Even after signing Eric Hosmer to an expensive, long-term contract, the San Diego Padres failed to improve upon their 71-91 record from 2017.
The last time the San Diego Padres were over .500 was in 2010, when they were 90-72 and finished two games behind the San Francisco Giants in the NL West. They also finished just a game behind the Atlanta Braves for the wild card spot that year. In the eight years since then, they’ve won an average of 72 games per year and haven’t come close to a playoff spot.
Despite eight years of losing records, the Padres attendance has barely changed. They drew 2,131,774 fans in 2010, when they were 90-72, and 2,168,536 fans in 2018, when they finished 66-96. In a year in which more than half the teams in baseball saw a drop in attendance, the Padres were in the minority as they had slightly higher attendance this year than they did in 2017.
Heading into the 2018 season, the Padres had one major asset—a highly regarded farm system. The young players in the minor leaguers weren’t expected to lead the team to contention just yet, but they gave fans hope for the future. After finishing 71-91 in 2017, they were projected by Fangraphs and Baseball Prospectus to have the same win total in 2018. Clay Davenport was much more pessimistic, projecting them to win just 58 games.
There was a reason for this. The 2017 Padres finished 71-91, but with a -212 run-differential, the worst in baseball. Their expected record based on their run-differential was 57-105. While fans may have considered them a 71-win team in 2017, they were actually closer to a 57-win team.
In that sense, winning 66 games this year wasn’t the big step back it looked to be. Based on actual wins, they went from a 71-win team to a 66-win team. Based on run-differential, which is generally a better indicator of the caliber of the team, they went from a 57-win team to a 64-win team (their expected record this year was 64-98).
Before we get to what went right and what went wrong this season, let’s look at some of the moves they made last offseason.