With a loss on Friday night, the San Diego Padres were simultaneously eliminated from postseason contention and ensured a losing record. Neither development registers as surprising. The only people who picked the Padres to make the playoffs were those unaware most prognosticators regarded San Diego as the majors' worst team entering the season.
The Padres' distance from that indignity (they're tied for the eighth-worst record in baseball) is a credit in part to the sport's unpredictability, and in part to many other variables, including young skipper Andy Green, whose wit and boldness is a winning season away from national recognition.
Managers get credit by default whenever their teams overachieve. Green has earned his, however, through his willingness to experiment and eschew baseball norms. The Padres were never going to compete for a playoff spot, or even make things interesting in the standings, so why not make the game interesting on the field by trying new things and seeing what sticks?
Where the Padres separate themselves, though, is in what Baseball Info Solutions calls situational shifts -- or "instances in which a team positions its fielders according to what the game situation dictates." Think playing the infield in, using a fifth infielder, or anything akin to those examples.
True, Green had to know his lineup would be weak (San Diego ranks last in runs scored), and that might've inspired him to cherish every run prevented. Yet the shift-heavy, offense-light Pirates are 27th in situational shifts. As such, it's not a given that a low-scoring team will prioritize things like playing the infield in. Whatever the catalyst, the Padres rank 13th in defensive efficiency. That's a respectable mark considering San Diego ran out some questionable pitching and defensive talent all year long.
Speaking of the pitching side, the Padres are the only team in baseball to have two relievers rank in the top 15 in appearances greater than three outs. Craig Stammen ranks fourth overall, having done it 26 times, while Jose Torres ranks 12th, with 22. Like with the shifts, one could point out necessity is the mother of invention, that Green had to do something to cover for his thin rotation. That doesn't explain Green using relief ace Brad Hand 17 times for three-plus outs -- especially not when just one pitcher with double-digit saves tallied more such appearances than Hand, that being Raisel Iglesias of the Cincinnati Reds.
Not everything Green tried turned to gold -- like the time he brought Hand in during the middle of an at-bat against Joey Votto. That's fine; to put it another way, if a third-base coach is successful on 100 percent of his sends, then he's probably not taking enough chances. Besides, the Padres are another season away from competing -- they have time to tinker, assess, repeat.
Green received an extension earlier this year that'll keep him around through the 2021 season. Based on his eagerness to mix up things, it's possible he finds himself on the Joe Maddon reputation arc -- dismissed as quirky until he wins, then revered a managerial savant.