Kyle Blanks, Jesus Guzman, Will Venable

What’s gotten into the Padres?

12 Comments

The Padres last night started their fourth options at first base and catcher, their third options at third base and in left field and their backup second baseman, yet scored nine more runs in a win over the Mets.

Their batting lines by month to date:

April: .211/.293/.308, 14 HR in 27 G
May: .249/.303/.363, 19 HR in 28 G
June: .249/.325/.351, 12 HR in 27 G
July: .223/.290/.316, 11 HR in 27 G
Aug: .292/.349/.454, 7 HR in 11 G

By month, they’ve averaged the following number of runs per game:

April: 2.85
May: 3.93
June: 3.63
July: 3.63
Aug: 6.50

And they’re doing it even though their best hitters from the months of April (Nick Hundley), May (Brad Hawpe) and June (Chase Headley) are all on the disabled list.  They’re also absent team home run and RBI leader Ryan Ludwick, who was sent to the Pirates prior to the trade deadline.

Ludwick may even finish the season as the Padres’ leader in homers and RBI.  He had 11 and 64 before being dealt.  Cameron Maybin is second on the team with six homers, one more than Chris Denorfia and Jesus Guzman.  Headley is second in RBI with 43, but now that he’s on the DL, he’s something of a long shot to overtake Ludwick.  Next best on the team is shortstop Jason Bartlett’s 32.

The Padres, though, are breaking in newcomers with increasingly impressive results.  Guzman has been a revalation at first base after taking over for struggling top prospect Anthony Rizzo.  Kyle Blanks, back from Tommy John surgery, has been red-hot in the outfield.  Luis Martinez, the aforementioned fourth catcher, has driven in nine runs in 11 appearances.  Aaron Cunningham also seems poised to make an impact in a limited role.

None of those guys are locks to turn into quality regulars for the Padres, but Blanks and Cunningham are still young enough to do so and Guzman could at least contribute against lefties going forward.  Maybin and Headley will also be back next year as the foundation of the San Diego lineup.  The team won’t keep scoring runs like this, but the future is looking brighter than it did a month ago.

Former MLB player Andy Marte also killed in car accident

GOODYEAR , AZ - MARCH 06:  Andy Marte #15 of the Cleveland Indians looks on from the dugout during the spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Goodyear Ballpark on March 6, 2009 in Goodyear, Arizona. The Brewers defeated the Indians 17-7.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Compounding the tragic news of Yordano Ventura‘s passing is a report that fellow Dominican and former MLB infielder Andy Marte was also killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic early Sunday morning. The report was confirmed by Marte’s agency, J.M.G. Baseball, as well as Marte’s former MLB clubs. No further details have been released so far.

Marte, 33, appeared for the Braves, Indians and Diamondbacks from 2005 through 2014. He was ranked in the top 10 MLB prospects by MLB.com in 2005 and held a career .218/.276/.358 batting line, 21 home runs and a .634 OPS over seven seasons in the majors. He signed with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization after the 2014 season, slashing .312 with 42 home runs in 206 games.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Marte’s family and teammates during this terrible time.

Yordano Ventura and Jose Fernandez were two of the most promising arms in MLB

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JULY 3: Starting pitcher Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals throws a pitch in the first inning during a game against the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park on July 3, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Hunter Martin/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Baseball lost two incredible pitchers in the last four months, both to horrible and unforeseen tragedies. Jose Fernandez and Yordano Ventura were among the most talented and promising pitchers in MLB, two young arms that drew both accolades and criticism for their performance on the mound.

Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008, blazing through several tiers of their farm system before he was called up to replace an injured Danny Duffy in late 2013. He secured his rotation spot the following spring and finished a solid 2014 campaign with a 14-10 record, 3.20 ERA and 2.4 fWAR in 32 starts for the club. During the Royals’ World Series run later that year, Ventura dedicated his performance in Game 6 to Cardinals’ prospect Oscar Taveras, who was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic just two days earlier.

In four years with the Royals, Ventura pitched to a 38-31 record, 3.89 ERA and 6.5 fWAR. While his command and overall production rate waned, bottoming out in 2016 with a 4.45 ERA and 1.85 SO/BB rate, his dynamic pitch repertoire still kept him front and center in the Royals’ pitching staff. He brandished an electric fastball that, at its lowest point, hovered around 96.6 m.p.h. and, at its best, topped out around 102.6 m.p.h.

Like Ventura, Fernandez made an instant impression in the major league circuit. He earned Rookie of the Year distinctions in 2013 after delivering a 12-6 record, 2.19 ERA and 4.1 fWAR with the Marlins. Despite undergoing Tommy John surgery in his sophomore year, he recovered to take on a full workload in 2016 and stunned the league with a 16-8 record, 2.89 ERA, career-high 253 strikeouts and 6.1 fWAR.

Ventura developed a reputation for brushing back hitters, which escalated in some cases to volatile bench-clearing brawls. In 2015, he was ejected for three altercations in three consecutive games and served a seven-game suspension. Halfway through the 2016 season, he earned another eight-game suspension after plunking the Orioles’ Manny Machado in the back with a 99 m.p.h. heater. Some speculated that his aggressive behavior on the mound was excused — or, at least, made more palatable — by his talent and track record, while others called for a more heavy-handed approach from the league.

Fernandez, too, found himself at the center of speculation after reports emerged that painted the 24-year-old as a “clubhouse difficulty,” citing attitude problems that damaged relationships between the pitcher and Marlins players and staff. On the field, he was occasionally chastised for failing to adhere to some of baseball’s unwritten rules, most notably when he showed his elation after hitting his first career home run off of the Braves’ Mike Minor in 2013.

It’s impossible to predict where Fernandez and Ventura’s careers would have taken them. We mourn them not for their actions on the mound or their potential as star pitchers, however, but for their inherent value as people who were loved and respected by their families and teams. Major League Baseball will be worse off for their loss.