The Rockies begin a three-game series against the San Diego Padres tonight. The pitching matchups are Francis and Eaton for the first game, Wright and Redding for the second, and Jennings and Peavy for the Wednesday day game. Colorado may feel as if they’ve stepped through the looking glass at Petco Park, which by all accounts absolutely stops offenses dead. The NL West must have the strangest home ballpark divide in the bigs, with Dodger Stadium and SBC Park also playing as pitchers’ parks and Bank One being an extreme hitters’ stadium. Coors, of course, belongs in a category by itself.
Popular mythology in San Diego has it that the Padres are completely psyched out by the faraway fences at their new roundball palace. Rational analysis indicated that the team really just has a bunch of singles hitters who would be stymied trying to slug anywhere. Sean Burroughs‘ line is representative — he’s hitting .329, but with a paltry 2 extra-base hits. The Padres’ .713 team OPS puts them at 13th in the league, and they’re actually better at home (.720) than away (.708). The only really dangerous hitters in their lineup are Ryan Klesko and Brian Giles, both of whom have low averages and high OBPs — they’re getting nothing good to hit, in other words.
But the Padres’ strategy these days, in accordance with the dimensions of their new ballpark, is to win with pitching, and the early returns are disappointing. Eaton and Peavy, neither of whom the Rockies will be able to avoid this series, have been lights out, but the rest of the rotation has been wobbly. Redding has been awful, and Woody Williams and Brian Lawrence have ERAs higher than you would expect given their peripheral stats and home park. The bullpen has been good, but with an offense as poor as the Padres’, the pitching needs to be exceptional.
The Padres were a trendy NL West pick in the preseason due to a perceived power vacuum; the Giants and Dodgers didn’t seem to get any better and the D-Backs and Rockies were a long way away. The young pitching seems to be arriving on time but the expected surge in hitting hasn’t followed. The Padres in short are not contenders this year, and a team by which the Rockies ought to at least avoid being swept. Who knows, maybe they can take 2 of 3 and warm up the hearts of some of us snowbound Coloradans. Snow in May, honestly — what’s up with that?