Baseball is a wonderful game. It can make you cry sending you into the depths of despair when your team lets you down. On the flip side, the smile that emerges when your team emerges victorious — there’s not much that compares to that. Another wonderful aspect of the game is that it continues to bring forth intriguing stories. One of those story-lines as we get ready to kick off the second half of the 2010 season is The Curious Case of Vicente Padilla.
Padilla is an enigma. On his best days he is nearly impossible to hit with an assortment of hard, darting stuff, that is complimented by a 65 mph curveball. On his worst days he fails to throw strikes, looks lost on the hill, loses his focus, and can get battered by the opposition. This season for the Dodgers we’ve mostly seen the “good” Padilla. The question before us is this: which Padilla is gonna show up in the second half?
Since returning from the DL has had made five appearances. If we remove his first outing in which he gave up four runs in 5.1 innings, Padilla has pitched well enough to shame Clayton Kershaw. In those four starts, besides going 3-1, Vicente has lasted at least 6.2 innings each time, has allowed two or fewer runs each time (1.57 ERA), and has been electric with 27 strikeouts compared to a mere three walks. That’s pretty damn impressive.
Let’s take a look at Padilla’s work in 2010 compared to his career level of achievement.
2010: 8.73 K/9, 1.62 BB/9, 5.40 K/BB
Career: 6.30 K/9, 3.16 BB/9, 1.99 K/BB
Are you kidding with this? Pitchers don’t add two strikeouts to their career average in their 12th season at 33 years of age. The also don’t cut their walk rate in half. Furthermore, Padilla has never had K/9 rate above 7.70, has only one season above 7.0 the past eight years, and hasn’t seen a BB/9 mark below 3.15 since 2004. This data clearly points to his first half success being a fluke.
2010: 17/47/46 (Line drive, ground ball, fly ball rates)
This one is almost as crazy as the strikeout and walk rates. Padilla, who owns a 1.37 GB/FB ratio is his career, is all the way down at 0.80 this season. He’s also got a career low line drive mark (it’s never been below 18.4 percent), while his fly ball rate is astronomical (more than 12 percentage points above his career level). This clearly isn’t a change for the better. When that line drive rate increases, and his BABIP (.264) rises (it’s .301 for his career and has been over that mark each of the past four seasons), the ratios will adjust.
2010: 4.04 ERA, 1.02 WHIP
Career: 4.32 ERA, 1.38 WHIP
Padilla hasn’t posted an ERA below his career average since 2003. Think about that. For each of the past six years he hasn’t even been Padilla average which, by the way, is pretty poor. In fact, the past six years his ERA has been 4.74 which is worse than the league average of 4.40. As for his WHIP, he has been league average there for his entire career. He’s also failed to post a mark better than his career average since 2004 while each of the last three seasons he has been at 1.64, 1.46 and 1.43. He just isn’t going to be able to keep up his current pace, no way, no how.
Hopefully you’ve been paying attention. Vicente Padilla is on a wonderful hot streak right now that means he could easily be a valuable member of your starting rotation – for the moment. Sooner or later, and I’m betting sooner, his production will revert to his previous established level of mediocrity, so take my advice and play up his recent hot spell to deal him to an unsuspecting league mate who is unacquainted with the analysis we’ve just been through.
By Ray Flowers