The San Diego Padres (11-12) currently sit near the bottom of the NL West, yet only two games back from the league-leading Los Angeles Dodgers. While they continue to hover around the .500 mark, a calf strain to 2012 Gold Glove third baseman, Chase Headley lands him on the 15-day disabled list, and could spell trouble for the Padres.
The report of the somewhat minor injury will have some Padres fans breathing a sigh of relief, while others will remain more pessimistic. Headley who has already been hampered by a string of minor injuries, including a spring training calf strain, a bicep strain and a sore left knee to start the 2014 season, has struggled in the early going. He is batting just .186 in 76 plate appearances and has racked up 20 early strikeouts for a Padres team who is struggling to get on base and score runs. Collectively, the team finds themselves near the bottom of the MLB rankings in four major categories: they are last in runs (64), last in on-base percentage (.276), second to last in slugging (.341), and third from the bottom in batting average (.223).
The 15-day trip to the disabled list for Chase Headley may not spell doom and gloom for the San Diego Padres, but in his absence, they are going to need players like shortstop and lead-off hitter, Everth Cabrera and outfielder, Chris Denorfia to hit the ball well and get on base. Cabrera leads the team in total hits, but also leads the team in strikeouts—an inexcusable stat in the lead-off spot. They will also need more contribution from Will Venable, who is hitting just .203 and Yonder Alonso, who is also weighing the team down at the moment with a .198 average in 86 plate appearances.
If the Padres can hold steady around the .500 mark until the return of Headley, they should be in a good position to be competitive in the NL West. For a team that is struggling mightily at the bat, their pitching staff, led by Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy are throwing the ball extremely well. They have been able to hold teams off, keeping games within an arms-reach, and giving the Padres an opportunity to win close games. The pitching staff is currently fourth in the majors in ERA (2.78), and is holding opposing batters to a .227 batting average, good enough for sixth in the big leagues.
Once Chase Headley returns from the 15-day disabled list, the San Diego Padres are hoping to land on their feet and make a run at the division. There is no denying that their production at the plate has been anything but impressive, so they are going to need a healthy and revived Headley to step up into his role as team leader, and get the team moving in the right direction. 15 days in baseball can seem like an eternity, but it will be better in the long run to make 100 percent sure that the myriad of injuries that has plagued the star third baseman are completely healed. Otherwise, the Padres will find themselves with a case of Déjà vu—something they cannot afford if they hope to have a successful season.
Commentary by Johnny Caito