Friday, June 29, 2007

Peavy holding a winning hand?

Jake Peavy is turning up all aces.

Opponents’ aces, that is.

Peavy got a taste of it last Sunday when he was out-dueled by Josh Beckett of the Boston Red Sox, 4-2.

He’ll dive headfirst again when matched up Saturday night at Dodger Stadium against Brad Penny.

Beckett was 10-1 when he battled Peavy. Penny comes into Saturday with the same mark.

Of course, Peavy is no slouch at 9-2 for the Padres.

Last season, Peavy finished just 11-14 in his first go-round as staff ace. (Woody Williams, believe it or not, was the opening day starter in 2005.)

The difference in Peavy this year is that he’s healthy. He was never quite right in 2006 after overextending himself in the preseason World Baseball Classic.

If Peavy wants to be the elite in the National League … as opposed to one of the elite … a good way to start would be beating Penny, the NL starter in last year’s All-Star game.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Channel 4 features new sports show

There’s going to be a new sports show on Channel 4 San Diego as soon as the Padres’ season ends.

Starting in October, Channel 4 will present a 30-minute sports program Monday through Friday at 10 p.m. with a “very local flavor,” according to station manager Dennis Morgigno.

“We’ll give most of our coverage to local high schools, colleges and pros,” he said. “We’ll also keep an eye out nationally.”

The new program only became possible this year when Channel 4 moved its studio to just beyond right field at Petco Park. It is expected to include on-air personalities Jenny Cavnar, Jane Mitchell, Steve Quis, Bob Scanlan and John Weisbarth.

Channel 4 previously has hosted weekly shows featuring the Chargers and San Diego State. This new format will roll those former programs into one nightly show along with such topics as the preps, University of San Diego and offseason Padres coverage.

(The station begins another complete season of prep football coverage Aug. 31.)

This baseball season, Channel 4’s visibility has increased by providing an in-studio postgame show from its new facility.

“It’s huge when we’re at home,” Morgigno said. “It’s also great when we’re on the road and you can see the ballpark behind us. It gives people the idea that we are the Padres station.”

And so much more.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Barrett is quite a catch

Michael Barrett was obtained by the Padres from the Chicago Cubs last week for his offense.

Or was there a catch to it?

In his first week with the Padres, Barrett is proving to be quite a find behind the plate. Just take the final out in Tuesday night’s 3-2 win over San Francisco in 10 innings for example.

Dave Roberts was on first base for the Giants. Trevor Hoffman was pitching for San Diego. It normally doesn’t matter who’s behind the plate, but this time it was Barrett.

Roberts is one of the best base stealers around. Hoffman has a major league record of 502 saves, but it’s not because he can hold runners on base. And the Padres haven’t had any catcher the past couple of years who could throw out base stealers.

So what happens?

Hoffman uses a slide step instead of his normal high leg kick. Barrett throws Roberts out at second attempting to steal. Game over.

The irony is that the Padres have spent all season saying it’s not that important to throw out base stealers; what matters is concentrating on the batter.

But at least in this case, concentrating on the base runner paid off with a win.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Padres aren't much of a hit

The Padres are at a crossroads.

Not only have they lost five of six games, their biggest weakness is being exposed.

This is a team that flat out can’t score runs, meaning the pitching staff has to be “on” every night in order to win.

Monday night’s 4-3 loss to San Francisco in 11 innings was a perfect example.

Scott Linebrink has an impressive 2.20 ERA, yet it proved to be the difference when he gave up a run in the eighth inning that allowed the Giants to tie at 3-3.

From then on, it was back to a Padres’ offense that can’t hit in the clutch.

Is help on the horizon? Not likely.

General Manager Kevin Towers told Channel 4 San Diego that the Padres have little to trade at the Triple A level. That means the Padres would likely have to break up their stellar bullpen to acquire a proven power hitter.

The hitting deficiency didn’t seem to matter when the Padres were first in the NL West. But now that they’re in third place (albeit just one game behind Arizona), their shortcomings are starting to open some eyes.

Speaking of, you might want to keep closing your eyes when the Padres are at bat.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Is interleague fair?

On the Padres’ radio pregame show last week, some said it was unfair that the Padres had to play the Boston Red Sox three times while the Dodgers did not have to do so.

