The Underdog Story Waiting to Happen: How the Padres Can Make the Playoffs in 2018

(Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)

DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this article do not represent the opinions of, well, anyone, but let’s dive into how the impossible could be possible anyway.

The greatest thing about sports is the relative uncertainty going into any new season. Everyone is 0-0 again. Every single team is in the hunt. Every team is at full strength and every squad is ready to battle it out for the chance of playing for a World Series title.

It is silly to assume that any team is a non-contender before the season even starts. All one has to do is look back into sports history and relive some of the greatest underdog stories.

The most recent and most amazing underdog that comes to mind is Leicester City in 2015-2016. Their odds of winning the Premier League were 5,000-1 before the season began. Anyone crazy enough to bet on them with those odds was likely checked into a mental institution by their friends the following day.

That crazy bloke who did bet on Leicester City is now a millionaire.

Traveling even further back in history, one will find the amazing story of the 1969 New York Mets. In 1967 they had suffered a brutal year, losing 101 games. Two years later they found themselves nearly flipping that record and winning 100 games. As is the theme of this piece, they were major underdogs against the Orioles in the World Series, who touted three future Hall of Famers. Somehow, someway, the Mets were able to complete their miracle season with a World Series title.

These instances are certainly rare, but they do happen occasionally. Do I honestly believe the Padres can win the World Series in 2018? Of course not. Do I think it is possible that they sneak into the playoffs somehow? It is possible. Let’s discuss.

Everything, and I mean absolutely everything, has to go the Padres way for them to find themselves in a NL Wild Card playoff game. First and foremost, none of their top tier players can end up on the DL for any significant period of time. The players I am referring to include; Wil Myers, Manuel Margot, Hunter Renfroe, Austin Hedges, and Dinelson Lamet. It has flown under the radar of the national media, but the Padres have suffered their fair share of key injuries over the years. Not that it has mattered in recent seasons.

Second, the Padres need to have breakout years from a number of different players — specifically Hedges and Renfroe. Both of these young bucks have had their struggles at the plate, but they have also shown a lot of promise. If Myers and Margot are doing their job setting the table at the top of the lineup and Hedges and Renfroe find their stride in 2018, this offense could be sneaky dangerous.

On a similar note, the offense cannot slump all at once. The Padres have had atrocious offenses over the last five years, finding themselves in the cellar of nearly every team offensive category. Players are going to end up in offensive droughts, but it is imperative that this not act as an epidemic in the lineup. The saying goes, “hitting is contagious”, but the reciprocal is also true. Baseball is not fun when your team can’t score runs. On the bright side, the Padres have a fresh face in Matt Stairs to guide these young hitters in 2018. One can only hope he brings a new, unique philosophy to San Diego that resonates well.

The Padres are going to also need a ton of help from teams around the league and within their own division. As it stands right now, the Dodgers are the favorites to win the division. The Giants have reloaded their roster with some veterans, but it has yet to be seen if this strategy will yield positive results. The Rockies and D-Backs also had successful campaigns last year so the Padres would need for them to go through some weird, unlikely degression. Hey, it could happen.

Credit: AP Photo

Essentially, they need for the Dodgers to run away with the division while beating up on the Rockies, D-Backs, and Giants. They also have to pull their own weight to remain competitive in the wild card hunt. Taking a look back at three years worth of wild card winners, the average amount of wins between those 12 teams was ~90. Thus, the Padres would need to win 20 more games than they did this past year in order to have a chance.

Unlikely would be an understatement. Improbable is more appropriate. However, we do not have to go very far back to find another MLB team accomplish the improbable. Just last year the Minnesota Twins were able to secure a playoff berth after a season in which they lost 103 games. These things DO happen.

Finally, the Padres need some sort of catalyst to shine. I myself am still unsure what I mean by this, but with every miracle, there is always some factor that proves to be crucial but that nobody saw coming. Whether it is a player or particular game or a coach, something has to give. If I were to make a prediction, it would have to be a young pitcher the Padres bring up early in the season. Every year there is a team that brings up a player who immediately produces. It is about time that the Padres are that team.

There are a million other factors that need to bounce the Padres way for them to even have the slimmest of chances of making the playoffs. Nevertheless, we cannot count out our guys until the dust has settled halfway through the season. The players do not go into a new season with the mentality that they are going to lose 100 games (at least we hope they don’t). They go in wanting to win it all. In the famous words of Kevin Garnett, “ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE!”.

Yes, it would be crazy to place any sort of bets on the Padres this year. I highly advise against that. But the world of sports is crazy. Upsets happen. Underdogs win championships. Reigning dynasties fade and new dynasties are born. Crazier things have happened. Maybe it is our time to be struck by some divine power. Why not us?

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Tanner Wrape on Twitter
Tanner Wrape
Hey everyone! My name is Tanner Wrape and I am a proud alumni of the University of California Riverside. I received my Bachelors Degree in Psychology with a Minor in Political Science. I am now living in Washington, D.C. getting my Masters Degree in Forensic Psychology at George Washington University. Currently, I am interning at the George Washington Program on Extremism which is a think-tank dedicated to better understanding terrorism, extremist ideologies and radicalization.

While my work deals with some heavy topics, sports have always been a great way to wind down and relax. I have been a fan of the Padres since I was a little kid and I played baseball up through high school. Hit me up on Twitter if you ever want to chat about anything.

This article has 6 Comments

  1. Well, Leceister, at least from what I can gather, had a fairly complete squad, my guess is they also played good fundamentally. We do not. Team hitting is awful, so even if we get some decent pitching, I don’t know. Myers, Hedges, and Renfroe all need to start hitting for average and learning to get on base. I have my doubts on all three doing any of that. Myers is regressing at a very bad time and Hedges needs to be more than simply a good defensive catcher, we don’t have the firepower to make hitting .210-.220 okay. If things do not develop for a few of these guys offensively this year it’s going to be a little scary going forward- it also signals what’s been true for a while, our coaching and player development continues to be suspect.

  2. I have no idea who this soccer team is at all. But this team (Padres) made this leap from 95 (4th place) to winning the division in 96. We need to score more but mainly we need to play better defense and pitch much better. I believe this is very possible. The starting rotation is made up ,of youngsters, no names, and and a veteran innings eater, 2 of the 5 are ground ball type pitchers who rely on defense. Galvis will help there. Lamet is legit. I think that Matt Strahm, Tyson Ross, and Bryan Mitchell will do much better than anyone predicts. Our bullpen is a strength. I agree Cordero could be a player that reaches his potential this season. I look for continued improvement by Margot, Renfroe, and Hedges. I think we will get help from platoons at 3B and 2B. WE need to play better on the road and within our division. Finishing between 81-90 wins will be a huge step in the right direction for this entire organization.

  3. Better yet, get creative with pitching. With all of the pitchers the Padres have signed this is the time to use the 3,3,3 rotation or once through the opposing lineup per pitcher. What’s to lose, maybe something to gain?

    1. Eh. I’d rather them do a 6 man rotation throughout the year. Keeps the young guys arms healthy while they develop and mature.

  4. Switch out Myers for Asuaje or Spangy at the top of the lineup and this looks a lot better. Also add Cordero to the breakout list. If he and Renfroe play up to their loud tools look out. A outfield of Cordero Marot and Renfroe could be amazing. Or Pirela Margot and a Renfroe/Cordero platoon even.

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