12 years ago today, the Padres clinched their first division title and playoff spot since 1998.
They actually clinched the N.L. West with a 79-79 record, the lowest winning percentage for a clinching division champion in major league history. The 2005 Padres finished 82-80.
Jake Peavy was the ace of the staff. He finished the year 13-7 with a 2.88 ERA with a National League-leading 216 strikeouts.
Brian Giles had perhaps his best year of his seven seasons as a Padre. He hit .301 with 15 home runs and 83 RBI.
The National League West hit an all-time low that year. The second place team was the Arizona Diamondbacks, who finished the year 77-85. The Padres were able to raise the N.L. West banner that year, but it certainly was a weak division.
Unfortunately, the Padres then walked into an N.L. Division Series matchup with the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals and their MVP, Albert Pujols. They were swept in three games handily.
The National League West is certainly much improved. In fact, three teams from the West will be in the playoffs if the Rockies can hold on to that second Wild Card spot. The Wild Card game will likely be the Diamondbacks vs. Rockies. This is a far cry from the mid-2000’s when the N.L. West was a laughingstock.
The Padres have some work to do if they have visions of keeping up with the top teams in the division. They cannot sit around and wait for the division to weaken like it did 12 years ago. The Dodgers have young superstars. The Diamondbacks aren’t ancient either, and the Rockies finally have pitching. If the Padres are going to win the division in the next five years, it will not be because the division is weak.
The Friars are hoping to have an ace a la Jake Peavy in their system somewhere. Perhaps it is Dinelson Lamet. Mackenzie Gore and Cal Quantrill also have the upside of a possible ace. The 2005 Padres hung their hat on reliable pitching. Aside from their ace Peavy, the Padres had a stout bullpen. Some guy named Trevor Hoffman was at the head of the bullpen arms. They also threw guys like Scott Linebrink and Akinori Otsuka out there who had some of the best seasons of their careers.
Although the division is vastly different, the formula is much of the same. Build around strong pitching. The Padres have some offensive pieces already developing at the highest level (Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, Carlos Asuaje). More and better players are on the way. The Friars are not short on arms coming up through the farm that could be feature players in a bullpen built for a playoff run.
A lot can be learned from the Padres of the mid-2000’s that enjoyed two consecutive division titles.
This Padre organization seems to be heading in that direction once again.