Fair enough, until you look at the rest of interleague play.

Both the Padres and Dodgers played three games against Tampa Bay. It’s the other 12 games that were different.

The Dodgers had six games against the Anaheim Angels, arguably the best team in baseball along with Boston. They also played six against Toronto, second in the AL East.

The Padres? Besides the Boston and Tampa Bay games, they did not exactly play against the American League elite. They played six times against Seattle (second in the weak AL West) and three games against Baltimore (last in the AL East.)

Thank goodness, it’s now back to National League play as the Padres begin the week with three games at San Francisco while the Dodgers play four times at NL West-leading Arizona.

Until the Dodgers stop playing the Angels six times annually during interleague play, the Padres should not be griping about their interleague schedule.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Red Sox Nation invades San Diego

Becky Beckhard's Guest Blog
Red Sox – Padres Series

Padres fans may be anticipating this weekend’s series against the Boston Red Sox with some trepidation. After all, the Red Sox have baseball’s best record and like most American League teams, have been dominating their NL opponents. Last year the Red Sox tuned up their friends in the Senior Circuit by a 16-2 advantage, and this year they are 10-5 in interleague competition coming into San Diego.

But Boston’s dirty little secret is that the lineup has major holes and can be shut down by good starting pitching like San Diego’s – especially pitchers who throw strikes and stay out of deep counts. Two high-priced free agents, J.D. Drew and Julio Lugo, have been absolutely atrocious this year, and centerfielder Coco Crisp (best name in the majors) is no Johnny Damon. Third baseman Mike Lowell has a bad hand and has stopped hitting, and backstop Jason Varitek can no longer catch up to the high heat. Jake Peavy will punch him out at least three times. Losing the DH in a National League park means one of the big hitters will have to sit (Red Sox fans hope it’s Lowell). And of course the Red Sox pitchers never get to bat in AL games, so they will be automatic outs.

The Red Sox are a colorful group, resembling beer league softballers more than professional athletes. Kevin Youkilis has a barrel chest, the ugliest beard in America, and a shaved head; he looks like a motorcycle tough guy. David Ortiz is generous of girth and mirth. (Friendly advice: Do NOT pitch to Ortiz close and late. Just don’t do it.) Manny Ramirez looks like a Rastaman with dreadlocks almost to his shoulders, and wears his uniform so loose it is amazing he doesn’t trip over it. Dustin Pedroia is the obnoxious runt always looking for trouble.

Boston’s starting pitchers this weekend will be Matsuzaka, Wakefield and Beckett. Dice-K’s weakness has been a mysterious loss of command for one inning per game. By the way, there is no such thing as a gyroball. (If it spins like a slider, it’s a slider.) Wakefield is alternately good or awful. Any single or walk is an automatic double because it’s so easy to run on the knuckleball. Watch for Padres alumnus Doug “Beerabelli” Mirabelli, brought back from SD last year to catch Wakes in a panic move when Josh Bard let a few knucklers bounce away. Dougie has become a painfully easy out. Sox fans are deeply chagrined over losing Cla Meredith in that deal. (Cla? What kind of name is Cla?) Josh Beckett is the staff ace.

If the Sox have a lead late in the game, you will see Hideki Okajima in the eighth, Papelbon in the ninth. Okajima has been mysteriously untouchable so far but in my opinion he has been increasingly lucky and is overdue to get clobbered. Papelbon is just filthy.

It will be interesting to see how many Red Sox fans show up at the games this weekend. The Sox get more loud fans at road games than anyone, even the Yankees. In Atlanta this week the crowds (three sellouts) were 50% Boston fans. Growing up in San Diego in the 1960s and 1970s, it was lonely being a Red Sox fan, but my guess is they’ll be out in large numbers this weekend. Padres fans: If the Bosox rooters get loud and obnoxious, just say “so, are the Red Sox going to blow another 14 game lead like in 1978?” That will shut them up.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Peavy is a hot ticket

The Jake Peavy factor is alive and well in San Diego.

Did you see where the Padres drew 26,931 for Wednesday night’s game against Baltimore?

Did you see where the attendance was 11,250 fans more (38,181) when Peavy pitched Tuesday against the Orioles?

