The Detroit Tigers and San Diego Padres have played 14 games in the past 30 years, dating back to the 1984 World Series, and have not faced one another since 2008. To get familiar with the Padres, we asked Richard Garfinkel -- a.k.a. Darklighter -- of Gaslamp Ball, SB Nation's Padres site, a few questions about the upcoming series.
1. On Saturday, we Tigers fans get to see one of the best kept secrets in baseball: Andrew Cashner. How long have Padres fans been excited about him, and what made him so successful in 2013?
You don’t even have to wait that long! He’ll be on the mound Friday night. (Ed.: Oops.) There was a lot of skepticism right after Anthony Rizzo was sent to the Cubs for Cashner, and there were a few who thought he was just a reliever (despite the protestations of the front office and his entire minor league career). Fans definitely started to take notice after his move to the rotation last season. His time there started a little rough, but he was going deep into games early on and keeping things competitive. The day everybody sat up and took notice, of course, was September 16th, the day he through a complete game shutout while facing the minimum 27 batters. It was best start by a Padres pitcher in the history of the franchise.
2. Two years ago, Chase Headley was the hottest trade ticket in baseball after a monster 2012 season. What happened last season (and to start 2014)? Did the Padres make a mistake by not trading him when his value was so high?
Honestly, it’s looking a lot like 2012 was a fluke. While his 2013 numbers pale in comparison to the year before, he’s had more seasons like 2013 than 2012. I still wouldn’t call hanging onto Headley a mistake; he was good for 3.5 WAR last year, making him the 8th most valuable third baseman in the majors.
3. Tyson Ross had a solid year in 2013, tallying a 3.17 ERA and 3.20 FIP with 119 strikeouts in 125 innings. What are the Padres expecting out of him in 2014?
More innings, mostly. There’s not a huge expectation for improvement in his performance, but there is a need for him to stay healthy all year, especially given the number of injuries San Diego pitchers have suffered over the last couple years. It would be fantastic if he could toss 200 innings, but that might be stretching it.
4. The Padres don't have a big name (or "run producer," as the term goes) in the middle of their lineup, but a number of guys seem like they could fit the bill if things go right this season. Who should Tigers pitchers look out for during this series?
Nobody. It’s a perfectly mundane lineup and Tigers pitcher should feel perfectly safe throwing nothing but 90 mph fastballs down the middle. Please tell Justin Verlander I said that. In all seriousness, Yasmani Grandal is off to an incredibly hot start. Who would have thought that a guy who had ACL surgery in August would be hitting .368 right now, let alone make the Opening Day roster? I’d keep an eye out for Jedd Gyorko, too. He’s off to a slow start, but he led all rookies last year with 23 home runs.
5. Former Tiger Joaquin Benoit has gotten off to a slow start, but the rest of the Padres bullpen seems to be pitching well. What is it like having a bullpen you can trust? Or do Padres fans get the same sense of dread that teams with less-than-stellar pens (like us) have anytime a starter is pulled from the game? Also, who's the best non-closer reliever on the team?
After 2010’s insanely talented bullpen, everything feels a little so much worse. I know it’s not true, but everything suffers in comparison. And the Padres low-scoring ways mean the pen is always walking a tightrope, and the crowd is on the verge of a heart attack. I couldn’t tell you who the best non-closer reliever on the team is, but my favorite is Tim Stauffer. He’s the longest tenured Padre, and he’s spent time in the rotation and in the bullpen. When he struggles, it can get ugly, but when he’s on top of his game, he’s so much fun to watch.
BONUS: Various counties across the state of Michigan broke records this year for the number of consecutive days with below freezing temperatures. What was the coldest it got in San Diego this winter?
I don’t know. It probably dropped below 40 overnight at some point. And I definitely saw frost once or twice. One day I even wore a light sweater AND a jacket.
Once again, thank you to Richard for answering our questions and being somewhat merciful about his city's beautiful weather. My responses to his questions are here. To read up on all things Padres, click on over to Gaslamp Ball.