Padres' surprises begin at home

Surprise! The 2010 Padres are a hit at home!

For a team that was almost universally expected to finish last in its division to own the National League's best record in the first week of August, a lot has to go right. Such has been the case with the San Diego Padres in 2010.

The Padres entered the season with the second lowest payroll in the majors (ahead of only the Pirates) and were widely dismissed by experts before any games had been played. I pegged them to win 75 games and was accused of homerism for daring to suggest they might finish ahead of the Arizona Diamondbacks in the NL West.

My best-case scenario had the Padres winning 85 games, but everything needed to go right for that to happen. They needed production out of:

  • No. 1 starter Chris Young (He's made one start)

  • left fielder Kyle Blanks (he hit .157/.283/.324 before blowing out his elbow), and

  • shortstop Everth Cabrera (he's hitting .195/.267/.270 and might get shipped back to Triple-A when David Eckstein returns from the disabled list).

  • As I said, a lot has gone right for this team.

Among other things, the Padres have a great bullpen (its collective 2.77 ERA is best in baseball, with MLB average being 4.04) and surprisingly strong starting pitching (3.56 ERA, third in MLB, and substantially better than last year's 4.78). Of course, the fact that Petco Park suppresses offense to an extreme degree helps.

That fact also makes another aspect of the Padres' season perhaps the most surprising. For the first time since they moved downtown in 2004, the Padres are hitting better and scoring more runs at home than they are on the road:

The Padres still aren't setting the world on fire, and part of their relative success at home is a function of decreased production away from Petco Park, but hitting coach Randy Ready has gotten these guys to do something they haven't done in a while: believe they can hit and score runs at their home ballpark. When you consider that the Padres had scored 515 fewer runs at Petco than away from it over its first six years of existence, that is no small accomplishment.

Sure, Adrian Gonzalez is expected to produce at home (even if most folks thought home would be somewhere else by now), but who could have foreseen the catching tandem of Nick Hundley (.279/.353/.481 at Petco Park) and Yorvit Torrealba (.354/.429/.434) faring so well? And how do we explain the fact that six of Jerry Hairston Jr.'s seven home runs this year have come at home?

This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen. Then again, the same can be said for most everything about the Padres this year.

Geoff Young writes regularly about the Padres at Ducksnorts, a member of ESPN.com's SweetSpot Network.