Saturday, April 28, 2012

Defense?

The scouting consensus entering this season was that the Padres had below-average defenders at shortstop, second base, first base and left field, so it is not surprising that the defense is off to a bad start. The hitting slump of left fielder Jesus Guzman improved the defense by giving more innings to Chris Denorfia, and center fielder Cameron Maybin's east-west skills remained an asset in the division's vast outfields, but Bud Black said the overall defense needed to improve. The team has made a league-high 24 errors and assorted other miscues. Three more errors Friday night increased the difficulty of the 5-3 victory over the Giants.

In fairness to the Padres, their ranking for defensive efficiency -- balls in play converted into outs -- is fifth in the majors. (For what it's worth, Padres officials have said home ballpark and pitching can skew that statistic, although some metrics attempt to adjust for ballpark.)

None of the Padres players or coaches I've talked to are pleased with the team's defense. I'd grade the defense a D with a U for front office underachievement.

The Padres have a defensive advantage: Petco Park. The infield surface is said by players to be among the best in the major leagues. Former outfielder Dave Roberts rates the outfield surface as highly and says the tendency of flyballs to hang in the coastal air further aids outfielders here. Wind, rain, bone-chilling cold and searing heat are almost never an issue at Petco. Consider, too, that we're in a high-strikeout era. Add it all up and it's a veritable paradise for Padres defenders here in the early 21st Century.

The teaching talents of Padres major league coaches Glenn Hoffman, Roberts and Rick Renteria bode well for improvement this season. As an organization, however, the Padres should be doing better defensively nine seasons into the Petco Era.

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