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Opening Day is right around the corner - and the 2021 Major League Baseball season is back to its full, gruelling, 162-game schedule.
This year, the Cloudbet Blog, in close collaboration with sportswriter and all-round American sports fan Andrew Cunneen (@Cunneen92), is excited to be trying something new - something that we hope will appeal equally to those who may not be so familiar with all the ins and outs of America’s national pastime, and sharp baseball bettors alike.
What’s more, we’ll be doing it through the looking glass of the San Diego Padres - using them, and their performance along the way, to explore the dynamics and nuance in baseball that can make or break a successful team.
The decision to focus on a single team will provide us the opportunity to explore the many facets of the game, both those that the Padres excel and possibly struggle at - and by identifying which of those strengths and/or weaknesses may come to the fore in any given series, along with comparisons to other franchises, glean a better understanding of the sport - and use this in our hunt for value when betting with crypto on the MLB.
What we can then do with all this information is offer an informed opinion on Cloudbet’s MLB bitcoin betting markets so that together we can find value - which means you can use us - Cloudbet's trusted bitcoin sportsbook - to help grow your bankroll.
We'll also reward your tenacity and loyalty with a different San Diego Padres promotion each month - so it will pay for you to stick around too. We're starting with a Six Shooter, where we'll grade a pre-game money line bet a win if the Padres score 6 but still lose.
So let the Cloudbet Blog take you on the rollercoaster ride that will be the 2021 San Diego Padres, navigating their highs, their lows and everything in between.
From this season-opening introduction, to our pre-season previews of the American League and National League, through wider overviews of the major league landscape that the Friars will have to navigate to land their first World Series - we’re all set for a foray into the world of base-runners, double-plays and grand slam manna from heaven.
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Why the Padres?
In short, because they’re a team with aspirations - and possibly, just possibly, the right players in the mix to make it happen now…
Whatever happens, they’re most definitely a team to watch this year and beyond.
San Diego ended a 13-year playoff drought in 2020 and managed a wild-card series win over the St. Louis Cardinals before being swept by the eventual World Series winners, the LA Dodgers in the National League Division Series.
If the tale this year unfolds as the staff at Petco Park would have it, we could witness the dawn of an era - where a minnow of the league, with a media market that famously ranks 29th out of MLB’s 30 teams, gets to play for glory against the big boys of baseball.
All of sport loves a fairytale, an underdog going all the way, a David vs Goliath story - and it’s no exaggeration that the 2021 San Diego Padres may yet provide all that sporting drama.
It’s an intriguing story, and one we’re incredibly excited to see unfold. What’s more, we’re excited to have you along for the ride.
A Dynasty in the making
The 2020 season, shortened as it was due to the pandemic, proved ultimately to be a very good one for San Diego - thanks in no short measure to one man… 22-year-old shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr. - the most electrifying athlete in baseball today.
So much so, in fact, that his $340million 14-year contract extension (the longest contract in MLB history) was General Manager AJ Preller’s primary off-season objective. And with it, the Padres have managed to make “El Nino” a Friar for life.
It’s hard to underestimate the management coup that Preller has pulled off here, but it helps that Tatis is the kind of guy who is happy to make a name - no, a legacy - for himself at just one club. The “statue contract” (as in, "You keep playing this well and there’ll be a statue of you one day") helps. But generally speaking, a player of Tatis calibre is not a player that San Diego gets to land, let alone tie down for the long term… and definitely not for life.
All the right moves
But they have… largely because his deal wasn’t the only chess move being made.
So, what steps have the Padres taken to achieve the seemingly impossible for a small-market team?
It’s important to recognise that it wasn’t just an increase in payroll that brought about this improved record. It was years of good scouting for international prospects, as well as a slow-build, potential-driven farm system that has paid off in incredible fashion.
You see, the only way Preller was able to swoop in for the veterans he picked up was by being able to promise high-value prospects in return. Normally when teams do this they fall foul of self-sabotaging themselves in the long-term to make a short-term run at a World Series - but so long was the Padres farm-system list of high-end prospects that they’ve managed to hold on to all three of their best prospects in the pipeline.
