The Padres wrap up April in Pittsburgh this weekend, and it's hard to view the first month as anything but a success.
Sure, they could've won an extra game or two against the Giants and Dodgers. But their 13-7 record is among the best in baseball, and they've mostly taken care of business against sub-.500 teams like the Reds and D-backs. (Lest we forget just how much the Padres struggled in that department last season.)
Without further ado, here are some April awards and grades for the 2022 Padres:
April MVP: Eric Hosmer
Strong case for Manny Machado, too. But Hosmer has done it all. He's leading the Majors with a .415 batting average, and if he keeps that up through Saturday, he’d be the first qualifying Padre to finish April hitting above .400 since Tony Gwynn in 1999. Hosmer's biggest area of improvement from 2021 is that he's laying off breaking pitches outside the zone. But he's also hitting the ball in the air more often. Defensively, Hosmer has played a steady first base and has been particularly clean with his scoops. Remember, just last month the Padres were close to dealing Hosmer for what seemed like pennies on the dollar. Considering the way he’s helped carry a slumping offense, probably a good thing they didn't.
Pitcher of the Month: Joe Musgrove
Musgrove's breaking pitches are generally very, very good. But the most impressive aspect of Musgrove's performance is the way he consistently delivers, even when his stuff isn't quite there. He's begun the season with four consecutive quality starts. In two of those starts, he was dealing. The Padres won 'em both. In two of those starts, however, Musgrove truly had to battle. The Padres won 'em both.
Reliever of the Month: Steven Wilson
Some people in the Padres organization think Wilson's stuff is closer material. But they wanted to see how he would handle the big league stage in his rookie season. Well, Wilson retired 21 straight before he surrendered a solo Tommy Pham homer on Wednesday. Taylor Rogers has been similarly excellent at the back end. But it's Wilson who has stepped up to cover high-leverage set-up innings, while a handful of other relievers have dealt with injuries.
This offense needed a week in Cincinnati, facing a bad team in a hitter's park, to get itself on track. And it did exactly that. It's important to remember that offense is down across the league. The Padres had posted a 109 wRC+ entering Thursday, meaning they've been 9% better than league average offensively -- even if they struggled against their two primary NL West rivals, the Dodgers and Giants.
The Padres defense hasn't just been good. It's been, perhaps, the best defensive unit in baseball. Their 16-game season-opening errorless streak set a record for the modern era (since 1901). And it's not just errors -- they've been rangy and well-positioned, too. San Diego’s 24 defensive runs saved entering Thursday were tops in the Majors.
Only a couple poor outings -- Yu Darvish against the Giants, Sean Manaea against the Dodgers, the bullpen's Opening Day implosion -- hold this group back from getting an 'A.' Because, otherwise, the Padres pitching staff has been outstanding. It's a formidable rotation that might even have too many options. The bullpen, with Rogers and Wilson leading the charge, has done its job, too.
OFF THE TOP OF MY HEAD
• Don’t run on Jurickson Profar, huh? The Padres left fielder leads the National League with four outfield assists -- and they’ve all seemingly come in big spots. Profar, of course, is a longtime infielder, and it’s not necessarily his arm that’s nabbing baserunners. It’s his efficiency getting to the ball and then getting rid of it. He’s worked tirelessly on that.
“I always had a lower slot,” Profar said. “But my arm wasn’t great like that [in the outfield], so I had to get the slot a little higher. … And then you just get used to it, practicing it every day.”
• With both Wil Myers (thumb) and Luke Voit (biceps) on the IL, the Padres might start to use their DH spot like they did on Thursday -- in an effort to get regulars, like Machado, off their feet. Matt Beaty was perhaps the likeliest fill-in for Voit in the DH spot. But now he’ll see more time in right field.
• Baseball players usually find themselves at the center of the crowd. It's part of the job description -- whether they’re in a media scrum or in a frenzy of autograph seekers. That's why I was taken aback on Saturday when I entered the clubhouse and a scrum of baseball players had gathered around a guest in the Padres clubhouse.
That guest was Paddy "The Baddy" Pimblett, a UFC fighter who is spending time training in San Diego. He took in his first baseball game on Saturday night, a Padres victory in extra innings. (Or "overtime" as Pimblett called it on Twitter.)
Pimblett was telling stories over beverages at one of the clubhouse's high-top dinner tables, and about a dozen Padres hung on every word. There are a number of die-hard UFC fans in the Padres clubhouse, and they appear to have made a baseball fan out of Pimblett, who clearly loved the experience.
"How cool is that?" Musgrove said. "And we got him a win for his first game, too."
Which Padres hitter holds the franchise record for most home runs before the end of April in a single season?
- A. Adrián González
- B. Franmil Reyes
- C. Gary Sheffield
- D. Christian Villanueva
The Padres are going to have quite a rotation riddle on their hands, perhaps as soon as next week. Will Aldrich detailed another strong start from MacKenzie Gore and what it means going forward.
The offense finally broke out in Cincinnati.
Will Leitch looks at six stars who have yet to win an MVP Award but are making an early case in 2022. I'm inclined to agree that Machado should be a candidate, considering how steady he's been in Fernando Tatis Jr.'s absence.
A: González hit nine home runs in April 2009, en route to a 40-homer season, his career high.
PADRES VIDEO VAULT
The Padres famously rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the 1984 NLCS, winning what was then a five-game series in dramatic fashion. But before Steve Garvey's walk-off homer in Game 4, and before Gwynn's go-ahead double in Game 5, the Padres needed to beat the Cubs in Game 3. They did so emphatically, scoring three runs in the fifth and four in the sixth for a 7-1 win, capped by Kevin McReynolds' three-run blast.
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