Why Can’t the Padres Get on Base?

Mandatory Credit: Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Credit: AP Photo

The San Diego Padres have not been able to get on base consistently. If the team wants to turn the offense around, it will take a higher team OBP.

Even though the Padres are above the .500 mark, the team has struggled to get on base with consistency.

The team ranks 29th in baseball with a .286 OBP, with only the lowly Marlins having a worse mark of .281 in the same category. How is a team with Manny Machado, Eric Hosmer, and multiple other exciting young hitters struggling so much to have very many baserunners? Further exacerbating the team’s issues in this regard, is that the team sports the lowest walk rate and highest strikeout rate in baseball.

On the one hand, we could say that this shows how much potential the team has offensively, in the sense that improving their plate discipline could drastically improve the team’s run production. On the flip side, these Padres hitters should have better plate discipline already. Players such as Manny Machado need to set the tone in the middle of the order, and simply aren’t making enough contact to get on base as often as they have previously. Machado is striking out at a rate of 21.1%, which is the highest of his career. As a player with seven seasons of big league experience in which he established himself as a superstar, he has to be better than this.

This isn’t just an issue with Machado, though. Franmil Reyes is striking out in 26% of his plate appearances, which is not ideal considering he’s batting second in the lineup in most games. Wil Myers is leading the league in strikeout percentage at 37.1%. The list goes on and on, but it isn’t the only issue for the team’s hitters. Equally concerning is the lack of walks being taken by the Padres’ batters.

Eric Hosmer hasn’t posted a lower walk rate (7.1%) since his rookie year in 2011. Sluggers Hunter Renfroe and Franmil Reyes are walking a combined 5.3% of the time, which is pretty dismal. The rookies aren’t doing any better, with Fernando Tatis Jr. only walking at a rate of 7.2%, for example. What does this say about the Padres’ team hitting as a whole?

It means this team is overly aggressive at the plate, which makes sense considering how little they walk, and how frequently they strike out. Here’s a look at the data of the team’s plate discipline thus far in 2019:

Swing% O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% Contact%
47.8%(5th) 31.6%(10th) 69.0%(7th) 58.1%(29th) 82.6%(28th) 73.4%(30th)

It’s very clear from the data above that many of the hitters in the Padres lineup would benefit from being more selective at the plate. Most concerning is the contact percentages the team has posted, which are largely due to the high swing rates they’ve had this season. Considering the talent this team has up and down the lineup, it’s surprising that they’re performing so poorly.

Perhaps this is simply the result of a team that is only really just getting started. Many of these players are young or relatively new to the team. Seven of the twelve position players on the active roster were not on the team before the 2018 season. Four of the Padres’ five infielders only just joined the team this season. Surely the Padres hope that it’s only a matter of time before the rookies and new acquisitions settle in and have more patience at the plate.

Credit: Padres

Eventually, it’s likely that the Padres will improve their plate discipline as a team, largely because of how young the team still is. Two of the team’s best young hitters in Franmil Reyes and Fernando Tatis Jr. are only 23 and 20 years old. For example, the 2015 Cubs and Astros teams posted the 29th and 30th contact percentages following the arrival of many of their top prospects. In many ways, the Padres are at the same stage of their development as Chicago and Houston were four years ago.

There are players such as Franmil Reyes and Fernando Tatis Jr. who have already flashed enormous potential for the team. They’ve been key to the team’s success despite their low number of walks, and tendencies to strike out. If the two could slightly improve their plate discipline, the Padres would already be in a significantly better place than they are now.

Going back to the Cubs example, it’s worth noting that Kris Bryant struck out in 30.6% of his plate appearances as a rookie. His career strikeout rate is 23.4%, which shows that over time, young stars can certainly cut down on how often they whiff.

Currently, the immaturity of the Padres’ lineup is showing itself more than ever, and that’s fine. The lack of plate discipline showed by the team thus far is illustrative of a team full of ambitious young players. The team is winning more than they have since 2010, and that’s the bottom line here. What’s so intriguing is the potential the team’s lineup has, and how they’ve managed to be fairly successful already. In spite of having a rather underwhelming lineup, the Padres are playing very competitive baseball. To become true contenders, they’ll have to be more disciplined in the batter’s box.

All Data in this article is courtesy of Fangraphs.

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Conrad Parrish
A sophomore at Willamette University in Oregon, Conrad is majoring in Spanish but is also a writing center assistant for other students at Willamette. He has been a Padres die-hard his whole life and hopes to bring comprehensible statistical analysis to the site.

1 thought on “Why Can’t the Padres Get on Base?

  1. The short answer is the players mostly suck. And Andy Green hasn’t help matters by batting Kinsler leadoff and Hosmer second for most of the season.
    Machado is fine, Tatis has been great, and Reyes will likely improve.
    The others? Not so much.
    The organization could send a message by demoting Margot; and by benching Myers and Hedges.

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