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Oakland A's series preview: The San Diego Padres in 1,782 words

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The Athletics greet a San Diego Padres squad in turmoil after the team's manager, Bud Black, was fired.

"Did you catch the ball?" "No, I thought you caught the ball."
"Did you catch the ball?" "No, I thought you caught the ball."
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The San Diego Padres entered the 2015 season under a new general manager, A.J. Preller, who wheeled-and-dealed his way to a squad projected by FanGraphs to finish second in the NL West in the preseason on around 84 wins. The Padres are instead in third place at 32-33, but are still projected to hit 82 wins this year.

But that wasn't good enough for the Padres front office, who fired manager Bud Black just hours before the start of this week's four-game home-and-home series against the Oakland Athletics (26-39). Bench coach Dave Roberts will be the caretaker manager until an interim manager is selected to serve the rest of the 2015 season, the Padres announced.

Starting rotation

One of San Diego's problems is that despite playing in the second-most pitcher friendly park in baseball, the Padres own the sixth-worst starting pitchers ERA in the National League (4.11) and the ninth-worst bullpen ERA (3.62). Using ERA+, which adjusts for league and park, the Padres have the second-worst ERA+ in baseball (91). Oakland is eighth in ERA+ at 108.

The A's won't be seeing James Shields this week, but he did not like being lifted in the seventh inning of his start against the Los Angeles Dodgers in favor of a pinch-hitter (tip of the hat to Gaslamp Ball):

The A's instead will face Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner, Odrisamer Despaigne, and Ian Kennedy.

Monday vs. Tyson Ross
Monday (7:10 PM PDT) at Petco
Jesse Hahn vs. Tyson Ross
3.84 ERA 3.81
3.36 FIP 3.01
3.80 xFIP 3.18
15.1% K% 24.9%
2.38 GB/FB 3.49

Old friend Tyson Ross is coming off a 2014 All-Star Game appearance in a year where he went 13-14 with a 2.81 ERA with 195 strikeouts and 72 walks. This year, Ross's 37 free passes is tied with Aaron Sanchez for most in baseball, and his 11.1% walk rate is third amongst qualified MLB starters behind Sanchez (13.2%) and Baltimore's Chris Tillman.

Ross this year is throwing a slider and sinker primarily, with a 94 mph fastball mixed in with a rarely thrown change, according to Brooks Baseball. Ross actually hasn't thrown the changeup since May 4. The sinker is really his main fastball, he throws it 40% of the time compared to his four seamer at 12%. That slider is what Ross throws 47% of the time, and the swing rate on that slider remains quite high, at about 53%.

Lately, Ross hasn't been throwing the fourseam fastball much at all. Since May 14, Ross has thrown just 26 fourseam fastballs, compared to 245 sinkers and 315 sliders. This has effectively made Ross a two-pitch pitcher.

Tuesday vs. Andrew Cashner
Tuesday (12:40 PM PDT) at Petco
Scott Kazmir vs. Andrew Cashner
2.79 ERA 4.16
3.58 FIP 4.15
3.81 xFIP 3.60
22.7% K% 21.6%
1.24 GB/FB 1.41

Andrew Cashner leads baseball with eight losses this year, though he is 2-5 with one no decision in his eight quality starts. Cashner just started to walk a few more people than he did last year, a 6.9% walk rate in 2015 compared to 5.7% in 2015, and given up way more home runs, 12 already, for a 1.35 HR/9 rate.

Cashner throws a 96 mph sinker, 97 mph fastball, slider, change, and rarely thrown curve, according to Brooks Baseball. Like most pitchers, he'll go to his slider more frequently with two strikes on the batter, though he still throws the fourseam fastball a quarter of the time and sinker a third of the time.

Wednesday vs. Odrisamer Despaigne
Wednesday (7:05 PM PDT) at Coliseum
Odrisamer Despaigne vs. Jesse Chavez
4.38 ERA 2.64
4.59 FIP 2.80
4.20 xFIP 3.74
12.5% K% 20.5%
1.77 GB/FB 1.11

That's pronounced \OH-drees-ah-meer DES-pawn-yay\, says Baseball Reference. Despaigne shows up on two National League top ten lists: he's tied for fourth with four wild pitches and tied for fifth with five hit batters. Despaigne's name famously anagrams to "San Diego Padres mire."

Now in his second major league season, Despaigne throws a 92 mph fastball, sinker, change, curve, cutter, slow curve, and rarely thrown slider, says Brooks Baseball. Like restaurants with 400 items on their menu, I wonder if Despaigne might benefit from shrinking his repertoire. That slow curve comes in around 69 mph, apparently, as opposed to the regular 78 mph curve he throws.

Despaigne is very much a pitch-to-contact pitcher. Only the changeup exceeds a 10% whiff rate, and his 12.5% strikeout rate would be fourth-lowest in the National League if he were a qualified starter (Despaigne started the year in and out of the bullpen).

Thursday vs. Ian Kennedy
Thursday (12:35 PM PDT) at Coliseum
Ian Kennedy vs. Kendall Graveman
5.84 ERA 4.22
5.24 FIP 4.71
3.70 xFIP 4.35
22.4% K% 14.2%
1.17 GB/FB 1.95

Ian Kennedy's 13 home runs allowed is tied for fifth-most in the National League. His ERA+ of 61 would rank entirely below the qualified starters list. Kennedy is eight innings short of qualifying because he went on the disabled list with a hamstring injury in early April and has failed to record an out in the sixth inning in six of his starts. Kennedy is a far cry from where he was in 2011, going 21-4 and finishing fourth in the Cy Young voting with a 2.88 ERA.

