By: Wes Ellis
RP - Emilio Pagan
Photo Credit: Mark Collier
The 6-2 San Diego Padres have shown a lot of strengths so far in this young season, including exceptional plate discipline and outstanding starting pitching. But they do have at least one unexpected weakness: the bullpen.
Padres bullpen arms have given up 19 of the staff’s 31 earned runs in these first 8 games. But the issue is not just a matter of how many earned runs have been given up, it’s when they were given up and who gave them up. The bullpen inherited leads in both of the team’s two losses and they managed to blow a 6-1 lead before being bailed out by a potent offense in their Thursday night extra inning win (12-7) in San Francisco. They have blown 4 of the 8 leads they've inherited. To top it off, it’s not some minor league talent that is getting clobbered. It’s the very arms on which we are meant to depend, including Pagán (5 ER in 3.2 innings) and Yates (4 ER in 2.1 innings). Yates, the team’s heralded closer, has a WHIP of 3.86 and had to be pulled from last night’s game after giving up a run and loading the bases in the bottom of the ninth.
But here is why Padres fans can remain optimistic…
On April 26, 2019, when the 14-11 Padres rolled into Washington, the Nationals were sitting at a mediocre 11-12 record, having just dropped two of three games to both the Rockies and the Marlins. The Nationals would go on to lose their Padres series as well. 15% of the way through the 2019 season, no one would have guessed that the Nationals would go on to win the World Series. And the key contributing factor to the team’s early struggle was their bullpen. Early in 2019, the Nats pen was viewed as one of the worst in baseball and a major liability to the team’s success. But, as we all know, they were able to turn things around just fine.
Now, I am not suggesting that the Padres are like the 2019 Nationals. Nor am I confident that 15% of a 162 game season can be unambiguously compared to roughly 13% of a 60 game season. I am not making any predictions. But I am saying that Padres fans do have cause for some optimism. Not only is there time for this bullpen to turn things around, but unlike the Nats in 2019, this team has carried their bullpen through to a winning record. Their 6-2 start has put them in first place over the 5-3 Dodgers in the NL West. Of course, Padres fans have trust issues for obvious reasons, and we know what the Dodgers are capable of, so optimism may not be an option. But in a situation wherein the potential strength of the team is floundering and they are still putting wins together, you’ve got to at least be hopeful.