Taking it back one step, the Padres drew 40,631 in Peavy’s previous home start June 7 against the Dodgers in the final contest of a three-game series. The night before, the attendance was 31,541 (9,090 fewer than when Peavy pitched.)

That means there has been an attendance increase of 20,340 fans in Peavy’s last two home starts, both on weekdays, in comparison to the day before or after against the same team.

Once again, this is the Randy Jones theory in San Diego. The Padres used to draw about 10,000 fans more per game during Jones’ Cy Young award season of 1976, and the Peavy influence seems to be about the same.

The Padres’ ace will make his next start Sunday against the Boston Red Sox. Since the entire series is sold out, the Peavy factor will not come into play.

Let’s see the attendance difference when he pitches after the Padres begin their next homestand July 2.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Barrett adds punch to Padres

The Padres sure added punch to their roster today by acquiring catcher Michael Barrett from the Chicago Cubs for back-up catcher Rob Bowen and minor league outfielder Kyler Burke.

But are the Padres adding punch because Barrett is now tied for second on the team with nine home runs?

Or are they adding punch because Barrett duked it out with Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano and had a heated discussion with starter Rich Hill, both this month?

The Padres, who also received cash considerations from the Cubs, must also remember that Barrett landed a punch to the jaw of A.J. Pierzynski after the White Sox catcher ran him over at home plate in May 2006. Barrett was suspended 10 games; Pierzynski was fined.

Barrett adds a defensive element that has been missing in San Diego. Although the Padres say they are not concerned by opponents successfully stealing bases close to 90 percent of the time on them, that broken record has to be getting old.

The Padres may very well lose Barrett when he becomes a free agent after the season.

But for now, he may provide the fight they have been looking for in order to stay on top of the NL West.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Peavy: There's no place like home

Coincidence or not, Jake Peavy will pitch the first and last games on the Padres’ six-game homestand that begins tonight.

This will mark the third time in the last four homestands (all six games) that Peavy has pitched the first and last contest.

More than a coincidence?


Let’s face it: Peavy is a hot topic at home.

The last time Peavy pitched at home June 7 against the Dodgers, the attendance was 40,631. That was about 9,000 more than for each of the first two games against Los Angeles.

There may be a Randy Jones theory at work here. When Jones won the National League Cy Young award in 1976 for the Padres, home attendance was normally about 10,000 more when he pitched.

Peavy is actually a better road pitcher this year, with a 4-0 record and 0.88 ERA. But his presence at home, where he is 4-1, certainly adds up the attendance figures.

And the Padres have taken note of that, especially as Peavy tonight will try to tie his personal best of six consecutive winning decisions in a season set from July 16-Aug. 28, 2004.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Is Baltimore a formidable Padres' foe?

The Padres couldn’t be catching the Baltimore Orioles at a worse time for two reasons.

The Orioles bring an eight-game losing streak into the three-game series opener Tuesday night at Petco Park, and Jake Peavy is pitching for San Diego.

It sounds like the Orioles are getting the worst of it, but maybe not.

"The problem is, we’re getting our (butts) kicked," Kevin Millar said Sunday after Baltimore’s latest loss.

If, indeed, Joe Girardi becomes the Orioles’ new manager, things may turn around right away. Girardi is definitely a butt-kicker, as he proved last season by nearly leading the Florida Marlins into the playoffs with his dictatorial style.

The Peavy factor?

Yes, he is the best pitcher in the National League. But he’s at his worst against poor teams ... especially in front of small crowds at home.

Peavy suffered his only loss at home this season to the lowly Washington Nationals. He was on the hook at Washington for another loss before the Padres bailed him out with a couple of late runs.

Peavy at home against a horrible team with a new manager? It doesn’t sound good for the Padres.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Interleague play should take a hike

Interleague play needs to go bye-bye.

Started in 1997, it is a concept that simply has no use anymore.

“Maybe it has run it course at this point,” Seattle television color commentator Mike Blowers said while the Mariners were sweeping the Padres last weekend.

Maybe, indeed.

Unless it’s crosstown rivalries such as Yankees-Mets, Cubs-White Sox or Dodgers-Angels; interleague play is just not that interesting.

Everyone wants to play the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees; but when you’re left with someone such as the Kansas City Royals or Tampa Bay DevilRays, it’s hard to build interest in a National League city.

