The Padres have the youngest rotation in baseball, and also one of the best so far in 2019
Elder statesman Matt Strahm allowed two runs in six innings Thursday
Thursday afternoon, the San Diego Padres beat the Braves at SunTrust Park (SD 11, ATL 2) to wrap up their four-game series in Atlanta. The clubs split four games, though the Padres have now won seven times in their last 10 games. They are 18-14 overall in 2019.
Lefty Matt Strahm, who came over from the Royals in the Trevor Cahill trade two years ago, allowed two runs over six innings to earn the win Thursday. He's sitting on a 3.03 ERA in six starts and 32 2/3 innings after spending most of last season in the bullpen.
At 27 years and 171 days, Strahm is the elder statesman in a San Diego rotation that includes one 22-year-old (Nick Margevicius), two 23-year-olds (Chris Paddack and Eric Lauer), and one 25-year-old (Joey Lucchesi). Pedro Avila (22) and Cal Quantrill (24) have made spot starts for the Padres this year as well.
The Padres are a perfect 32 for 32 this season in starting a pitcher no older than 27. They have, by far, the most games started by pitchers no older than 25 in the early going this year:
San Diego is on pace to become only the 28th team in history to receive 132 starts from pitchers age 25 or younger. The rebuilding 2015 Braves were the last team to do it. They received 151 such starts. They also went 67-95 and their starters had a 4.27 ERA that was 10 percent worse than league average when adjusted for ballpark and run-scoring environment.
Following Strahm's strong start Thursday, the Padres' rotation owns a 3.42 ERA that is 16 percent better than league average in the early going this season. San Diego's starters are top-10 in most meaningful categories:
- ERA: 3.42 (6th)
- ERA-: 84 (8th -- this is the adjusted number, with 100 being league average)
- FIP: 3.56 (5th)
- FIP-: 84 (6th -- also adjusted)
- K/BB: 3.38 (7th)
- WAR: 3.4 (6th)
The Padres have more young pitching on the way too, with the highly regarded lefty Logan Allen (MLB.com's No. 70 prospect) in Triple-A and fast-rising southpaw MacKenzie Gore likely to force a promotion to Double-A soon. MLB.com ranks Gore has the 14th best prospect in baseball and he is in the conversation for the best pitching prospect in the game.
Of course, with young pitching comes workload limits. Paddack missed 2017 with Tommy John surgery and he threw only 90 innings in 2018. Margevicius threw 135 innings last year, but he also spent the entire season in Single-A, and the jump from High Class-A to MLB is a big one. The innings are more intense.
Although they've started strong this season and their rotation is a big reason why, you can be sure the Padres will take care of their young arms. They're not going to throw caution to the wind and run these guys out there for 180-200 innings. The future is too bright. Workload limits could create some rotation headaches in the second half.
Does that make San Diego a possible landing spot for Dallas Keuchel? I definitely think so. They reportedly had interest in him over the winter, and Keuchel would give the Padres a nice lift once they need to ease up on Paddack, Margevicius, and others. Clearly, the Padres are willing to spend. Manny Machado told us that. If they're in the race in a few weeks, Keuchel could be an excellent fit.
For now, the Padres have MLB's youngest rotation and also one of the best. Those 20-somethings have been very good through 32 games, and aside from Paddack's sub-2.00 ERA, I'm not sure any of it is unsustainable. This is a talented group of pitchers in a pitcher-friendly home ballpark. That's a good combination, and the rotation is the backbone of this up-and-coming team.
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