So for all that they’re stacked at the major league level, they’re also holding off MacKenzie Gore in reserve - baseball’s highest-ranked pitching prospect. This isn’t a moneyball situation - it’s a culmination of long-term planning and learning from mistakes - as well as aggressive ownership and a GM crazy enough to pull off the moves nobody else dared even enquire about.
How have they gone about it? Consistency in the right areas, and huge additions in the pitching department.
Batting strength in place...
The Padres batting line-up was as electrifying as anyone's last year - even earning the moniker “Slam Diego” after hitting back-to-back-to-back-to-back grand slams.
Third baseman Manny Machado was already under long-term contract ($300 million, 10-years, signed in 2019), as is first baseman Eric Hosmer. Second baseman Jake Cronenworth was secured from the Red Sox last year and is also locked in for the foreseeable future. The addition of multi-positional Ha-seong Kim, adds yet another dimension too.
With the universal designated hitter rule now gone for 2021, that’s a little bit of a letdown... But the Padres have depth with the bat, and that’s no bad thing.
… but pitching line-up bolstered
It was their pitching that needed work. The Padres went in to the postseason with a genuine Cy Young contender in Dinelson Lamet, but he went down before the Dodgers series. They also lost big-name acquisition Mike Clevinger to season-ending surgery. He’ll miss 2022 too.
That news was a blow, but it was quickly put behind them as San Diego pacified their re-energised fanbase by adding two of the games premier slingers in Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs and Blake Snell (a 2018 Cy Young winner) from the Tampa Bay Rays.
Lamet appears to be fully healthy coming into the season and he’s throwing Cactus League right now. Paddack has looked back to himself after a down year in 2020. Joe Musgrove, a San Diego native, was brought in from Pittsburgh.
So the pitching rotation now looks like this: Darvish; Snell; Lamet; Musgrove; Paddack - a rotation ranked #2 in the country.
Good luck competing with that as a batting staff.
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- Brewers vs Twins
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- Mariners vs Giants
The task ahead
Among the many questions we’ll be looking for answers to, are who starts as lead-off?
How can the team maximise the clutch nature of Fernando Tatis?
Can they really maintain their defensive masterclass in the infield from 2020?
Do they have too many rotational bats to find consistency?
As always, the path to the World Series starts with making the postseason - and the easiest way to do that is by winning the NL West.
Of course that’s not a necessity as the Friars could finish second in the division and still make the playoffs, but they’ll eventually have to topple the all-conquering reigning world champion Dodgers over a series.
So they may as well aim to do so in the regular season when it’s not all win or bust. And that has to be the primary focus of manager Jayce Tingler and his entire coaching staff.
A rivalry in the making
The Padres-Dodgers story is also shaping up nicely: The challengers versus the champs. Young vs Old. Then there’s the proximity and the simple fact that they play not only in the same league, but in the same division.
In last year’s playoffs, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts was very quick to play down the media-frenzied “rivalry” that was being bandied around, citing the fact that rivalries are born out of competition, and that, well… despite their improvements the Padres were swept 3-0.
But undeniably, rivalry or not, gunning for the Dodgers in a bid to compete at the very top was the goal that underpinned AJ Preller’s every move in the offseason as he executed trade after trade, acquisition after acquisition.
And now those moves must culminate in a genuine contest for the NL West title.
The rest of the division - the Diamondbacks, Rockies and Giants - have gone backwards, really to the point where they’re non-factors. This is a two-horse race and fans will consume it exactly as that.
The Dodger’s bankroll is as big as it is because of their generated revenue. They’ve benefited massively from being Los Angeles’ team of choice and their success has duly followed. Yes, the Padres were able to make two nine-figure signings recently, but they’re not working in anything like the same kind of financial framework that the Dodgers enjoy.
But now we have a viable contender in the Padres.
And we’re looking forward to tracking their progress through the season to answer some our questions as we go. Have they done enough in the off-season? Where might they run into problems? Can the players handle the length of the season, or will fatigue and injury play a role?
As we gear up to that first pitch, we’re looking at balancing all of these uncertainties with an optimism over a season that has the potential to be one hell of a story in the making…
Follow the progress on Cloudbet as the season unwinds. It may be one the city of San Diego never forgets.
Will they be making documentaries about this Padres season in the future? Possibly. Maybe.
Let’s find out together.