San Diego Padres. June 25. First place. How?
Sean Forman in the Times:
The Padres are winning largely because of good starting pitching and phenomenal relief pitching supported by average or better defensive play at every position. In 2009, the young starters Clayton Richard (26), Mat Latos (22) and Wade LeBlanc (25) started 31 games, with a 4.14 earned run average. Through Wednesday, those three had made 40 starts with a 2.92 E.R.A.
The rotation has been good, but the bullpen has been the best in the majors. Led by closer Heath Bell, the Padres’ bullpen had a 2.62 E.R.A., a half-run better than that of the second-place Cardinals. In 230 innings, Padres relievers had 248 strikeouts and only 65 walks. A strikeout-to-walk ratio of 3.82 would most likely be the best ever by a bullpen, eclipsing the 3.41 ratio produced by Montreal’s bullpen in 1994. The Padres’ 2.62 bullpen E.R.A. is the best since the Dodgers’ 2.46 E.R.A. in 2003.
Extreme performances like these tend to even out over the course of a season, so the Padres may not be able to count on their bullpen shouldering the load the entire season. But the addition of another above-average bat to their lineup may be all the Padres need to remain one of the biggest surprises of the season.
Ah, yes ... an above-average bat would be an excellent addition.
But which above-average bat? There's no help in the minors, and the Padres -- with a relative shortage of hot prospects -- aren't likely to win an eBay auction for David DeJesus or Corey Hart. The Padres' best chance for an "excellent addition" might be the addition of a healthy Kyle Blanks to the lineup. Unfortunately, that's apparently not going to happen anytime soon.
In the absence of Blanks or some other above-average hitter, the Padres are probably reduced to hoping their luck holds.