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The Padres’ little victories

The San Diego Padres are probably going to finish the season below .500, but there they do have bright moments in a game that can sometimes be overwhelmingly dim. In other words, not everything sucks.

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

The Padres are not great. I know, I know, what a really controversial observation. They have the third-worst record in baseball, sitting pretty at 18-32 after Saturday’s loss to the Nationals. Their staff has the highest HR/FB ratio in the majors (16.5 percent), matched with a roster that’s third in strikeout rate (24.1 percent) and 28th in total runs scored (172). Barring a serious turnaround, the Padres will likely end the season below .500. So how does a team go to the ballpark every day knowing they will more than likely lose?

Their manager, Andy Green, says he encourages guys to focus on the little victories. Finding aspects within the game where they excel regardless of whether there’s a W or an L on the board for them at the end of the day. Specifically, he noted:

“You have to create something special inside the house so guys will guard their minds, guard their focus and show up every day to play. Without a doubt, it’s a challenge, but a challenge I welcome every single day. ... I wake up and get excited about helping the group of guys I’ve got become the best version of themselves.”

I went to the ballpark today and watched Stephen Strasburg strike out 15 Padres over seven innings. As they leave and prepare to return to the ballpark tomorrow, I wonder what they’re focusing on. What is the “good” in a season that sometimes can be just as frustrating as it is amazing? I wanted to find it, so I found just some of the interesting stuff about the Padres offense:

Allen Córdoba

Last season, the Cardinals stole pitcher Matt Bowman from the Mets as a Rule-5 pick. While they benefited last year, this year they got burned when they left Allen Córdoba exposed. The Padres scooped him up, and all factors considered, he is doing a very good job.

In 85 plate appearances, he has made significant contributions, posting a .350 wOBA and 118 wRC+. Now, it is really early, but he was pretty far down in the minors before the Padres had to call him up. He’s riding a relatively high .362 BABIP and is currently listed as a pretty heavy ground ball hitter (he has 47.5 percent grounders versus 30.5 percent fly balls), which works well for someone with his speed.

Defensively, the team believes he could be a “super utility” type of player who is equally comfortable at shortstop and center field — to which Córdoba says, “I’m going to give it my all wherever they put me.”

No. 3 and Cleanup

The Padres have some good, interesting hitters in addition to Córdoba. Their first baseman and primary three-hole hitter, Wil Myers, has the 22nd-highest ISO in the NL (.245). Their second baseman and sometimes cleanup guy, Yangervis Solarte, has the sixth-lowest strikeout rate in baseball (10.2 percent). Ryan Schimpf, their third baseman and also sometimes cleanup guy, is tied for 10th in baseball with a walk rate of 15.5 percent to go along with his .275 ISO, which is good for 13th in the NL.

Let’s not forget that Myers hit for the cycle last month!

We all sort leaderboards the same way, and I don’t know about you, but I was not expecting to see so many Padres hitters on the first page, especially since Petco Park isn’t exactly a great place to hit. Qualifying top-30 in anything in the major leagues is a hard day’s work done right.

Solid baserunning

As a Cardinals fan, I appreciate teams who can run the bases without looking like Dora the Explorer minus a map. In Saturday’s game the Padres didn’t do anything stupid, and at the end of the day that seems to be the real secret to baserunning.

Fangraphs’ UBR stat discounts speed to focus on good versus bad baserunning decisions and their outcomes. The more calculated the risk, the better the score. There are three Padres in the NL’s top-25 UBR scores:

  • Manuel Margot (ninth)
  • Erick Aybar (10th)
  • Austin Hedges (25th)

As comprehensive baserunning scores go, Aybar is tied for 15th in the NL, while Margot squeaks in there at 28th.

BP seems to at least agree that the Padres have the ability to shine on the bases. Baseball Prospectus lists Wil Myers at #30 in their BRR stat, and also in “air advancement.” He tags up frequently and is good at taking the extra base, as is Solarte, who pops in at #22 on that list.

The Padres are not a great team. More often than not, they can’t seem to put the pieces together to win. But as Andy Green said, focusing on the good makes it easier to enjoy work and for us to enjoy watching them play. Whether it’s someone like Solarte who will likely be gone by the trade deadline or Córdoba who is just happy to be playing in the majors, they do contribute, and it’s entertaining. So cheers for the little victories — and knucks for good baserunning.

. . .

Audrey Stark is a Contributor at Beyond the Box Score. You can follow her on Twitter @highstarksunday.