenged Cumberland to steal 40 bases this season. He has 16 SBs in 21 attempts.

* Subject for another day: Umps' habit of calling strikes on 3-0 pitches that aren't strikes. Never has made any sense to me. Happens a lot, and saw two more in the fifth inning tonight. First one was a lifeline for pitcher Kevin Correia with the bases loaded and Matt Holliday batting. To his credit, Correia went on to strike out Holliday. In the bottom of the inning, Adrian Gonzalez was temporarily denied a walk on a 3-0 pitch that looked questionable.

* One good way to learn seamhead stuff about a team is when the Cardinals are the opponent. Their pitchers usually excel at attacking a hitter's weaknesses. The Cardinals also excel at defensive positioning. Chase Headley is a singles hitter at this point, and that's how the Cardinals defended him on Tuesday.

* When I write about Bud Black and his coaches changing the team's baserunning culture, astute plays such as catcher Yorvit Torrealba's stolen base on Tuesday come to mind. Baserunners aren't eager to challenge Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina. Torrealba, though, made a shrewd read and swiped second. He got an incredible jump.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Seamhead stuff

* Catcher Nick Hundley played a smart game on Sunday. Was in control. Good flow to pitch selection. Worked well with Mat Latos. It's obvious that Hundley was well-prepared. Example: The pitch sequence against Ichiro late in the game. Two backdoor sliders for strikes from Luke Gregerson, then a third slider inside and in the dirt. Ichiro, looking unIchirolike, hacked at it for strike three.

* Chris Denorfia reminds me of Eric Owens. Pretty good bat control. Loves to run down flyballs. Hyper. Sometimes it gets the best of him, but he's helped.

* Congratulations to Luis Durango. A year ago, the Padres refused to play him in center field even as Cedric Hunter struggled on the same minor league team. I quoted his agent and the Padres about it. From there, things opened up for Durango. He took advantage of more playing time in center field. The speedster reached the major leagues last year and is back again. Durango is a work in progress defensively, but his jumps and reads are improving. Give Hunter credit, too. He has bounced back from a bad season.

* The Padres broke open Sunday's game after Chase Headley landed a broken-bat single in medium center. Mariners center fielder Franklin Gutierrez is a good defender. Reputedly, he's a great defender. However, a strong reputation doesn't always equate to winning baseball. Gutierrez was playing too deep. The Mariners couldn't afford to give up any more runs, and I was surprised that Gutierrez was so far back with none out. Headley is a singles hitter for the most part. The ball doesn't carry well in Seattle. But Gutierrez played him deep, and the ball landed. When you watch a lot of games at the ballpark, you come to admire the center fielders willing to play shallow. A lot of them refuse to do it. Steve Finley was an exception, both for the Padres and the Diamondbacks. He hated to see balls land in front of him for a single. If the situation called for it, he moved in, sometimes well in. On top of being a talented defender, he was a very good situational defender. That's the distinction. Generally speaking, I'm not sure that sort of defense gets appreciated. It takes guts to play shallow or even semi-shallow. In fact, coaches aren't always able to get fielders to play where they want them to play because some outfielders just aren't comfortable with going back on a ball. On a related note, one of the things that second baseman David Eckstein does well is help shortstop Everth Cabrera with his positioning, and with reminding him about baserunner's speed and the scoreboard effect. Eckstein is a former shortstop. Without him, Cabrera would be lost at times.

* Not to pick on Franklin Gutierrez, but his lack of hustle on Friday was in contrast to the hustle the Padres have been showing. When Will Venable clanged Gutierrez's high flyball on Friday, Gutierrez had to stay at first base because he assumed the ball would be caught.

* FanHouse's John Hickey -- http://tinyurl.com/3yev9sz -- compared the Padres and the Mariners. The two have similar talent but disparate win-loss records. I think Padres manager Bud Black and his coaches deserve some of the credit.

* It's been a pleasure to watch Adrian Gonzalez in the last week. He's controlling the outside part of the plate much like his idol Tony Gwynn used to do, yet he's also able to react well to hard stuff inside. Like when the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw came inside with a 93 mph pitch on Thursday. Gonzalez lashed it to left field for a single, knocking Kershaw from the game. You could tell the 22-year-old pitcher was impressed, and a bit miffed.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

North of San Diego

If you're a Dodger hater, skip this story. I was at Dodger Stadium today and talked to Ned Colletti and Joe Torre. Seems like the Dodgers will trade for a starting pitcher this summer. http://tinyurl.com/29lpxb4

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Seamhead stuff

* Will Venable has shortened his swing and looks like he's emerged from his slump. Unfortunately for the Padres, Venable's single accounted for their only run Thursday night at Dodger Stadium. The good news is, Venable is no longer an easy out. It'll be interesting to see if he can keep it going against Cliff Lee.

