San Diego Padres: Defense Matters

In order for the San Diego Padres to contend again, defense will need to become a point of emphasis. Proof that defense matters is in the numbers.

Defense has clearly not been a strength of the San Diego Padres thus far in general manager A.J. Preller’s tenure.

During his first year, the year the Padres “went for it,” the team had the second worst UZR (ultimate zone rating “attempting to quantify how many runs a player saved or gave up through their fielding prowess” as defined by FanGraphs) in all of baseball.

San Diego also rated a whopping -28 drs (defensive runs saved). In contrast, the World Series champion Royals rated +56 drs, proving that winning teams do need to catch the ball and throw the ball, not just hit the ball.

Last year, San Diego regressed to -32 drs, helped along by Alexei Ramirez’s performance at shortstop (-19 drs) and Ryan Schimpf ‘s UZR/150 of -11.6 at second base. Those two positions drastically need an upgrade especially since most of the potential starting pitchers on the roster tend to produce ground balls.

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Replacing Ramirez with Luis Sardinas at short has already upgraded that position, although Preller is reported to be looking for additional depth. In the meantime, Rule-5 draftee Allen Cordoba, a shortstop, complicates the situation, as he must stay on the big league roster all year in order to be retained. A healthy Cory Spangenberg would certainly improve the defense at second, as would Carlos Asuaje.

Of course the Padres would miss Ryan Schimpf’s offensive production, 20 home runs in 89 games. Moving him to third is no longer an option now that Yangervis Solarte has signed for two more years with the club. Also to be factored in, Schimpf had a worrying 105 strikeouts in 276 at bats.

The competition at both second and short will make spring training especially interesting. Plus, the decisions made by Preller and manager Andy Green will indicate the direction of the team, whether defense will be more of a priority than it has been in the recent past.

Just by way of comparison, the last year the Padres had a winning record (90 and 72 in 2010) the club’s defense rated at +53 drs. Defense matters indeed.

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