Three reasons why the Padres aren’t likely to repeat last year’s September collapse

Three reasons why the Padres aren’t likely to repeat last year’s September collapse

Three reasons why the Padres aren’t likely to repeat last year’s September collapse: It looked like the 2021 San Diego Padres were on track to finish the season expectedly in the month of September. The Padres started the final month of the regular season 10 games above.500 and in the National League’s playoff picture.

Three reasons why the Padres aren't likely to repeat last year's September collapse: It looked like the 2021 San Diego Padres were on track
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For the most part, that was the expected outcome. The rejuvenated Padres had just had an impressive regular season in which they had their best-winning % in franchise history and advanced to the playoffs.

During the offseason following that, general manager A.J. Preller made additional risky moves to strengthen the team’s roster. Being 10 games over.500 heading into the last month of the regular season was a mild underachievement.

Unfortunately, the situation rapidly deteriorated. From September 1 to the end of the 2021 regular season, the Padres went 7-21 while being outscored by their opponents by 53 runs.

After losing any chance of making the playoffs with over a week left in the regular season, they sacked manager Jayce Tingler after only two years on the job. Further, it appears that Preller’s employment prospects have worsened.

The Padres were 14 games above.500 going into September a year later, putting them in playoff position. Manager Bob Melvin had led the team to a turnaround.

Naturally, San Diegans are crossing their fingers that the stretch drive doesn’t lead to another collapse like the one that happened in 2021.

Since September began, the Padres have improved both on the field and in the dugout, thanks to Melvin’s leadership. In addition, there are three reasons why a recurrence of last year’s catastrophe is unlikely, and a return to the playoffs seems likely. Let’s take a peek at the San Diego area’s bright spots right now.

1. The schedule is easier

The Padres’ remaining opponents this season have a.548 average winning percentage. That’s a challenging schedule, but it pales in comparison to what we faced last year. 

The Padres’ remaining opponents in 2021 have a cumulative winning percentage of.602 (!) as of September. It’s the equivalent of facing the Cardinals and the Mets for an entire month this year.

Last year, they faced up against the 107-win Giants and the 106-win Dodgers a combined 16 times in the month of September, and with the race for the NL West being as close as it was, both teams were motivated to win each and every one of those games. The Padres faced playoff-bound opponents in 25 of their 28 September games last year.

Another interesting fact is that of the Padres’ final 28 games in 2021, just 11 were played at Petco Park. Eighteen of their final thirty games are at home this season. The future isn’t going to be a bed of roses, but it’s certainly easier than what they faced in the catastrophe of September 2021.

2. The rotation is in better shape

Now that we’re well into September, the San Diego rotation is at full strength:

Joe Musgrove

Yu Darvish

Mike Clevinger

Blake Snell

Sean Manaea

This is in stark contrast to how things were during the end of the previous season. Observe how the Padres distributed their 28 September starts among their pitchers in 2021:

Darvish, six starts

Musgrove, six starts

Vince Velasquez, four starts

Jake Arrieta, three starts

Snell, two starts

Chris Paddack, two starts

Reiss Knehr, two starts

Pedro Avila, one start

Ryan Weathers, one start

Pierce Johnson, one start (bullpen game) 

The Padres’ rotation has been as consistent as ever since September 1 of last year, when they utilized 10 different starters in a row for the first time since the start of the 2022 season.

The aforementioned five starters had a 3.86 ERA and a 3.69 K/BB ratio this season. Including any purchases made in the offseason, Manaea will not be starting the next game after a terrible second half and will likely wind up in the bullpen if his team makes the playoffs (assuming the Padres make it there).

After removing Darvish, Musgrove, and Snell from the equation, the remaining Padres pitchers who made starts in September of 2021 had an ERA of 5.55. Clevinger missed all of 2021 while recovering from Tommy John’s surgery. Unless there is a sudden spate of injuries, they won’t be using a pitcher in decline like Jake Arrieta in crucial games.

3. There’s no Fernando Tatis Jr., but there is Juan Soto (and Ha-Seong Kim)

Star shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. hasn’t played yet this season and won’t until the end of the year due to a wrist injury he suffered in the offseason and an 80-game suspension he received for a performance-enhancing drug violation.

Although Tatis was a mainstay in the Padres’ starting lineup last September, he won’t play any part this time. The Padres got their headline-grabbing deadline addition, Juan Soto, so that’s fantastic news.

Although Soto’s performance since the blockbuster deal has not been up to his usual standards, he has been quite productive and can raise his game whenever he wants.

Ha-Seong Kim, who replaced Tatis at shortstop, has been spectacular this year. On top of being an outstanding asset on the field, his 107 OPS+ at the plate is impressively high for a shortstop.

Statcast places Kim in the 86th percentile for Outs Above Average, while Baseball Info Solutions places him in the top 10 among shortstops with a 7.0 runs saved rating. When everything is considered, Kim’s current WAR of 4.0 is second on the Padres, only behind Manny Machado. Not quite as good as Tatis can get, but close enough.

Due to the aforementioned factors, a recurrence of the miserable final quarter experienced last season is unlikely. Sure, anything is possible, but all signals point to 2022 for the Padres’ return to the postseason.

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