The good news about the Padres' offense

June 3rd, 2022

This story was excerpted from the Padres Beat newsletter, with Mike Petriello filling in for AJ Cassavell. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

The Padres just finished off a May that had them score baseball’s fourth-fewest runs, thanks in part to the third-weakest slugging percentage in the sport and the fewest extra-base hits of, well, anyone.

So, as much as I’d like to focus on San Diego’s very good rotation and elite defense, let’s focus on the only thing anyone wants to focus on: Is this team going to hit, ever? If so, when?

There is, we believe, good news and bad news. Let’s start with the ugly truth first, which is that this isn’t really about bad luck so much as it is bad contact, since the Padres entered the weekend with baseball’s third-weakest hard-hit rate and highest rate of poor contact. That’s not unfortunate outcomes so much as it is getting what you deserve.

The good news, and we promised there would be some, is that there are some encouraging trends.

Let’s start with Trent Grisham, who homered on Sunday and Tuesday. It’s true that the overall slash line (.159/.275/.280 through Thursday) still looks extremely poor, but the promising sign is that both of the homers came off of fastballs, which he’d been completely unable to deal with for most of the season. Through May 28, he had a hard-hit rate of 29% against fastballs. Since Sunday, it’s 50%. Are we splitting hairs here? We absolutely are. But we’re trying to find signs of life, and it’s easy to give the benefit of the doubt to a player who slugged .558 against heaters in his first two Major League seasons.

Let’s continue with Luke Voit, who began his San Diego tenure with a mere six hits (five of them singles) in 13 games before missing several weeks with a biceps injury. Voit, like Grisham, has a recent track record of success to fall back upon; he did lead the Majors in home runs in 2020. He’s homered four times since returning, including in St. Louis on Wednesday, with an .837 OPS. In his four years as a Yankee, he had an .883 OPS. Given health, it’s reasonable to expect him to contribute regularly.

There’s the fact that Robinson Canó, who offered little as a Padre -- just three singles in 34 plate appearances -- is no longer around to take up a roster spot. But mostly, there’s the fact that Fernando Tatis Jr.’s return is nearing, and the full-time designated hitter in the National League provides him an entry point if he’s not ready for everyday shortstop duty.

It’s going to be better, if only because they’ll get back a top-five hitter in the sport, if only because some veterans with track records are showing signs they can be better, if only because you know general manager A.J. Preller will end up trading for Willson Contreras or Andrew Benintendi or someone. But it’s not about better luck. It’s about being better. That great pitching and defense deserve the support. Either way, this is still projected to be a 91-win team.