When A.J. Preller took the reins of the San Diego Padres the culture immediately changed. The team was under constant trade watch, and in just a matter of months, Preller had compiled an outfield of Justin Upton, Wil Myers, and Matt Kemp. It was a clear offensive upgrade over their former 2014 trio, and represented an identity makeover for the Padres. Thus far in 2015, the trade seems to be paying dividends. Other than the slumping Kemp, Myers and Upton have a wRC+ of 133 and 141, respectively. Both of those figures represent an improvement over the Padres 2014 outfield, and have contributed to the Padres retooled offense.
Seemingly the only downside to this new outfield construction is that it's come at the cost of defense. While it's not imperative for a team to have significant defensive value to have a realistic shot at the playoffs, there has never been a defense this bad previously. The Padres currently are on pace for a historically awful 2015 season, and could set a record in overall defensive futility.
There are multiple defensive metrics that can be used to rate an outfield, but the following table focuses on RZR, DRS, ARM, RngR, and UZR. The first statistic RZR, stands for "Revised Zone Rating", and measures "the proportion of balls hit into a fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out". While UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) and DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) do a better job at measuring the fielder's contributions, it’s still an effective way to look at overall defensive ability. The ARM statistic helps rate how many runs above average an outfielder saves by preventing runners from advancing; while RngR measures if the player gets to balls at an average rate.
|2006||.810 (Red Sox)||-35 (Red Sox)||-14.3 (White sox)||-39.1 (Red Sox)||-37.6 (Yankees)|
|2007||.856 (Angels)||-32 (Reds)||-17.9 (Dodgers)||-32.9 (Devil Rays)||-27.6 (Padres)|
|2008||.878 (Angels)||-47 (Rockies)||-13.9 (Padres)||-39.6 (Rockies)||-51.2 (Rockies)|
|2009||.891 (Angels)||-35 (Royals)||-11.7 (Yankees)||-36 (Orioles)||-31.2 (Blue Jays)|
|2010||.855 (Red Sox)||-76 (Dodgers)||-9.6 (White Sox)||-41.1 (Dodgers)||-52 (Dodgers)|
|2011||.897 (Orioles)||-41 (Phillies)||-12 (White Sox)||-40.5 (Orioles)||-46.2 (Mets)|
|2012||.897 (Jays)||-35 (Mets)||-13.2 (Pirates)||-24.7 (Nationals)||-31.2 (Mets)|
|2013||.895 (Rockies)||-70 (Mariners)||-22.9 (Cardinals)||-48.1 (Twins)||-58.8 (Mariners)|
|2014||.879 (Rockies)||-50 (Twins)||-12.3 (Astros)||-43.3 (Indians)||-39.9 (Indians)|
|2015||.833 (Padres)||-13 (Padres)||-5.7 (Padres)||-12.9 (Padres)||-18.7 (Padres)|
In every category, the Padres rank dead last. Their arms are horrible, and according to DRS, their outfield has cost the team 13 runs. More worrying however, is the unfortunate future this paints for the Padres. In the ten seasons of compiled data, only 10.2 percent of these teams made the playoffs; while just one was able to win the World Series.
In 2009, the year the Yankees won the fall classic, they ranked last in ARM and 22nd in DRS. Despite a few similarities, the Yankees truly don't compare to the 2015 Padres. New York's offense was far superior, and had the ability to hide a poor defender like Hideki Matsui in the DH slot. Just one other team on this list made the World Series, and that was the 2013 Cardinals. While they still grade out better than the Padres, it's a much more comparable lineup than with the Yankees.
|wRC+||2015 Padres||2013 Cardinals||SD-STL differential|
|C||134 (Norris)||133 (Molina)||+1|
|1B||144 (Alonso)||134 (Craig)||+10|
|2B||72 (Gyorko)||146 (Carpenter)||-74|
|SS||65 (Amarista)||49 (Kozma)||+16|
|3B||73 (Middlebrooks)||105 (Freese)||-32|
|OF||141 (Upton)||147 (Holliday)||-6|
|OF||133 (Myers)||131 (Beltran)||+2|
|OF||89 (Kemp)||103 (Jay)||-14|
Taking Kemp out of the equation, Myers and Upton are fairly close to matching the production of Holliday and Beltran. While the defense and outfield production is close, that is seemingly the only major comparison to the NLCS champions.
The Padres currently sit in second place with a record of 19-17, just four games behind the Dodgers. Preller has done an amazing job in turning the team around in a single offseason and should be highly praised; but his defense may prevent the team from making a playoff run. Of those 78 teams since 2006, no team has ever had an outfield this atrocious. Depending on how the season progresses, it will be interesting to see if the defensive ineptitude becomes an issue, and forces a trade of someone like Yonder Alonso; which would enable Myers to play first while simultaneously opening an outfield slot.
San Diego's new outfield has helped their offense score the most runs through the Padres 36 games since 2001, but cannot prevent runs to save their lives. If Kemp can pick up his production, it may become less of an issue, but as of now outfield defensive is a red flag for San Diego.
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All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs
Matt Goldman is a Featured Writer for Beyond the Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @TheOriginalBull.