Pitchers perform well, but Padres' bats fall silent in '14

Pitchers perform well, but Padres' bats fall silent in '14

SAN DIEGO -- Two months into the 2014 season, the Padres were in fourth place and already 10 games back in the National League West, the result, mostly of an unproductive offense that actually hadn't hit rock bottom.

No, that came in June.

As spring turned to summer, the Padres hit just .171 -- the lowest single-month mark for a team in the modern era (or since at least 1914) -- in June. They were no-hit by Tim Lincecum of the Giants, one of four shutouts that month. They scored two or fewer runs in 18 of their 27 games.

No amount of talking, lineup or personnel changes could get the offense turned around, manager Bud Black said.

"We talked about it every day. We talked about it as a coaching staff. We talked about it as a team. We talked about it individually. It was a really rough year, especially the first three months," he said.

Those struggles essentially cost general manager Josh Byrnes his job, as he was dismissed in June after 2 1/2 seasons, hiring A.J. Preller from the Rangers, giving him a five-year deal.

The Padres rallied, to some small extent, using a revamped roster in the second half after trading away All-Star closer Huston Street as well as third baseman Chase Headley, for pieces for the future, winning 77 games in Black's eighth season.

Strong pitching, both in the rotation and bullpen, prevented the Padres from completely falling further into the morass, as starters Tyson Ross, Andrew Cashner and Ian Kennedy shined at times.

Cashner's 2014 Highlights

But the 2014 season will be remembered for the offense falling short, as Yonder Alonso, Will Venable, Carlos Quentin, Headley, Cameron Maybin and Jedd Gyorko all finished statistically below where they had been before in terms of production.

All told, the team was shut out 19 times last season.

"Anytime you have the pitching we did, there is no reason why we shouldn't have been better than we were," Gyorko said. "All we needed, on most days, was three or four runs a game. That's all. But when you dig yourself a hole like we did, it's tough to climb out."

Here is one final look back at the highs and lows of the 2014 season, recapped by the top five storylines from the calendar year (in no particular order).

5. Injuries: The team former general manager Josh Byrnes constructed last winter didn't spend much time on the field together at once in 2014.

Quentin appeared in 50 games. Cashner missed 71 games with two stops on the disabled list. Everth Cabrera, an All-Star in 2013, slumped badly and found the DL twice. Others who missed time with injuries included Alonso, Headley, Gyorko and Maybin.

Pitcher Josh Johnson, a free-agent signing, never threw a single inning and needed Tommy John surgery after suffering an elbow injury in Spring Training. Cory Luebke, who was looking toward a return at some point during 2014, needed a second Tommy John surgery.

4. That offense: This material has been sufficiently covered. What else is there left to say? The Padres were shut out 19 times last season and, even in games when the pitching shined, found trouble scraping together a few runs to make a difference.

The team ranked last in baseball in runs (535), average (.226) and on-base percentage (.292). The 535 runs were the third-fewest runs scored in a single-season since 1995 -- the 2013 Marlins and the 2010 Mariners each scored 513.

After the season, the team dismissed hitting coach Phil Plantier, replacing him with Mark Kotsay, who becomes the eighth hitting coach for the club since Petco Park opened in 2004.

3. About that pitching: While the offense scuffled, the team's starters and relievers helped to keep the team reasonably afloat.

Ross' strong start

The rotation trio of Ross, Cashner and Kennedy gave the team a tough 1-2-3 trio -- all capable of missing bats. Ross was an All-Star for the first time. Cashner had a one-hit shutout and a two-hit shutout. Kennedy surpassed the 200-inning and 200-strikeout plateaus.

The relief corps was in good shape, even after the team traded Street in July to the Angels. Joaquin Benoit (1.49 ERA, 12 saves) was solid after stepping into the closer role. Nick Vincent limited hitters to a .221 average. Rookie R.J. Alvarez, acquired in the Street deal, has the stuff to be a future closer and could carry a bigger role in 2015.

2. Rookie contributions: The Padres got some notable contributions from some rookies in 2014, including pitchers Jesse Hahn and Odrisamer Despaigne.

Despaigne's dominant outing

Hahn had a 3.07 ERA, got a bunch of ground balls and got a lot of mileage out of his plus-pitch, a big 12-and-6 curveball. Despaigne, the Cuban defector, was a gem at Petco Park (1.83 ERA) but scuffled on the road (5.31) and pegs well as a No. 5 starter or a long reliever.

Elsewhere, infielder Cory Spangenberg's small-sample size (62 at-bats) showed an interesting skill-set that could eventually play at the big league level, even if it's as a utility piece. Alvarez, an important piece in the Street deal with the Angels, has the stuff to be an eighth-inning guy or even a closer some day. He's coming fast.

1. Hiring a new general manager: The Padres made an out-of-the-box hire in Preller, and gave him an unprecedented five years to woo him from the Rangers. He's never been a GM before but he hit the ground running, making several key hires (Logan White from the Dodgers) while retaining some very good front-office people. He might have five years, but Preller has let it be known he wants to win in 2015.

Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. Keep track of @FollowThePadres on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.