Please, save the All-Star Game and World Series for interleague play.

As for the Padres, they get lucky this weekend. The only non-interleague matchup of the weekend is their three-game series at Chicago against the Cubs.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Let's (not) go Mets

Turn on ESPN at night and there are three baseball teams being drooled over … the New York Yankees, New York Mets and Boston Red Sox.

Look across the Internet and it’s obvious that ESPN is having its impact.

Virtually every Web site’s power ranking rates the Mets No. 1 in the National League.

These are the same Mets who have had two series against teams in the NL West, a division with the best cumulative overall record in baseball.

These are the same Mets who were just swept by the Dodgers in Los Angeles. Recently, these same Mets lost two of three games to the Arizona Diamondbacks in New York. (The Mets have yet to play the Padres.)

At the very least, this tells me the Mets should not be rated No. 1 in the NL power rankings. To stretch the point, maybe they’d only be the fourth best team if they were in the NL West, instead of being first as they are in the NL East.

But with ESPN’s East Coast bias, you’ll never hear these facts.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Padres keep on whiffing

Scott Kazmir of Tampa Bay tied a career high Tuesday night with 11 strikeouts.

Big deal. It came against the Padres.

Or haven’t you noticed that the Padres have struck out 72 times in their last seven games?

Suddenly, lots of deficiencies are showing up in the Padres during their current four-game losing streak.

We’ve documented all season that they can’t hit. Their pitchers also can’t hold runners on base, which cost them the game-winning run in Sunday’s 4-3 loss to Seattle.

And then there’s the once magnificent bullpen. With three starters (David Wells, Greg Maddux and Justin Germano) rarely going past five or six innings, the bullpen is burning out.

The Dodgers are back in a three-way tie for first with the Padres and Arizona. This corner’s money is on the Dodgers to win the NL West.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Did Dodgers kick Broxton off the bus?

You’ve heard of people throwing teammates under the bus, but how about throwing somebody off the bus?

According to eyewitnesses, that’s what happened to Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jonathan Broxton after he blew a save last Thursday in San Diego.

The situation: Broxton allowed five runs in the bottom of the ninth as the Padres scored an unlikely 6-5 win over the Dodgers.

Later, as Broxton approached the bus, some teammates took note.

“They started shaking their fingers at him as if to say ‘no,’” said an eyewitness. “Then they closed the door and the bus took off.”

Broxton then had to hail a cab for the long ride home to Los Angeles, witnesses said. He wasn’t far behind teammates Nomar Garciaparra and Luis Gonzalez, who rode home in the comfort of a limo.

See if Broxton ever blows a four-run lead again!

Friday, June 8, 2007

Hensley will soon replace Germano

This just in: Clay Hensley will replace Justin Germano in the Padres starting rotation around the All-Star break.

Impossible, you say?

After all, Germano is 4-0 with a 1.74 ERA. Hensley is 1-3 with a 7.62 ERA for the Padres … and now pitching in the minors.

What will change?

Starting tonight with the Seattle Mariners, some teams will see Germano for the second time this season. And they’re going to love jumping on that hanging breaking ball they just missed the first time.

Hensley, meanwhile, has much better movement on his ball than Germano.

So don’t be surprised when the Padres alter their pitching rotation about mid-season.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Union-Tribune MLB draft coverage is Bush league

Does anybody else remember this story from the San Diego Union-Tribune on June 8, 2004?

By Bill Center

Kevin Towers couldn’t hide his delight.

"This is a great story," the Padres general manager said yesterday after introducing Mission Bay High shortstop/pitcher Matt Bush as the No. 1 pick of baseball's 2004 draft.

And the story started with a report in this newspaper Friday.

At the time, Padres director of scouting Bill Gayton was assessing the three collegiate frontrunners for the Padres' No. 1 pick in the draft – right-handed pitchers Jered Weaver of Long Beach State and Jeff Niemann of Rice and Florida State shortstop Stephen Drew.

Gayton was asked about Matt Bush.

"We've talked about Bush," said Gayton. "We love him."

When Bush read that quote Friday morning, a light went on.

"I've always loved the Padres," said Bush. "If they love me . . . "
Bush put in a call to one of his advisers, Ken Felder.

