Padres’ Few Bright Spots Helped Hand Earn All-Star Bid

For the second straight season, Brad Hand will be participating in the mid-summer classic as the San Diego Padres’ All-Star representative.

Hand has enjoyed a stellar first half to the season with a 2.91 ERA, 64 strikeouts, and 24 saves. In addition, he is holding batters to a .201 batting average and has generated 64 groundouts and pop-ups that turned into outs combined. The Padres closer is as good as it gets when it comes to sealing the deal.

Hand’s numbers stacked up nicely in comparison to the other closers that are in the top 20 of the saves category in the entire MLB. Among the top 20 closers, he is fourth in saves, third in strikeouts, ninth in lowest batting average, eighth in groundouts and pop-ups combined, and faced the second most batters (181) in closing situations. That means that Hand is giving batters the blues as soon as they stand in the batter’s box.

On a national scale, the left-handed thrower goes under-the-radar, but he is the man in San Diego. Hand is much-deserving of his second All-Star nod, but it was a team effort in getting him the recognition he deserves.

Optimism in the Offseason

Hand had to overcome a slow start to his career with the Miami Marlins, but looked like a rejuvenated man when he joined the Padres in 2016. The Chaska native earned his first All-Star bid in 2017 and finished the season with a 2.16 ERA, 21 saves, and 104 K’s.  A.J. Preller and the Padres brass took note of Hand’s performances.

As a result, San Diego rewarded him with a three-year extension worth $19.75 million in January. Recognizing they had a stud in Hand was key for the Friars as he is proving to be a worthwhile investment.

Potent Pitching

The pitchers ahead of Hand have set him up nicely like room service delivery.

Clayton Richard and Tyson Ross are the aces for the Padres. They bring a towering presence to the mound and are capable of going six or seven innings strong. They lead the team in strikeouts with 180 total. They have both flirted with the franchise’s first perfect game at some point during the season.

Eric Lauer and Joey Lucchesi are two youngsters showing a great deal of promise. Lauer is fourth on the team in strikeouts with 64 and Lucchesi has a 3.27 ERA. Lauer nearly pulled off an unblemished performance ironically on July 10 against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The bullpen has been bullish at times as they have stepped up in big spots during the middle of games or even combining forces to start. This group won a 3-1 contest on June 6 against an NL playoff hopeful Atlanta Braves squad. Craig Stammen and Adam Cimber have held hitters to a total of three homers combined while Matt Strahm is posting the second-lowest ERA (2.67) among the Padres’ relievers.

Lastly, Kirby Yates has been a gift from the baseball gods as he has been dastardly to batters as the set-up man. He owns the lowest ERA (1.51) among the Padres’ relievers. He leads the team in WAR (1.4), good for ninth in the NL among bridge-gap pitchers. Also, his ERA places him eighth among NL relievers in at least 30 innings of work. Yates could have very well been an All-Star himself.

When given the chance, Hand has been able to shut the door on opponents.

Hot Hitting

The Padres have some players capable of going yard or simply accumulating hit-after-hit.

Eric Hosmer was brought in during the offseason to help guide the young Friars with his steady presence. He is batting .256 and leads the team in hits with 89. With at least 200 plate appearances, Jose Pirela leads the team with a .261 batting average. Lastly, Freddy Galvis has been a cool customer as well with 30 RBI in addition to his picturesque defense.

Wil Myers has been a revelation since returning as he is batting a sizzling hot .298 on the season. In the last week, he leads the majors with six home runs in four games! The same could be said for Austin Hedges who is batting .368 with two long bombs during that same seven-day span.

Meanwhile, Christian Villanueva adds to the power-hitting as he leads all rookies with 17 homers and is third in RBI with 41. He leads the Padres with those numbers.

San Diego is seventh in the majors in stolen bases (54), putting them in a position to win games. However, traditional stats do not tell the true story as to what kind of damage the Padres can inflict on their opponents.

With runners in scoring position with two outs, the Padres deliver the goods in comparison to the entire league. In that scenario, they are third in batting average (.265), fourth in extra base hits (38), fifth in slugging percentage (.436), sixth in hits (87), and 11th in RBI (109). Converting in those critical junctures make all the difference when Hand marches toward the mound.

Magical May

The month of May was marvelous for both the Padres and Hand. The Padres won 15 of their 28 contests, the most wins in any month for them so far.

Among closers, the 28-year-old was tied for the league lead in saves (11), had the most strikeouts (22), and the second lowest ERA (0.61) in May. As a result, he was named NL Reliever of the Month. Hand showcasing his talents in May could have been the everlasting memory needed that earned him his second All-Star selection.

It was truly a bit of a domino effect that led to Hand being named an All-Star for the second straight year. From top-to-bottom, the Padres should savor one of their guys being recognized as one of baseball’s bright stars.