San Diego Padres

Padres smartly demoting Chris Paddack in order to limit his innings

The San Diego Padres are lingering around .500 right now, but it makes perfect sense to proactively limit Chris Paddack’s innings.

With only seven starts above High-A, Chris Paddack earned a spot in the San Diego Padres’ starting rotation during spring training. He has been a revelation, with a 3.15 ERA, a 0.93 WHIP, a 9.9 K/9, a 1.8 BB/9 (5.54 K/BB) over 12 starts (65.2 innings).

But with an eye on limiting the workload of their young pitchers, the Padres have at times had a six-man starting rotation this season. That plan to limit innings particularly applies to Paddack, who has never pitched more than 90 innings in a professional season and missed all of 2017 due to Tommy John surgery.

An extra day between starts has been given to Paddack when possible, but after his most recent start Tuesday night it seems the Padres have run out of ideas to limit his innings in the short-term. On Wednesday, they sent him down to the minors.

Per MLB rules, Paddack will have to stay down for at least 10 days. He’ll get service time credit for his time in the minors too, as long as he is sent down for less than 20 days. So the Padres can exercise this option to send him down once to not openly manipulate Paddack’s service time clock, and they’ve done it now.

Over his last five starts (25 innings), Paddack has maintained a sparkling K/BB ratio (26:3). But his ERA has more than doubled over that span (1.55 to 3.15; 5.76 ERA over those five starts), as hitters have knocked him around a good bit (.291 opponent’s batting average; 910 OPS). So it may be time for him to get a break.

Despite losing seven of their last 10 games entering Wednesday, the Padres are 33-34 and a reasonable five games back in the NL Wild card race (11.5 games back of the Dodgers in the NL West). So they could convince themselves they are a playoff contender this season, and push Paddack into a workload that they’ve already determined is not worth the risk. His previous Tommy John surgery has to be informing the idea of managing his innings this year.

If history is any indicator when a pitcher’s workload spikes dramatically from one season to the next, Paddack would be at serious risk of injury or major decline in performance looking to 2020.

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But instead the Padres are keeping an eye beyond 2019, as their top-level minor league system should continue to bear major league fruit. Paddack is a key piece of that bright future, and with the playoffs unlikely this year he’ll get complete rest or limited exposure for a bit.

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