The baseball season has sort of snuck up on me, mainly because of all of the trips to Santa Cruz in recent months and the daily genealogy activities I participate in. The exhibition games have been on the radio and a few on TV, but I haven't listened or watched any of them. We did go to the exhibition game on Friday against the Angels, winning 4-1 in a well pitched game.
It seems to me that the Padres have not improved any part of their team since last season. I will address each area below:
* Starting pitching - Jake Peavy (19-6), Chris Young (9-8, DL) and Greg Maddux (14-11) form the nucleus of the staff. Randy Wolf (new, 9-6 with LA Dodgers, DL) is the #4 and Justin Germano (7-10) starts out as #5. Shawn Estes (DL in 2007), Clay Hensley, Tim Stauffer and Mark Prior (new, DL with Cubs) start on the disabled list or in the minors as backups during the season. This was a B-rated staff last year - I think it is B-rated again, and will keep the team in low scoring games.
* Relief pitching - Trevor Hoffman, Heath Bell, Cla Meredith, Glendon Rusch (new, DL in 2007), Wil Ledezma (ineffective in 2007), Joe Thatcher (decent in 2007) and Enrique Gonzalez (new). The Pads lost Doug Brocail and several others - this was B-rated last year, I think it's C-rated now because of the unpredicatable Rusch, Ledezma and Gonzalez. There are several young arms in the minors and on the DL (e.g., Kevin Cameron). The question many fans have is if Trevor Hoffman can stay on top of his game and deliver 40 or more saves with 5 or fewer blown saves (he had 8 in 2007).
* Catching - Josh Bard (0.285, 5 HR, 51 RBI) and Michael Barrett (0.226, 0 HR with Padres). The "catching" part is fine - the throwing part isn't - worst in the league last year. Barrett's had a fine spring, and hopefully these guys can generate some power and maintain a BA and throw out some runners. They were C-rated last year, could be B-rated this year.
* Infield - Adrian Gonzalez at 1B (0.282, 30 KH, 90 RBI) is excellent offensively and defensively. Tony Clark is the backup 1B (was with Arizona last year) and becomes the prime pinch hitter. Tadahito Iguchi at 2B (with Chisox and Phillies last year) replaces Marcus Giles and Geoff Blum. Kahlil Greene provides excellent defense and power (0.254, 27 HR, 97 RBIs) and will continue to improve if he stays healthy. Kevin Kouzmanoff improved defensively and offensively as 2007 progressed (0.275, 18 HR, 74 RBI). Speedy Callix Crabbe will provide infield backup. This was a B-rated group last year, and will be B-rated (or possibly A-rated) if they stay healthy and improve.
* Outfield - Brian Giles is in RF and will contribute if he stays healthy. He had 13 HR and 51 RBI in 2007 but was on the DL for 34 games. Scott Hairston starts in CF where he's never played before. He hit well for the Padres in 2007 when he played. Paul McAnulty starts the season in LF out of minor league options. Jim Edmonds was the major acquisition this year and is on the DL. If he plays it will be in CF, with Hairston going to LF. Jody Gerut and Justin Huber are the backups. The 2007 group of Milton Bradley, Mike Cameron and Brian Giles was B-rated; this years starters are D-rated until they show that they've improved. The Padres need great defense, more power and fewer strikeouts from the outfielders.
* Coaching Staff -- Bud Black returns as manager, with Darren Balsley as pitching coach, Wally Joyner as hitting coach, Glenn Hoffman as 3rd base coach, Rick Renteria as 1st base coach, and Craig Colbert as bench coach. This was an A-rated group last year, and should stay A-rated.
While the Padres haven't measurable improved the team from the 2007 team that went 89-73, their Western Division rivals have improved, especially the Dodgers and D-backs. The division should be tight again - 90 wins probably takes it. I project the Padres winning 87 and losing 75, with many one-run games (good pitching, weak hitting). Injuries could make it worse, and timely hitting and improvement by Hairston, McAnulty, Barrett and Gerut may lift the team to 90 wins or more.
UPDATED 4/1 to fix minor errors (the U-T had some coaches wrong!).