Thoughts: Here come the Padres
June, 17, 2013
By David Schoenfield | ESPN.com
- Just like that the Padres are interesting, climbing a game over .500 after winning six in a row at home over the Braves and Diamondbacks. Clayton Richard, who had been horrible (the Padres had won just one of his nine starts), was the star in Sunday's 4-1 win over Arizona, pitching eight innings although he struck out just one batter. How did the Padres get here, two games out of first place? Well, it helps that the NL West is so mediocre, but Richard has a 7.01 ERA and Edinson Volquez 5.87. There's some smoke and mirrors here, especially with Jason Marquis, who is 9-2 despite a high home run rate and a terrible strikeout-to-walk ratio. Their success has mostly been fueled by a solid offense -- although no one player has even 30 RBIs -- and underrated leadoff man Everth Cabrera (.382 OBP, 31 steals). Look, they'll have to find a way to upgrade the rotation because Richard isn't good, Volquez is inconsistent and Marquis' luck is due to run out, but in the NL West, anything is possible. Plus, it just feels good to be over .500 for the first time since April 6, 2011.
- Congrats to Torii Hunter for hitting his 300th career home run. Nice that it came in Minnesota, where he starred for many years. I can't say Hunter has been underrated -- he's made four All-Star teams and won nine Gold Glove Awards -- but he's sort of been underrated. The stat analysts were never huge fans of his because of his mediocre on-base percentages and he was hitting 25 home runs a year when the big sluggers were hitting 35-plus. He probably won a couple Gold Gloves after he'd lost or step or two in center, but you combine the defense, the power and the longevity and he's had a great career. Baseball-Reference has his career WAR at 48.3, which isn't really a Hall of Fame standard, although similar to another former Twins outfielder, Kirby Puckett, who was at 50.8
- The Rangers have scored two or fewer runs in six straight games -- the first time they've done that since 1986 -- but most distressing is that it came at home against the Indians and Blue Jays, not exactly two pitching-rich teams. They lost all six of those games, including Sunday's 7-2 loss to Chien-Ming Wang, who had been pounded in his first start of the season. Yes, the Rangers can point to the absence of Ian Kinsler and Mitch Moreland from the lineup, but since a 32-17 start they've gone 6-14 their past 20 games and hit just .238. Perhaps not coincidentally, the Rangers haven't played the Astros or Angels in those games and just once against the Mariners.
- Manny Machado doubles watch: He hit four more over the weekend, including this one on Saturday. That's 32 already, putting him on pace for 74. Incredible. The Orioles beat the Red Sox 6-3 on Sunday as Chris Davis hit his MLB-leading 23rd home run, climbing to 1.5 games behind Boston.
- After going 8-20 in May, the Royals looked dead. But now they've gone 11-4 in June after taking three of four from the Rays. That was after taking two of three from the Tigers. Those two series could have wiped out the Royals, but now they're 33-34 and, like the Padres, at least interesting. The pitching has allowed more than three runs just once this month, averaging 2.2 runs per game. George Brett hasn't really turned around the offense -- it has a .680 OPS in June compared to .684 through May -- although at least the Royals have hit six home runs their past six games.
- Corey Kluber? Sure, Corey Kluber. He's allowed one run in 16 innings his past two starts.