The starting pitching has been a welcome surprise this season. Here is a ranking of the Padres’ starting pitchers through 50 games.
The Padres’ starting pitchers rank 8th in baseball with a 3.82 ERA and 9th in FIP at 3.87. All in all, it has been an encouraging campaign for the young starting rotation to this point. Of course, it helps to have the current N.L. Rookie of the Year favorite, Chris Paddack, leading the charge.
Let’s rank the Padres’ starting pitchers who have started at least three games this season (sorry, Pedro Avila).
Margevicius was recently demoted to Double-A Amarillo after making nine starts with the Padres. He got off to a solid start, allowing just one earned run in each of his first three starts. But, in his last six starts, he has an ERA of 6.75 with an opponent’s batting average of .311. He allowed 11 earned runs in his last two starts combined.
He showed promise but overall, once the league adjusted to him, he was pitching over his head. His FIP is a team-high 5.97, which is even higher than his season ERA of 4.96. He had never thrown a pitch above High-A Lake Elsinore until this season. He had an impressive Spring Training to earn him a rotation spot but the Padres quickly found out he still has some seasoning, now in Double-A.
Quantrill has only made three starts but the returns have been mildly positive. His ERA is nothing spectacular (5.40) but looking deeper into the numbers, it may be more bad luck than bad pitching as his FIP is a solid 3.81 (league average is 4.20 with lower being better). In two of his three starts, he has allowed two earned runs. The sample size is still very small for Quantrill but FanGraphs has given him 0.3 WAR, which is fifth among the six regular Padres starters.
His major league debut against the Atlanta Braves was encouraging, throwing five-and-two-thirds innings with just two runs and one walk. He will not blow anyone away with his strikeout rate, but he gets outs. If he can keep his walk totals in check, he can be a nice boost for this rotation that has a looming problem with innings limits.
4. Eric Lauer
Lauer made a strong case to be higher on this list after Wednesday’s sparkling performance against the Diamondbacks, when he went seven innings and allowed just one run with zero walks. Lauer is much closer to slot number three than he is to Quantrill at five. He has a 3.94 FIP, which is fourth-best in the rotation as is his 0.7 WAR.
If it wasn’t for his eight-run blow-up against the Rockies earlier this month, his numbers would rival those in the upper slots of these rankings. In his two starts since then, he has a 1.42 ERA and 10 strikeouts without a walk. In most categories, Lauer has improved upon his 23 starts from last season. Last year, he had a 4.51 FIP with 3.7 walks per nine innings, now he is at 3.94 and 2.4 respectively.
Lucchesi got off to a blistering start this season, not allowing a run in his first 11 and one-third innings of work. Since then, it has been very up and down. His last start against the Pirates was one of the best starts of his season, going seven innings while allowing two runs with no walks and six strikeouts. That marked the second time he had pitched seven full innings this season, which is his career high.
Lucchesi actually has the second-lowest FIP in the rotation at 3.33 and the second-highest WAR at 0.9. He made a strong case to be the second-best pitcher in this rotation through 50 games. He has an ERA+ of 95, which is third-best in the rotation. At Petco Park, Lucchesi has a 2.83 ERA in six starts this season while he has struggled mightily on the road, at 8.10. However, he seems to be improving through the month of May, where he has a 3.12 ERA compared to April’s 4.94 mark.
2. Matt Strahm
Strahm has perhaps been the most pleasant surprise of the bunch so far this season. He entered Spring Training without a rotation spot locked up, pitching mostly as a reliever last season. After some diet and workout changes, Strahm seems ready for the workload this season and so far, the results show it. His 133 ERA+ is second-best in the rotation as is his 3.06 ERA. His walk rate is a microscopic 1.4 walks per nine innings, the best among Padres starters and second-best on the entire pitching staff. He recently went four straight starts without a walk.
He has a 3.09 ERA in four starts so far in May. If anything, Strahm has been one of the most reliable arms since his rough first start of the year, not allowing more than two runs in any start since. He is also the only Padres starter to pitch a full eight innings this season to this point, which he did back on April 19th against the Reds.
1. Chris Paddack
The most unsurprising ranking is Paddack at the top. He has performed like a true ace, not just the de facto “best pitcher in the rotation,” which does not make one an ace by default. Paddack leads the rotation in strikeouts per nine innings (9.8), ERA (1.93), FIP (2.73), WAR (1.4) and ERA+ (211). His WAR is the sixth-highest among pitchers in the National League and his FIP is ranked third in the league. His 211 ERA+ is second in all of baseball.
A recent MLB.com poll has Paddack as the current favorite for N.L. Rookie of the Year and it’s easy to see why. He has been one of the most dominating pitchers in baseball this season. Twice he has pitched at least seven shutout innings and he pitched into the eighth inning against the Mets while striking out 11. Paddack is quickly turning himself into one of the best pitchers in the league and the Padres have not had a pitcher like him perhaps since Cy Young winner Jake Peavy.