* Padres continue to attack on the basepaths. Everth Cabrera, punishing right-fielder Xavier Paul for casual defense, hustled up a double that led to the run.

* Cabrera put some tough pitches into play. He's seeing the ball better than he did before going on the disabled list. The No. 8 spot is good for him.

* Yorvit Torrealba didn't play like a veteran catcher should. Didn't like his call for a slider with Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw batting and a man on third base in the sixth. Yes, Kershaw had drilled a fastball for a lineout. But why risk a wild pitch? When Kevin Correia threw the slider in the dirt, it got by Torrealba for a run. Wasn't an easy pitch to block, but Torrealba was late. As a hitter, Torrealba wasn't seeing the ball well all game. That happens. But when he took a third strike in the fifth that looked like a good call, he complained about it for awhile. That happens, too. But I doubt it does Torrealba or the Padres any good, especially when the call was OK.

* When he needed a strikeout, Adam Russell overpowered Matt Kemp. Impressive.

* For most of the game, umpire Chris Guccione's strike zone was wide, especially on outside pitches. Frankly, some calls on outside breaking balls were amateurish. Wide strikes put Dodgers hitter James Loney in an 1-2 bind in the sixth. (In his previous at-bat, Loney suffered a brutal strikeout on a backdoor slider that never appeared to get near the outside corner.) So, why not stay outside? Torrealba and Correia probably out-thought themselves. They went inside with a fastball. To his credit, Loney laced it for a single as part of L.A.'s three-run surge. I was surprised that Loney drilled that pitch. Bet the Padres were, too.

* Correia was a tad unlucky. He had four pitches working -- fastball, slider, cutter and changeup.

* Wrote about Kershaw's improvement, and it was evident again on Thursday night. Kershaw's slide step is making him a better pitcher. He's less prone to wild spells as a result. He's better at holding runners -- a key skill against the Padres. And like Joe Torre said, Kershaw has just as much stuff as he did with the high leg kick. I also liked how Kershaw responded to bad luck after the Padres got two extra outs. One came when ancient Garret Anderson let a flyball land for a single. The other came when the first-base ump missed a call. Each time, Kershaw responded with good pitches. That's three strong outings in a row for the 22-year-old.

* Was David Eckstein overly aggressive when he hacked at a fastball from Kershaw, rather than bunting runners to second and third with Adrian Gonzalez on deck and none out? Tough one. Eckstein correctly anticipated a fat fastball on 1-0 and hit it hard, but it went to Anderson in left field. It was the biggest out of the game. The score was 1-1. I favored a bunt but saw it as 60-40. Let's say Eckstein would've bunted the runners over. I guess the Dodgers would've walked Gonzalez to bring up Torrealba. (Normally the hitter there would've been Chase Headley. He had the start off.) As it turned out, Gonzalez struck out on three pitches. Then Torrealba took the called third strike that led him to complain. Again, Torrealba had looked overmatched against Kershaw. In his first at-bat, he was late on several fastballs.

* Good call by Dick Enberg, likening Jamey Carroll to Eckstein. When Carroll hit a sacrifice fly to right field in the second, I thought back to 2007. Game No. 163. Coors Field. Trevor Hoffman. Carroll's flyball to Brian Giles. Matt Holliday. Michael Barrett. Tim McClelland. And one of the most somber clubhouses I've worked.

* Not to pick on Chris Denorfia, who has helped the Padres, but his overthrow of cutoff man Gonzalez that set up a run is the kind of mistake the $38 million Padres can't afford to make. (Denorfia was in deep center field and had no chance of nailing the speedy Kemp; reading the high throw, the slowish Loney took second.) Sad to say, that kind of mistake happens so often, you almost expect it from big leaguers. Giants center fielder Aaron Rowand, for one, is prone to airmailing cutoff men, and he's in the middle of a $60-million contract.

Thoughts

West Coast Bias takes a look at Clayton Kershaw, who will face Padres tonight. Updates Jeff Moorad's investment with the Diamondbacks. Answers the question: Why were ushers lined up on the field at Petco Park recently? http://tinyurl.com/33gapql

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Giants pain

Some Giants fans think Mat Latos can throw a ball 501 feet. Mat says he can't.
http://tinyurl.com/2db5xoh

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Blue Monday

What I wrote about the Dodgers and the Padres: http://tinyurl.com/35sc2j3

Friday, May 14, 2010

Torre on Padres

Dodgers manager Joe Torre seems impressed by the Padres.

