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This offensive stat is biggest priority for Padres

October 1, 2018

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres spent Sunday evening in the Petco Park clubhouse, packing their bags after their 66-96 season ended with a walk-off victory.A few notes from bag day, as a busy offseason begins:Padres need an OBP overhaul New season, same story in one hugely important offensive category. The

SAN DIEGO -- The Padres spent Sunday evening in the Petco Park clubhouse, packing their bags after their 66-96 season ended with a walk-off victory.
A few notes from bag day, as a busy offseason begins:
Padres need an OBP overhaul
New season, same story in one hugely important offensive category. The Padres posted a .297 on-base percentage in 2018. That marks the fifth straight year in which they've finished last in the Majors in OBP.
"From an offensive perspective, that's hands-down the most important thing for us," said Padres manager Andy Green. "We have to start making our way up that chart. Sometimes it's personnel. Sometimes it's about making the personnel you have grow. We saw growth. It wasn't an astronomical amount of growth, but it was there."
Five questions for the Padres this offseason
With the addition of Eric Hosmer and the development of some youngsters, the Padres were supposed to break the mold, OBP-wise, this season. That didn't happen. Instead, they finished two points worse than the 2016 and '17 clubs.
Hosmer slumped, William Myers was hurt for half the season, and Manuel Margot regressed after an excellent rookie campaign. Now the question is: How to change it?
"With young players, sometimes you don't know what kind of hitter you are yet, so you try to cover too much of the plate," said hitting coach Matt Stairs. "That causes more chase, which causes lower on-base percentage. They have to go back, look at the season, see where they did damage, and come back with a game plan of, 'This is where I'm going to sit on pitches,' and be a stubborn hitter about it."
There were a few success stories. Franmil Reyes has made huge strides since his May callup. Austin Hedges and Hunter Renfroe also saw a bump in their offensive numbers.

But the most important factor for a 2019 on-base boost might be a change in personnel. Middle-infield prospects Fernando Tatis Jr. and Luis Urias have excelled in the Minors, and both figure to be crucial pieces next season.
"It starts with getting guys who've shown a history of being on base," said general manager A.J. Preller. "From a talent and personnel standpoint we'll continue to look at changing the mix a little bit. … And then from a messaging standpoint we'll continue to hammer it home every possible way for guys to understand: Getting on base is probably the most important thing in the game."
Hosmer set to bounce back?
Hosmer's debut season in San Diego is over. He posted a .252/.320/.398 slash line with 18 homers in 677 plate appearances -- well below his 2017 numbers in Kansas City.
"Obviously, it wasn't the year I wanted to have," Hosmer said. "But I'm excited to get into the offseason now, figure this out and start with a fresh mind."
The biggest task awaiting Hosmer: hitting the ball in the air. No one in the Majors posted an average launch angle lower than Hosmer's negative-1.3-degrees this season.

Given that Hosmer generally hits the ball pretty hard, he understands the importance of changing that launch angle. When he gets the ball in the air, he does damage. When he doesn't, he hits into groundouts, mostly.
"I want to lift the ball, and I want to hit the ball to the opposite field," Hosmer said. "When I'm doing that, those are my strengths."
Perhaps Hosmer can take solace in the strange fact that he has rotated excellent seasons with poor seasons for his entire eight-year career. In other words, he's prone to bouncing back in odd-numbered years.
The Padres, at least, are confident Hosmer will turn things around in 2019.
"The first year here in San Diego [was] just a big change, a big difference," Preller said. "Signing the big contract, as much as you tell him, 'Be yourself, relax,' I think it's pretty natural that a guy's going to want to come show up here and impress, and I think that played a little bit into the whole year for him. ... He's going to learn from it, and we have a lot of faith that we're going to look up next year, and it's going to be an All-Star-caliber season for him, just because of the type of person he is."
End-of-season figures
• The Padres finished 2018 with a Petco Park attendance of 2,103,420 across 78 games (not including the three "home" games they played against the Dodgers in Monterrey, Mexico). The average attendance of 26,967 was up by a few ticks from last season's 26,401 mark.
• By virtue of their 66-96 finish, the Padres will pick sixth in the Draft next season. It marks their fourth consecutive top 10 pick. They've used each of the last three on pitching -- Cal Quantrill, MacKenzie Gore and Ryan Weathers.
• The starting pitching struggled, but the Padres' bullpen was excellent in 2018. Its 3.50 ERA ranked third in the National League and sixth overall. Of course, that number doesn't tell the whole story, because of the burden placed on the relief corps by short starts.
The 'pen was clearly much better than sixth-best. Padres relievers combined to post an 8.8 WAR, according to FanGraphs. That's the second best mark ever recorded in the National League, trailing only the 2003 Dodgers.

AJ Cassavell covers the Padres for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ajcassavell.