"I asked Ken that, off what I read in the newspaper, would it be OK if I called the Padres and told them I wanted to play for them," said Bush.

OK, so now we know why the Padres took Bush – instead of three players ranked way ahead of him – as the first pick in the 2004 Major League Baseball draft.

It all comes back to the San Diego Union-Tribune. And it all comes back to Bill Center.

They’re the culprits who started this whole mess with Bush! We all know how Bush got into an altercation soon after joining the Padres minor leaguers … and how he has been a monumental failure.

OK, so the Padres are switching him from shortstop to pitcher. Trevor Hoffman made the same position change and is now the all-time saves leader with 500.

But for every Hoffman, there are hundreds of Matt Bushes who fail.

Who do we have to thank for this horrible failure? Sounds like “credit” is due to Bill Center and his newspaper!

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Young steals a page from Maddux

Greg Maddux had a simple message for fellow Padres pitchers during spring training:

Don’t worry about the runner on first base. He is only 17 percent more likely to score if he steals second base than if he doesn’t steal second.

Apparently, Chris Young was listening.

Opposing teams are 18-for-18 in stolen base attempts against Young. They are 16-for-16 against Maddux.

Based on the 17 percent theory, one out of six runners who otherwise would not have scored did so by stealing second. (Broken down, that means Young/Maddux have allowed six more runs than if they had not given up the stolen bases.)

Young has a 6-3 record with a 2.19 ERA. Maddux is 4-3 with a 3.92 ERA.

Even though Maddux’s logic doesn’t seem logical, who can argue with the results?

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Padres care more about series than Dodgers

The Padres are taking this much more seriously than the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Starting tonight, the teams play a three-game series at Petco Park.

The Padres are pitching their top three starters. In turn, the Dodgers are going with their Nos. 3-5 starters.


Yes and no.

San Diego rearranged its rotation partly so that ace Jake Peavy will pitch the third game of the series. He follows Chris Young and Greg Maddux.

In the series opener, Los Angeles is pitching Jason Schmidt, who traditionally gets beat up by the Padres. That’s the same Schmidt who is coming off the disabled list.

The Dodgers could have pitched Schmidt last night in Pittsburgh and moved ace Derek Lowe back a day to face the Padres. And, yes, Lowe is a Padre killer.

On pitching match-ups alone, the Padres appear more interested in focusing specifically on this one series.

We’ll find out which team is using the best strategy over the next three days.

Monday, June 4, 2007

USD: Fits right in with San Diego

Can you believe the University of San Diego’s baseball team was swept in the NCAA Regionals over the weekend?

I sure can.


It’s simple. USD is located in San Diego.

This is the same town called home by the Padres, who have lost in the first round of the National League playoffs each of the past two seasons.

The Chargers have lost their first postseason game while making the NFL playoffs two of the past three seasons.

Then there is San Diego State, which has never won an NCAA Tournament basketball playoff game or a Division I football bowl game!

USD joined the crowd by becoming only the fifth team to lose its first two games as the No. 1 regional seed in the past nine years.

If the Toreros ever want to do anything in the postseason, they’ll have to do the impossible for a school called USD: Move from San Diego!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Black manages Peavy well

Bud Black has done a masterful job of managing San Diego Padres pitcher Jake Peavy.

Black continues to move Peavy up in the rotation after off days to maximize his ace’s production, especially at home.

Through Black’s maneuverability, Peavy has pitched the first and last games on each of the last two homestands. In fact, Peavy will make his first road start in his last five appearances when he pitches tonight at Washington.

Not that the star right-hander has failed away from home. In his last road start May 6 at Florida, he allowed just one run and one hit in seven innings while striking out 10 and earning the victory.

Oh, and there’s another part to Black’s strategy of pitching Peavy tonight and moving Justin Germano back to tomorrow.

It means that the Padres top three starters – Chris Young, Greg Maddux and Peavy – will likely pitch in that order during a three-game home series against the hated Los Angeles Dodgers that starts Tuesday.

This blog first predicted on April 27 that Peavy would be the National League’s All-Star starting pitcher this year. That hasn’t changed with his 7-1 record and 1.47 ERA.

Black deserves credit for doing an all-star job of setting up Peavy in his rotation.