* The running game. "Bud Black was over there with the Angels, where he saw how that type of offense disrupts," Torre said before tonight's series opener. "So it's not really surprising to see it here. When you've got the personnel, you can play that type of game, and you certainly can manufacture runs."

* The bullpen. "They do a good job of coming out of there throwing strikes. They don't walk a lot of people, and they get a lot of groundballs. They've got some power arms down there. It's very important. You can't play the game without a bullpen anymore."

Torre seems to think the Padres are long for the playoff race -- what else is he going to say? -- but he said you only know after the fun stops.

"The key for them is, how are they going to handle their first slump? Because it's going to happen," he said.

Dodgers were hoping to have shortstop Rafael Furcal for this series, but Furcal reported that his balky hamstring isn't ready. "It's probably going to be a few days," Torre said. The Padres, meantime, activated their Furcal-like shortstop, Everth Cabrera, off the disabled list.

Trying to be a good guy and answer a question, Torre invoked his '96 Yankees when someone asked him about the dearth of hitters in San Diego's lineup. Torre said those Yankees weren't Bronx Bombers in the season's first half, and recalled that George Steinbrenner added Cecil Fielder and Darryl Strawberry for the bench. Both of those players would help the Yankees in the postseason, which culminated in a World Series championship.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pad-Rays

Friends Bud Black and Joe Maddon have a vision. Pad-Rays. Say it fast. The Rays see Matt Bush in their future. http://tinyurl.com/2aahbak

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Cleveland TV

This baseball video is hilarious. It has nothing to do with the Padres, although Russell Branyan is mentioned.
http://tinyurl.com/382nqku

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Beerfest

Stay thirsty, my friends.

A second Beerfest is in the works.

Wiser to the ways of San Diego -- the Munich of the West -- the Padres vow to be ready.

"For our next Beerfest," club prez Tom Garfinkel wrote in an e-mail, "which we are in the midst of planning for later this summer, we plan on using more of the Park at the Park surrounding area to allow better spacing, additional breweries with more beer per stand and more food options. We are also evaluating how to speed up the pours including more taps, more servers and faster ID checking processes."

Debuting last month, Beerfest was like a few parties at my alma mater San Diego State only with much higher prices. More people showed up than anticipated and drank all the beer.

"We had over 1,500 people enter the Park at the Park gates at 4:30 and the PATP filled to roughly 5,000," Garfinkel said, admitting: "It was much bigger than we planned."

He still called it a huge success, citing a 15-percent spike in game attendance from a comparable Friday in April 2009. Unable to tame his inner wonk, the COO added: "We want to continue to celebrate the great beers and brewers of San Diego. Petco Park is an ideal downtown, outdoor location that enables folks easy access to the beers that are brewed in our own backyard."

He likes the event's ability "to bring together folks that might not otherwise come to Petco Park for a game, including a young, energetic crowd."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Kouz and Braden

Dallas Braden's perfect game for the A's today prompted a few quick thoughts:

* Kevin Kouzmanoff backed Braden with excellent defense, making a wide variety of plays.

* My favorite play was Kouzmanoff catching a popup as he went into the third-base dugout. Chasing a popup into the dugout six years ago, Kouzmanoff suffered a career-threatening back injury in the Arizona Fall League. He worked tirelessly to come back from that injury. He told me last spring that the back still requires a lot of maintenance and still lets him know it's been injured. Point being, Kouz has to block out back issues. I doubt that's easy, but he did it again today.

* Padres pitcher Wade LeBlanc should watch Braden's performance in its entirety. The two left-handers have similar pitches. Like LeBlanc, Braden will throw his changeup at any time. Braden has only a little more speed on his fastball. Their cut fastballs are similar.

* Seeing Kouz at Angel Stadium last month, I told him he looks strange in green. "Green brings out the color in my eyes," he said, laughing. He likes the A's vibe, say it's a good group of teammates.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Couch potatoes

If you build it, they will come. Or they'll stay home and watch on TV.

Ratings for Padres games on Channel 4 San Diego are rising, which coincides with the team's best April (15-8) since 1998. Seven of the last nine broadcasts drew ratings among the top-10 for the team's young season. Highest rating to date was Wednesday's loss to the Rockies in extra innings. No. 2 was the shutout of the Brewers on April 30.

While that's good news for the Padres and their new play-by-play broadcaster Dick Enberg -- whose seven-figure salary is being paid by both the club and the TV station -- the bigger challenge is attendance. When Petco Park opened in 2004, the season ticket base was more than 20,000. It declined steadily and fell to 8,800 a year ago. For a franchise that ranks near the bottom in local media revenues, attendance is especially important. Somehow, the Padres need to rebuild their season ticket base.

"We'll bring 'em back," Padres president Tom Garfinkel told me recently.

