As the MLB regular season enters its final stretch, one thing has become very clear: the NL Wild Card race will come down to the last few days of the regular season. Before the season started, pretty much everyone in the MLB world (myself included) thought that the Padres would make the 2021 MLB playoffs. However, as we draw closer and closer to the end, I now believe that they won’t.
Before we get into the teams that could take the Padres’ spot in the playoffs, let’s look at the Padres themselves.
Expectations going into the season were high, but not high enough to surpass the 2020 World Series Champion Dodgers. Most sources had them finishing second place, including my own 2021 predictions. We all thought that if they were in any other division they would’ve finished first, however, due to them being in the NL West, they will finish second. Also, if you read over that article, I did call the Giants making the playoffs. Impressive, right?
Let’s take a quick glance at the Padres’ 2020 and 2021 squads. The 60 game 2020 schedule ended in a 37-23 record for the Padres, an excellent improvement over their 2019 squad which finished 70-92. The 2020 squad featured breakout seasons from Jake Cronenworth, Fernando Tatis Jr, Zach Davies, and many notable others. Heading into the 2021 season, the Padres retained most of their 2020 squad, also keeping trade deadline add Austin Nola, but adding Catcher Victor Caratini for some healthy competition.
The 2020 rotation saw decent success, with Davies and Dinelson Lamet having breakout seasons. SP Mike Clevinger had to be shut down for Tommy John surgery after only pitching in 4 games in the 2020 season. He will miss the rest of 2021 as well while recovering. In the offseason, the Padres added Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish in exchange for Davies and prospects. Blake Snell was also acquired from the Rays, creating was some called the best rotation in the league.
In addition to the rotation, the bullpen was looking decent going into the 2021 season. Late game pitcher Drew Pomeranz returned, bringing a 1.45 ERA from 2020. Pierce Johnson had a solid season, along with Matt Strahm and others that showed promise. The Padres added Mark Melancon in the offseason and retained Emilio Pagan, two very important players in the 2021 season. Tim Hill and Austin Adams stayed for 2021, both seeing improved usage and having great success.
In essence, this squad was looking primed for a deep 2021 playoff run. But I’m writing this article right now, meaning something went wrong. That thing that went wrong is not hitting. The Padres are tied for the second best offense in the National League by OPS+. In a year where hitting has dropped off a cliff, the Padres have retained good numbers.
The thing that’s gone wrong this year for the Padres is starting pitching. While it hasn’t been necessarily bad, injuries have curbed its’ success. First of all, Darvish is injured which won’t be good down the stretch. That’s a huge loss, considering that they already have Pomeranz, Lamet, and Chris Paddack already on the injury list. To make matters worse, the Padres are considering signing Jake Arrieta, a man with a 6.88 ERA.
Things don’t get better when we look at the Padres’ upcoming schedule. Out of their 39 remaining games, only 9 are against teams with losing records. 4 of those games come against the Angels who are 2 games below .500, and the other five come against the Rockies and the Diamondbacks. To make matters even worse, the Padres play the Dodgers and Giants 19 times in the next 33 games, who are right now the number one and number two team in baseball. You may be thinking that things cannot possibly get worse. But they can.
The Padres Aren’t Going to the MLB Playoffs
Lurking 1.5 games behind them in the NL Wild Card chase are the Reds. Behind the Reds, 4 games back are the Cardinals, two NL Central teams that could take down the Padres.
The Reds have one of the easiest remaining schedules in baseball. For the rest of the season, they will only play 14 games against teams above .500. The other games will be spent playing some of the worst teams in baseball, including the Pirates 9 times. They will also be played the Nationals 4 times, the Cubs 4 times, the Marlins 7 times, and the Tigers 3 times. Those are 24 games that are, right now, looking very, very winnable for the Reds.
The Cardinals are staying just in the MLB playoffs bubble, barely staying afloat. They have been doomed by injuries to their pitching staff, where Kwang Hyun Kim, Carlos Martinez, Johan Oviedo, and Wade LeBlanc are all injured. However, they did get lucky in the fact that their two uninjured starting pitchers are Adam Wainwright and Jack Flaherty, their two best pitchers.
The Cardinals face a team with a losing record 18 times in their final stretch of the season. They are facing real competition a lot of the time, as they play the Brewers 13 times. While with their schedule it is definitely possible to make the playoffs, I would consider it an outside shot.
In conclusion, the Padres aren’t going to make the MLB playoffs. With a weakened pitching staff and a brutal schedule things aren’t looking good in San Diego. Meanwhile in Cincinnati, a vacant playoff spot has opened up, one that they will grab.