A season plagued by injuries, poor hitting, and lackluster bullpen management caused what many assumed to be a World Series contending team to miss out on the Fall Classic. It’s always easier said than done when talking about what a team could have done differently to have a better season but with the Friars, the writing was on the wall.
1. Emphasis On Contact, Not Just Power
Heavy-hitting sluggers like Eric Hosmer, Manny Machado, Fernando Tatis Jr., and Jake Cronenworth are always great to have in a lineup. But you have to know how to use them properly. Out of the nine players in their order, five of them struck out 100+ times last season with the latter three in this article included in that. Hitting homers is great but you have to focus on the basic part of hitting a baseball and that’s contact. With Bob Melvin now at the helm, he is looking to hire Michael Brdar to join his staff as the new hitting coach for the Padres. Even though San Diego hasn’t officially confirmed the signing of Brdar, odds are that he will be apart of this organization come next spring.
Brdar has spent the previous two seasons as the hitting coordinator for the San Francisco Giants which resulted in an NL West title in 2021. Being a young hitting coach also has its perks because he’s most likely knowledgeable about current analytics which will aid him in teaching batters new approaches to the plate. Keep in mind, he was able to help 34 y/o Buster Posey win NL Comeback Player of the Year, Brandon Crawford drive in 90 runs, and make the Giants comfortable enough with offering Brandon Belt an $18.4 million qualifying offer this offseason. Yeah, that’s one hell of a sleeper to join this already bolstered squad.
2. Limit Runs Scored
This may seem like an obvious one (which it should be) but there’s more that has to be done besides “pitching better” and that starts with control. Again, I can’t put all of this on the starters and bullpen because the Padres found themselves in a hole when it came to losing Yu Darvish and Blake Snell for extended periods of time. Not to mention, Mike Clevinger was on the DL before the season even began and many of his other teammates joined him as the dog days of baseball trudged on. I think the one person that suffered the most here was interim pitching coach Ben Fritz as he just couldn’t seem to pull his guys together and stop the bleeding.
With the impending hire of former assistant pitching coach for the Cleveland Indians, Ruben Niebla, things could look up quickly depending on the lockout. What sets him aside from other Padres pitching coaches is that he’s 49 y/o and has never had a lead pitching coach role. He has bounced back and forth between MiLB and MLB since joining the Indians coaching staff in 2001 which has given him plenty of experience overseeing older and younger talent. His expertise on display includes developing pitchers like Corey Kluber, Mike Clevinger, Trevor Bauer, and Carlos Carrasco.
The Padres’ pitching staff ranked 17th overall out of the thirty MLB clubs which isn’t something to gawk at but definitely shows the potential this staff has to be better. The front office has already started paving the way for next season by acquiring relievers Luis Garcia, Robert Suarez, and Nick Martinez before the lockout started. Hopefully, they can aid a bleeding pen and not end up losing big time like they did to the Arizona Diamondbacks on June 26 last season.
3. Basic Fielding and Footwork
All-star players ending up on the DL have to be the worst site in all of baseball because they one guy you counted on the most is now joining the coaches in the dugout. Tatis Jr. was a victim in this case when he dealt with constant shoulder problems that required THREE different visits to the DL. Last year, he caused 45 errors on the diamond: the most in one season in any of his years in the MLB. This could be attributed to the aforementioned shoulder injury but also because he might’ve been rushing his throws to compensate for the lack of power to get to their destination.
Either way, the errors were a reminder that baseball is played from the ground up and moving away from fundamentals, such as how to field a ball properly, are necessary in every game. The silver lining here is that his mistakes in the field didn’t hinder his team too much as San Diego ranked 9th overall in least amount of errors allowed per game in 2021. I believe this to be one of the brighter and more overlooked spots here considering every player on this roster is a pro but even professionals need to brush up on their finely tuned skills every once and a while.
These blunders in the Padres system only scratches in the huge dent that could be fixed to turn them around but it has to be a team effort. Machado and Tatis Jr. getting into an explosive fight in the dugout is a prime example of how big, colliding egos can cause a team to collapse. Not to mention, at that point they were on the brink of missing the playoffs which is never a good thing to see. You hear this your entire life playing team sports and that is to always focus on the basics in order to master your craft, something this organization failed miserably to do.
Enough harping on the dark side here, things will get much brighter once spring rolls around a new season is on the horizon. New coaching staff followed by new teammates is always a good sign that a team is continuing to take matters seriously in order to avoid that dreaded feeling of defeat. So, if you’re reading this Bob Melvin, heed my words and make this team as big as their payroll reflects!
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