It is extremely difficult to compare the San Diego Padres and the Arizona Diamondbacks due to their polar opposite ballparks. Chase Field has become
one of the most hitter-friendly venues in Major League Baseball, while PETCO
Park suppresses scoring more than any other ballpark around, bar none. As
a result, many solid San Diego hitters appear to be liabilities, while
league-average Diamondback pitchers seem very hittable indeed.
Let us attempt to sift through the smoke in our position-by-position
Padres - Josh Bard, Ryan Bowen
- Miguel Montero, Chris Snyder
Josh Bard enjoyed a phenomenal offensive 2006 season splitting time with Mike Piazza. But Neither Bard nor his backup Ryan Bowen has displayed a
throwing arm significantly better than Piazza's much lamented sling.
Stolen bases are a big part of any offensive attack at PETCO Park, and the
Padres may have trouble preventing them, perhaps negating the plus offense that
The Diamondbacks' catchers are more well-rounded. Montero and Snyder
are solid on both sides of the ball, but spectacular on neither.
Padres - Adrian Gonzalez
- Conor Jackson
Conor Jackson and Adrian Gonzalez are two similar players who can be
considered among the game's most promising young hitters. Jackson was born
only the day before Gonzalez was, and both men stand at a solidly built 6'2"
tall. The Friars' first baseman bats left-handed with more power, while
Conor Jackson hits from the right side and shows better strike zone judgment.
Comparing each of their first full seasons in a vacuum, the two are about
even. But taking into account those home ballparks, the power that
Gonzalez displayed was simply incredible.
Padres - Marcus Giles
- Orlando Hudson
Marcus Giles has steeply declined both offensively and defensively since
2003. As primarily a line drive hitter, PETCO Park should not devastate
him, but it's difficult to see Giles completely turning his career direction
And face it, Padres fans - Giles would need to approach that 2003 performance
to hold steady with Orlando Hudson, one of the best all-around second basemen
Padres - Kevin Kouzmanoff
- Chad Tracy
Kouzmanoff joins the Rockies' Troy Tulowitzki and the Diamondbacks' Chris Young as favorites to win the Rookie of the Year Award from the NL West.
PETCO plays into a huge handicap for the Padre third baseman, but since
Kouzmanoff led all of the minor leagues in slugging last season, he may still be
up to the task.
Chas Tracy once carried the same promise as Kouzmanoff, but appears to be
headed for an early decline. His body is struggling to cope with the
rigors of manning third base as opposed to right field or first base. The D'Backs
are set at those positions; they need Tracy to prove that he can handle the hot
corner on both sides of the ball.
Padres - Khalil Greene
- Stephen Drew
Did you know that Greene has 32 career homers in 708 at bats away from PETCO?
With his above average defense, he would be a major star in nearly any other
ballpark (particularly Coors Field, were he has clubbed 11 dingers in 109 at bats).
Stephen Drew hits well for average, but slugged just .391 outside of Chase
Field and doesn't draw walks anywhere. This is probably the comparison
most affected by those park factors. Even if Drew were able to make huge
strides on offense this year, Greene would still beat him with the glove.
Padres - Todd Walker, Geoff Blum, Russell Branyan
- Alberto Callaspo
Alberto Callaspo is an incredible utility player, but what happens if he,
Drew, Tracy, or Hudson gets injured? Suddenly the Diamondbacks look
razor-thin. Mark Reynolds had a breakthrough season last year, and could
be a dynamite role player by 2008, but probably isn't ready right now.
Conversely, the Padres have a well-stocked bench of extremely versatile
players. Walker and Branyan are good enough hitters to start for many
Padres - Brian Giles, Mike Cameron, Terrmel Sledge, Jose Cruz Jr.
Diamondbacks - Eric Byrnes, Carlos Quentin, Chris Young
The Padres had a world-class outfield defense last year, which ought to
degrade slightly with the loss of Dave Roberts and the aging of Brian Giles.
Some people believe that the addition of Marcus Giles could revitalize Brian,
and if that happens, these Padres would be awesome. But because of the
Jose Cruz Jr. signing - one of the offseason's best deals - the Padres have that
insurance in case everything doesn't go perfectly.
With three first-year starters, the Diamondbacks run an even greater risk of
having things go wrong, and this has already begun with Carlos Quentin's small
Labrum tear. Their insurance policy is dodgy, with Jeff DaVanon
likely to begin the season on the DL and disgruntled Scott Hairston also lacking a
history of success at the majors. Diamondbacks have more upside,
Padres have more stability.
Top of the Rotation
Padres - Jake Peavy, Chris Young, Greg Maddux, Clay Hensley
Diamondbacks - Brandon Webb, Randy Johnson, Livan Hernandez, Doug Davis
Going pitcher-by-pitcher, we can gauge potential Cy Young winners Brandon
Webb and Jake Peavy as rough equals. Future Hall of Famers Maddux and Johnson
appear about even, as The Big Unit should dominate a bit more, while Mad Dog should
throw more innings. Hensley, Hernandez, and Davis are nearly equivalent
innings-eaters, though Hensley will post a better ERA in his pitcher-friendly
ballpark. It is fly ball specialist Chris Young who outclasses whomever
you try to match him up against from the Diamondbacks staff.
The home ballparks will make the front four appear to be a huge advantage for the
Padres, when it's really just a moderate edge.
Bottom of the Rotation
Padres - David Wells, Mike Thompson Shawn Estes
Diamondbacks - Enrique Gonzalez, Dustin Nippert, Micah Owings
Pitching depth is an area of concern for San Diego. The franchise
considers a possible July return from Shawn Estes to act like a welcome
midseason acquisition rather than a probable burden. There's no telling
how many starts the team can get out of Wells before he ceases to fit through
the clubhouse doors. Mike Thompson has perhaps the worst stuff in a
pitching staff laden with control artists.
Meanwhile, the Diamondbacks have several options that could pan out as even
better than the solid pitcher that most teams want from their fifth starter's
slot. They are also far better equipped to handle injuries here than the
Padres - Trevor Hoffman, Scott Linebrink, Cla Meredith,
Scott Strickland, Scott Cassidy
- Jose Valverde, Jorge Julio, Juan Cruz, Tony Pena, Doug Slaten
The Diamondbacks boast a fine bullpen, but some of the best in the business
reside in San Diego. You know that Trevor Hoffman is one of the greatest
closers ever, and almost certainly the most consistent. Scott Linebrink
also has closer's stuff, and actually works more effectively against left-handed
batters. This is key, because Bud Black opens the season without a
southpaw in his pen, as he did for several seasons back in Anaheim.
If you could have one pitcher on the mound to get a tough right-hander out,
you should choose Cla Meredith. Meredith's unorthodox delivery helped him
hold righties to just 12 hits in 107 at bats last year (.107).
There are a lot of nods to the Padres in this analysis, but other than the
bullpen, these are narrow advantages, not glaring ones. One thing both of
these teams lack is a bona fide leadoff hitter, but that is likely to hurt the
Padres more, since they'll need to rely on small-ball tactics in their home
ballpark. Their defense can't possibly be as effective as it was last
season, either. The team has mostly added pop to the squad; it is not
well-built for its environment.
But this is a talented enough team to win a ton of games on the road this
year. They should be able to fend off the upstart Diamondbacks for one
more season, unless every one of the Diamondbacks' young players hits his stride
Next Week: Diamondbacks vs. Dodgers and Predicted Division Finish