He cited a high retention rate among season ticket-holders. But there's still a lot of work to do. It wasn't a good sign during the last homestand that same-day tickets for the Toyota Terrace were going for $4 or $5 on stubhub.com.

The dual trends in San Diego are similar to those in Toronto, although not as pronounced. The Jays are playing home games before a sea of empty seats, but their TV ratings have soared.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Your neighborhood

Six thoughts on the NL West (actually five, plus one on some East Coast club).
http://tinyurl.com/2wd4ycg

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Seamhead stuff

Chase Headley is 3-for-3 with a sacrifice fly this year when following an intentional walk to Adrian Gonzalez. Twice the result was a walkoff victory.

Asked before tonight's game if opponents will choose to confront Gonzalez, manager Bud Black never really answered the question. "Chase is answering the call," he said. "It's awesome."

The Rockies rubbed out three Padres baserunners on Tuesdsay, but Black didn't seem to mind greatly. He conceded that Scott Hairston reacted slowly to Greg Smith's pickoff move but praised the Rockies' left-hander for a slick throw to nab Hairston at first base. Black said the Rockies made a good play to retire Kyle Blanks at home plate after Blanks -- who got a poor jump -- tried to score when a pitch got past Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo.

Black's most interesting reply concerned David Eckstein getting thrown out at second base on Smith's 3-1 pitch to Gonzalez. Doubting Smith's ability to get Gonzalez to swing and miss at a strike, Black assumed that if Smith threw a ball, Gonzalez would take it for ball four. And he figured that Gonzalez would hit any pitch that was a strike. So, he sent Eckstein. Then Gonzalez swung and missed at an offspeed pitch out of the strikezone. Eckstein, meantime, got a late jump because he couldn't afford to get picked off. The result was ugly for the Padres, but Black gave the impression that he'd do the same thing again. I would, too. Also, generally speaking, I think it's probably good for Padres baserunners to err on the aggressive side.

As an aside, a scout at the game said Blanks, who is 6-foot-6 and 270 pounds, would've been safe if he'd yelled like a crazy man, just because the Rockies would've been too terrified to make the play on him.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A long time ago

How many playoff games have the Padres won since October 1998, when Sterling Hitchcock outdueled Tom Glavine in Atlanta?

One.

Remember?

Chris Young tossed 6 2/3 scoreless innings against Albert Pujols and the Cardinals in 2006. Young was fun to watch. His arm was strong, and hitters were unable to gauge his fastball. Cardinals fans were loud. Young quieted them. He never appeared scared. He had some edge to him.

I thought back to 2006 on Tuesday, while hearing Young talk about his ailing shoulder.

It's sad to see what Young is going through. He gets a lot of joy out of pitching. He's unusually competitive, even for a professional athlete. A basketball star in his days at Princeton, Young cares a great deal about winning. I could be wrong about him, but I doubt money and stats are his primary concerns.

He said before Tuesday's game that he needs more tests on the shoulder. "Frustrating," Young said. "It's just frustrating."

Last summer he had shoulder surgery to fix an impingement. Went well, we were told. The comeback was smooth sailing, Young said in March. He's since been shut down twice.

Tuesday, I asked him if the ailment is threatening his career.

"I don't know," he said. "We're still trying to figure out what's going on in there. Hutch (Padres trainer Todd Hutcheson) and I are going to get together."

He'll undergo more tests on Friday. He said the pain isn't as bad as it was last year. But he said his success against the Diamondbacks in his only start this season -- six innings, one hit -- was a bit misleading.

"My stuff deteroriated late in that start," he said.

He said his shoulder tightened up as the game went along. True to his nature, Young pitched through the pain. He said on Tuesday that he doubts that pitching in that game further damaged his shoulder.

Where this is going, no one seems to know. But the signs aren't encouraging.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Get well, Doc

Dave Roberts is upbeat in wake of lymphoma diagnosis. http://tinyurl.com/33s5wru

Nice start

The NL West leaders. http://tinyurl.com/25cvxqk
Two quotes from the story:
"We know the home run is not our ticket to winning games," said Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn Jr. "It's a bonus if we hit a two-run homer. To me, this is a better brand of baseball."
"You have to have all the players understand that, what we're trying to do is win a ballgame," manager Bud Black said. "Imagine that."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Gonzo

Rob Neyer tends to be interesting. Here's his take on Gerut on Gonzo. http://espn.go.com/blog/sweetspot/post/_/id/3409/jody-gerut-on-adrian-gonzalez

Rest for Gonzo

Bud Black rests Adrian Gonzalez today. Kyle Blanks at 1B. Good move, Bud.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Gonzalez

Adrian Gonzalez had a lot to say on Saturday. http://tinyurl.com/29hb35h