May is over, and what a May it was in San Diego. The Padres won 22 games this past month, four more than the next highest team. In second place, the Rangers, White Sox and Cardinals all accrued 18 wins.
I’ve been playing with graphs again, so I thought it would be nice to graph the Padres’ strengths and weaknesses over the past two months, particularly compared to the competition. Really, if I wanted to just talk about the Padres, I’d present tables of numbers instead of graphs. But by looking at these graphs, you can follow your favorite team as well. In other words, this article can act as a template for you to investigate any team you’d like. Let me know if you find this useful.
The Graphical Padres
As you can see, the Padres have been on a roll in the NL West, moving from a spot barely above last place to a solid first place standing in one month:
The following graph looks at their 10-game running averages in wins, runs scored and runs allowed. The pitching had a nice streak in mid-May, but it’s been the hitting that has driven the Pads.
Here’s a closer look at their hitting prowess. The Padres have the second-most at bats with runners in scoring position, and the highest batting average with runners in scoring position. That’s a powerful combination. Although their home run total (shown by the size of the circle around each team) is about average, remember that they play in a park that only reluctantly yields the long ball.
You can read more about this graph (and see last year’s version) in this article.
This is the other “how teams score runs” graph from our Teams section, with on-base percentage on the horizontal axis and Isolated Power on the vertical axis. As you can see, the Padres’ on-base percentage is very strong—second only to the Phillies.
By the way, the line on this graph usually points up, because teams that are good at one batting metric tend to be good at the other. Teams like the Padres, Phillies and Cubs, however, have turned that line upside down so far this year.
Let me digress with a table instead of a graph, breaking out some key batting metrics for San Diego’s top batters (Runs Created/Game, Batting with Runners in Scoring Position and OBP):
Player(s) RC/G BA/RSP OBP 2004 2005 2004 2005 2004 2005 Giles B. 6 9 .267 .326 .374 .422 Klesko R. 7 6 .300 .220 .399 .376 Loretta M. 7 6 .288 .412 .391 .388 Payton/Roberts 5 7 .296 .458 .326 .357 Nevin P. 7 5 .316 .288 .368 .297 Hernandez R. 5 5 .228 .362 .341 .337 Burroughs S. 5 4 .311 .276 .348 .346 Long/Nady 4 6 .220 .273 .335 .358 Greene K. 6 8 .263 .310 .349 .345 Blum G. 5 .222 .333
Brian Giles is producing 50% more runs per game than last year, and Dave Roberts has been an upgrade over Jay Payton in all three categories. In particular, Roberts has batted very well with runners in scoring position, as have Hernandez and Loretta.
Two weeks ago, I noted that the Padres were 10-0 in close games (games decided by one or two runs) in May. I always feel a little funny pointing out that sort of thing, because it sounds like I mean to cheapen their record. I don’t, really. A win is most definitely a win. And just because a team has been lucky in close games doesn’t mean that team will later become unlucky in close games.
The Padres, who finished the month 12-2 in close games for May, are good in close games for a particular reason: their bullpen. Baseball Prospectus tracks the Win Expectancy Added for each major league reliever, and I’ve added up the totals for each team into the following graph:
Baseball Prospectus essentially ranks each reliever’s WPA compared to replacement level, and also adjusts for quality of the hitter. The top Padre relievers in this category are Trevor Hoffman (1.55), Scott Linebrink (1.30) and the forever-young Chris Hammond (0.95).
So there you have the winning formula for the Padres: very good OBP and getting runners into scoring position, hitting in the clutch, and winning close ballgames (thanks partially to a strong bullpen). Of course, we haven’t discussed the Padres’ starting pitching, which has been below average outside of potential Cy Young candidate (in a Clemens-less league, anyway) Jake Peavy. But a third of the way into the 2005 season, the Padres are one of our top stories.
The Other League
Many of these graphs are available for all teams in our Teams section, but a few of them aren’t published regularly. So, as a public service, here are a couple of graphs replicated for the junior league.
First, here’s a graph of each team’s performance regarding getting runners into scoring position, batting with runners in scoring position, and hitting home runs. Last year, the Angels were on the right-hand side of this graph.
And here is the relative prowess of each team’s bullpen, as measured by Baseball Prospectus’ Win Expectancy Added. Last year, the Red Sox were fourth-best in bullpen WPA.
Not quite 10 graphs, as I said. But pretty close.