Kennedy is throwing a 92 mph fastball, knuckle curve, change, and cutter, with rarely thrown slider and sinker according to Brooks Baseball. What pitches have batters been crushing? The fastball has been hit out seven times, the changeup three times, and the cutter twice. This only adds up to 12, and I'm not sure what's going on with Brooks Baseball. Batters turn into Anthony Rizzo against Kennedy's fastball, batting .306 with .556 slugging when it's the final pitch of a plate appearance.

At the plate and in the field

A's AL/NL Ranks Padres
8th (4.20) RS/G 6th (4.28)
6th (101) wRC+ 11th (90)
10th (55) HR 11th (52)
T-5th (.254) AVG 10th (.246)
6th (.317) OBP 13th (.302)
9th (.388) SLG T-13th (.373)
12th (.134) ISO 11th (.127)
6th (40) SB 5th (44)
15th (61) Errors 8th (38)
6th (6) DRS 14th (-18)
15th (-9.3) UZR/150 15th (-16.0)
T-6th (.716) DE 14th (.690)

The Padres have had incredibly good sequencing in scoring runs, playing five wins and 0.47 runs per game above their normalized performance according to BaseRuns. In high leverage situations, the Padres own the second best wRC+ in the National League (124). One issue for the Padres is getting runners on in the first place. Their .302 on base percentage is third worst in the National League.

The Padres have been remarkably bad by advanced defensive metrics. Gaslamp Ball wrote on May 20, "The team's defensive shortcomings have also seemingly been highlighted by the fact that the majority of the bleeding has come from the team's starting outfield trio of Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Justin Upton. In 109 games those outfielders have compiled more defensive "damage" than a full season of Carlos Quentin."

Fortunately for the Padres defense, the Friars will be without Wil Myers's defense, which Gaslamp Ball called "peak-Adam Dunn type," because he is going on the 15-day disabled list with a wrist issue. Ultimate Zone Rating has him on a pace for a -59.3 in 150 defensive games. For a good collection of Myers's April lowlights, visit Fangraphs' update on the Padres defense, and watch for the A's to run on all the noodle arms. The Padres will miss Myers' bat, however. His 122 wRC+ (.277/.327/.459) is third best on the team.

Sogard Line: The Eric Sogard Line is Sogard's wRC+, representing my gut feel for what represents serviceable offensive production for a bottom of the order hitter with a good glove, but you probably don't want more than one or two of those in your lineup. Sogard's wRC+ jumped from 65 to 69 after going 2-for-5 with a double, a walk, and a strikeout in the series against the Los Angeles Angels. The Padres have given 12% (271 of 2,332) of their non-pitcher plate appearances to batters below the Sogard Line.

Fun fact about Eric Sogard, the A's acquired him from the San Diego Padres in 2010 with Kevin Kouzmanoff in exchange for Aaron Cunningham and Scott Hairston.

Bullpen

A's AL/NL Ranks Padres
12th (180.0) IP 5th (199.0)
14th (4.75) ERA 9th (3.62)
13th (4.18) FIP 14th (3.89)
11th (4.19) xFIP 11th (3.83)

San Diego's bullpen has received a lot of work in the last week after playing three extra innings games totalling seven innings above regulation. Six relievers pitched in Sunday's 12-inning loss to the Los Angeles Dodgers, three of them above 20 pitches each.

Closer Craig Kimbrel has been less than automatic in his move to the NL West. He is 16-for-17 in save opportunities, but has conceded a run in 8-of-27 appearances. On the other hand, Kimbrel has not given up a run in his last five appearances, nor an earned run in his last 10. Relievers are weird.

2015 Stats Recent usage (pitch count from www.rosterresource.com)
Player Hand IP ERA K% GB% FB% 14-Jun 13-Jun 12-Jun 11-Jun 10-Jun 9-Jun 8-Jun
Craig Kimbrel R 25.0 3.60 35.6% 42.1% 31.6% 21 16 14 13
Joaquin Benoit R 28.0 2.57 23.4% 44.9% 40.6% 26 10 14 10
Brandon Maurer R 32.0 1.69 19.7% 45.5% 34.1% 12 25 26 8
Dale Thayer R 27.0 3.67 16.7% 36.9% 40.5% 26 12 16 9 10
Frank Garces L 20.1 3.10 12.8% 39.7% 41.3% 9 12 3 3 19
Shawn Kelley R 21.0 4.29 28.4% 38.9% 40.7% 9 25 14
Nick Vincent R 7.2 5.87 22.2% 23.1% 30.8% 5

The games

It'll be two games without the designated hitter at Petco Park and then two games with it at the Coliseum as all of baseball engages in interleague play. Night, day, night, day will be the pattern despite the short travel up the coast, and that means two radio simulcasts this week!

Time (PT) Venue Probable starters TV
Monday 7:10 PM Petco Park Jesse Hahn vs. Tyson Ross CSNCA
Tuesday 12:40 PM Petco Park Scott Kazmir vs. Andrew Cashner CSNCA radio simulcast
Wednesday 7:05 PM O.co Coliseum Odrisamer Despaigne vs. Jesse Chavez CSNCA
Thursday 12:35 PM O.co Coliseum Ian Kennedy vs. Kendall Graveman CSNCA radio simulcast

I reward you for reaching the end with a former San Diego Padres song played at Jack Murphy Stadium (thanks to Gaslamp Ball's Jodes0405 for passing this along). It's right up there with San Diego Super Chargers: