On the late afternoon of Thursday, April 9, 2015, Tony Wright settled in to his usual seat in the middle of Row B, Section 319 at pleasant Petco Park in San Diego. Section 319 had been his preference since the park opened in 2004. Seats were cheap, it had a nice view of the old Western Metal Supply building, and the sun over his left shoulder rarely obstructed his view. Furthermore, even for a home opener against the defending champion San Francisco Giants, a season in which new GM A.J. Preller had invested in a lot of high-cost talent, tickets weren’t all that hard to come by.
Tony stayed for the entire game, a four-hour affair in which the Giants won 1-0 in 12 innings. As soon as Wil Myers grounded out to end the game, Tony quickly escaped down the back stairway to Park Blvd., walked a few blocks to a nearby parking garage, and arrived at his modest home in the North Park neighborhood barely ten minutes away. He repeated this routine about twenty times over the course of the season even as his enthusiasm waned into September as the Padres would eventually stumble to a disappointing 74 wins.
Truth is, and Tony didn’t know this at the time – he couldn’t have – but he probably didn’t need to go to a single game that season. The 2015 San Diego Padres had already once existed and played a full schedule, only it was in the form of the 2012 New York Mets.
The 2012 New York Mets also opened their season at home with a 1-0 score against the Atlanta Braves, only they were on the wining side. Guided by second-year manager Terry Collins, the 2012 Mets started off their season well enough and cruised into the All-Star Break with a 46-40 record, only 4.5 games back from the emerging NL East power Washington Nationals. It wouldn’t last though, and no one really expected it to. They collapsed in the second half and finished with the same 74 wins as the 2015 Padres. Both teams finished fourth in their respective divisions.
The 2012 Mets weren’t expected to contend because the offense wasn’t there. (It usually isn’t if Ruben Tejada is your second most valuable position player.) They finished the season scoring a meager 650 runs, barely over four runs a game. That’s what happens when you only slug .386 as a team. The 2015 Padres know. In spite of acquiring Matt Kemp and the Upton brothers in the offseason, they only slugged .385 as a team and scored exactly 650 runs.
Real quick, back to Tony. What really hurt the 2015 Padres in his eyes was their mediocre pitching. As a team, they had a 4.09 ERA, 11th worst in the league. The 2012 Mets can say the same. Exactly the same – a 4.09 team ERA, 11th worst in the league. It didn’t help matters that the 2012 Mets pitchers stranded only 71.1% of runners, which fell below league average, even though they were one of the better strikeout staffs in the NL. And to Tony it didn’t help that the 2015 Padres always seemed to give up a hit when the opposing team had runners in scoring position. Most frustrating was when it happened with two outs. And even though the 2015 Padres struck out their fair share of hitters – third most in the NL – they stranded a below-league average 71.1% of the runners they allowed on base.
Maybe these strand rate numbers obscured something from Tony, mainly that while the 2015 Padres were hardly the run prevention monsters that the St. Louis Cardinals were that year, they didn’t have the greatest of luck either. Their team FIP was 3.93, 16 points below their ERA. Conversely, the 2012 Mets would have needed a decent amount of their own luck to keep pace with the Nationals. Unfortunately, luck is never something to rely on, and they underperformed their team FIP of 3.93 by 16 points.
So on that 2015 season went for Tony and the Padres. Because of their aforementioned deficiencies, the 2015 Padres struggled to sustain momentum and never won more than five games in a row. In August they endured a six game losing streak, their longest of the season, and as a result found themselves in the rearview of the upcoming playoffs, a place they hadn’t been since 2006. The 2012 Mets knew this fate all too well. Even with their encouraging start out of the gate, their longest winning streak was five games. Come August, they struggled through a six game losing streak, their longest of the season, and any plans they had for extra baseball that season were finished. They would have to wait until 2013 for their chance to return to the postseason for the first time since 2006.
Through it all, Tony Wright enjoyed the 2015 season in Section 319 anyway. He saw two games end in walk-off fashion, soaked in the ubiquitous San Diego sunshine for six months, and ultimately had zero regrets that he invested more time and money into a baseball team that was destined to underwhelm. Looking back on the season, that first game in April was still his favorite. The season still had hope, the crack of the bat still sounded fresh, and not even twelve scoreless innings from his favorite team could damper that. Twelve innings – the longest game the 2015 Padres would play that season. Twelve innings – the longest game the Mets would play in 2012.Next post: Los Angeles Dodgers 2017: I, Roberts
Previous post: 2017 Season Preview Series: San Diego – The Real Padres vs The ‘Pitch’ Padres