With MLB's regular season ending this weekend, Bally Sports is reviewing the performance of each club with a look at what happened in 2021 and what could happen next season. Our next Exit Interview is with the San Diego Padres.
What went right
• With an entertaining flair that included an animated dugout "Swag Chain" that players wore during games, the Padres began the season 67-49 and very much played themselves into the National League wild-card hunt — or better. They put five players on the All-Star team and added another, Adam Frazier, at the trade deadline.
• Despite missing about a dozen games because of a shoulder injury, Fernando Tatís slugged .656 with 28 homers and 20 stolen bases in his first 74 games, making himself a front-runner for NL MVP.
• Tatís also executed something people called a “double jump” on a line drive to shortstop, where he reached high above his head to make the catch. His defensive rankings aren’t great, but he’s more capable of spectacular plays than pretty much everyone else.
• Joe Musgrove threw the first no-hitter in Padres history, earning free beer for life from a local San Diego brewery as a reward.
• Manny Machado played splendidly, batting .279/.349/.494 with 28 homers and five defensive runs saved at third base. With the playoffs still a possibility, he had a big game against the Giants — just not big enough.
• Jake Cronenworth hit for the cycle, putting an exclamation point on his super sophomore season.
What went wrong
• They were on the verge of adding Max Scherzer in a trade with the Nationals, but the Dodgers refused to let it happen and snapped up Scherzer in the end.
• Tatís separated his shoulder on three total occasions, forcing him to the injured list each time and persuading him to play several games in right field in an effort to relieve some of the potential stress on his balky shoulder.
• The effectiveness of the pitching staff collectively shrunk as the season wore on. They have posted a 4.98 ERA in the second half, ranking 25th. Individually, Yu Darvish had a 6.16 ERA in 12 starts after the All-Star break, but he had started to struggle in July. Chris Paddack began horribly before starting to put it together, but he ended up on the injured list. The Jake Arrieta and Vince Velasquez additions did not work.
• After figuring to be a team strength, Padres relievers have a 4.46 ERA in the second half. Closer Mark Melancon was good, as was Pierce Johnson, Craig Stammen and Nabil Crismatt. but the depth failed in part because of injuries. Drew Pomerancz couldn’t stay on the field. Dinelson Lamet — whom they hoped would be in the rotation — barely surpassed 10 innings in the second half. Ryan Weathers, Emilio Pagán, Austin Adams and Tim Hill had rough second halves.
• Tatís and Machado argued in the dugout where everyone could see. Stuff like that happens but it shows some of the dysfunction that led to a disappointing season. They made up and probably will be better for it.
Tatís still leads the NL in home runs despite missing at least 30 games. He’s still an MVP candidate but seems likely to finish third behind Bryce Harper of the Phillies and Juan Soto of the Nationals (in some order).
Ha-seong Kim was a good baserunner and a plus defensive player off the bench, but he hit .204/.272/.345 in 285 plate appearances in his first season after playing in Korea. The Padres were counting on Weathers being better, but he’s not yet 22 years old.
Reasons for optimism
• Blake Snell seemed to figure it out, finishing with a 3.24 ERA in 11 second-half starts. His most recent injury was to his groin, so he should be good to go by spring training.
• Who are the best players in MLB? Ronald Acuña, Soto, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Vladimir Guerrero and Tatís. Having Tatis back, possibly after a surgery to keep his shoulder from popping out, gives the Padres a huge leg up on most other teams.
• The Padres farm system has fallen to the middle because of major-league promotions and trades, but they still have many strong top-50 or so prospects still to come, with left-hander MacKenzie Gore considered to have a bright future.
What needs work
• Darvish, while turning 35, remains a strong competitor without a major injury hanging over him. There was talk that he could pitch in the final regular season weekend after facing the Dodgers on Tuesday with OK results over four innings. Darvish needs to bounce back personally for the Padres to take a step forward to the playoffs. He can’t be alone in doing so, of course.
• Outfielders Tommy Pham and Trent Grisham didn’t hit as well as the team hoped, and while Wil Myers hit OK, none of San Diego’s outfielders (other than Grisham) played strong defense. Pham is a free agent this offseason.
• Team president A.J. Preller already has made some front-office organizational changes, but he also needs to make up for some of his own trades that have backfired.