Padres rookie starting pitcher Chris Paddack was apparently peeved that Mets first baseman Pete Alonso won the NL Rookie of the Month for April over him. Prior to Monday's start against the Mets in San Diego, Paddack made comments along those lines to The Athletic (full story here and recommended).
"He's a great player, no doubt," Paddack said. "Does he deserve (the Rookie of the Month honor)? Absolutely. But I'm coming for him. We'll see Monday who the top dog is. That's something I'm looking forward to, for sure. And I'm not saying that in a cocky way. I'm saying that because I know what I want, just like I'm sure he knows what he wants. It'll be a fun little matchup.
"Do I wish it was me? Yeah. But the way I look at it is, do you want to be Rookie of the Month or Rookie of the Year? We'll see, man. We've got a long season and I'm looking forward to Monday, competing against him."
Nothing wrong with a little talk before the game, but the player talking better be ready to back it up. Paddack sure was. He only needed 91 pitches to get through 7 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He allowed only four hits -- all singles -- and a walk while striking out 11.
As for the battle of prominent rookies, he made it personal ...
1st inning: Paddack struck Alonso out swinging
3rd inning: Paddack struck Alonso out swinging
6th inning: Alonso grounded out to third
OK, then. Emphatic statement received.
"If that's who he is, then that's who he is," Alonso said afterward to MLB.com. "There are plenty of different personalities in the game, but at the end of the day, he shoved today. There's nothing we can do about it. He threw up a bunch of zeros. Especially with what he said, it's a tough pill to swallow."
Paddack's words said he was fired up to face Alonso. The numbers show it, too. Per baseballsavant.com (hat-tip Sarah Langs), Paddack's three fastest pitches of the season so far all were delivered Monday night to Alonso.
Paddack is not, however, only pitching well against Alonso or even the Mets. He's made seven starts this season and the Padres have won six of them. He leads the NL with a 1.55 ERA while topping the majors in WHIP (0.69) and hits per nine innings (4.0). He's struck out 46 in 40 2/3 innings. Despite having a limited workload, and we'll get to that, he's second in WAR (1.6) among NL pitchers only to Luis Castillo (2.2). He's holding opposing hitters to a .130/.193/.196 line.
He's doing it with a three-pitch mix, using mostly a four-seam fastball that averages over 94 miles per hour and a change in the mid-80s. He mixes in a curve less than 10 percent of the time. The more the league sees of him, the more he will be forced to mix it up more with his arsenal, but every rookie goes through the same thing. Paddack is talented enough to avoid any speedbumps.
As things stand, Paddack will continue to have competition for NL Rookie of the Year. Alonso surely stays in the mix just as will Paddack's teammate Fernando Tatis will be once he's back from injury. Reds center fielder Nick Senzel could figure in the race and there will likely also be others. It's way early and tough to call.
Paddack might also be fighting workload in this competition. He had Tommy John surgery back in 2016 and missed all of 2017. He threw just 90 innings last season in his return. The Padres are making sure Matt Harvey, too, as things went south quickly for him the following season.in each start, which is why he was pulled after 91 on Monday. Surely the club is going to do things to limit his innings as the season progresses. Assuming the Padres contend, hopefully it's more skipping starts and not just abruptly shutting him down like the notorious Stephen Strasburg shutdown in 2012. They shouldn't let him go way over the limit like the Mets ended up doing with
Regardless, few pitchers are as exciting to watch as Paddack right now, and he has the swagger to the point of near-cockiness to match. So long as he's backing it up, that makes for great entertainment.