- Tuesday, July 17, 2012 6:46 AM
- Written By: Andrew Simon
The 2002 San Diego Padres were a bad baseball team. At 66-96, they did not underperform their Pythagorean record. They finished last in the National League West, 32 games behind the Diamondbacks, with their .407 winning percentage besting only the Brewers in the NL.
But as I recently discovered, these Padres also were a special baseball team.
I can’t reminder what idle thought prompted me to conduct the Baseball-Reference play index search, but there I was staring at a fact that was difficult to believe. The 2002 Padres used 33 relief pitchers, six – six!— more than any other team in baseball history. Ten different clubs have had 25 pitchers make a relief appearance; three, including last year’s Yankees, sent out 26; the Padres, six years later, deployed 27.
The ’02 Friars are all alone, and they are beautiful in that isolation. It’s an accomplishment that begged for closer examination.
Please follow me into the abyss.
The Future Hall of Famer: To show how long ago 2002 was, the Padres’ best players that year were Ryan Klesko, Ron Gant and Mark Kotsay. And then there was Trevor Hoffman (#1), in his 10th of 16 seasons in San Diego, who steadily produced a 2.73 ERA, converted 38 saves in 41 chances and made the All-Star team.
The Moonlighting Starters: All you probably need to know about the ’02 Pads is that Brett Tomko led them with 32 starts and posted an ERA+ of 84. Only three other pitchers on the team made all of their appearances as starters: Jake Peavy, Kevin Jarvis and Adam Eaton, who combined for 30.
Another quartet of primary starters also filled in out of the bullpen. Brian Lawrence (#2), who led the staff in WAR, made four appearances. Making one apiece were Bobby J. Jones (#3), Brian Tollberg (#4) and a rookie by the name of Oliver Perez (#5), who struck out the side in his lone relief inning and finished the season with 9.4 Ks – and, of course, 4.8 walks – per nine.
The Time-Splitters: Manager Bruce Bochy used seven other pitchers in both the rotation and the ‘pen. There was rookie Dennis Tankersley (#6) and his 8.06 ERA; rookie Ben Howard (#7) and his 9.28 mark; rookie Kevin Pickford (#8), who struck out 18 and walked 20; 1999 first-round pick Mike Bynum (#9), who served up 17 homers in 64 career innings; undrafted free agent Clay Condrey (#10), one of two pitchers named Clay to make the majors out of McNeese State (the other being Buchholz); Jason Middlebrook (#11), sent to the Mets at the trade deadline as part of a deal for Jason Bay and Bobby M. Jones (#12) -- yes, among other oddities, this team employed multiple Bobby Joneses.
The Bright Spots: They did their best, but alas, their best wasn’t enough. Don’t blame Matt DeWitt (#13), Alan Embree (#14), Brandon Villafuerte (#15) or Steve Reed (#16), who all produced ERAs below 2.00 for a unit whose collective mark was 4.33.
The Participation Award-Winners: The ’02 Padres’ leader in pitching appearances was Jeremy Fikac (#17), who posted a 5.35 ERA, a 70 ERA+ and a 1.57 WHIP. Fifth on that list was Mike Holtz (#18), who had marks of 4.71, 81 and 1.86. Six others took the ball at least 10 times with an ERA north of 5.50: Jason Boyd (#19), Tom Davey (#20), Jason Kershner (#21), Rodney Myers (#22), Kevin Walker (#23) and Doug Nickle (#24).
The Anonymous Guy: His name is about as bland as it gets, his 4.11 ERA in 16 games was neither particularly good nor bad, and I don’t really remember the parts of six seasons he spent in the majors. He is Jonathan Johnson (#25). I am sure he is a very nice fellow and apparently he is enshrined in the Florida State University Hall of Fame. That’s all I’ve got.
The One-Timers: Imagine that you accomplish your life-long dream, beating overwhelming odds to make it to the major leagues. Your stay is brief, but you nonetheless are part of an elite fraternity. Oh, but your one taste of The Show came with the 2002 Padres. Sorry. Such is life for Eric Cyr (#26) and J.J. Trujillo (#27).
The ‘Nasty, Brutish and Short’ Club: In the grand scheme of the ’02 Padres’ awfulness, these guys played bit parts, but since this is nothing if not an exercise in thoroughness, they must be acknowledged. Please step forward, Jason Shiell (#28), David Lundquist (#29) and Juan Moreno (#30), who all made between two and four appearances, with respective ERAs of 27.00, 16.88 and 7.50.
The Clean Sheeters: Even amidst ruin, one might discover perfection. In small doses, to be sure, but it’s there. And so it is with our final three Friars, who all managed to take the mound in that fateful year and emerge with an ERA of 0.00, saved by the grace of the small sample size. Jason Pearson (#31) made two appearances. Jose Nunez (#32) made one.
And that brings us to D’Angelo Jimenez (#33). Now 34 years old and a veteran of eight big league seasons with seven organizations, he has spent 2012 in independent ball and the Mexican League. Back in 2001, he was Baseball America’s No. 46 prospect. In 2002, he made his one and only MLB pitching appearance. It was June 30 in Kansas City. Peavy started and got knocked out early. Myers and Fikac didn’t help matters, and so Bochy apparently decided to preserve his bullpen – a futile gesture, if there ever was one – by handing the final 1 1/3 innings over to Jimenez.
He retired all four batters he faced. Baseball is weird.
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