How Did We Get Here?
The Quick Answer: pitching and defense.
The Slightly Longer Answer: the Padres have allowed the fewest runs in the big leagues and have the best team ERA. While pitching stats don't begin and end with that, the Padres are also third in strikeouts, have the lowest team WHIP and on-base percentage against and are just generally not letting the opposing offenses implement their game plans.
The 40-man roster has also proven to be very deep with players like Scott and Jerry Hairston filling in nicely for long stretches and more recent call-ups like Chris Denorfia and Aaron Cunningham have also shown to be capable big leaguers. The bullpen (nicknamed the Penitentiary) has shown depth as well. The bullpen's adopted mascot, a yoda backpack given to them by David Eckstein's wife, is symbolic of something or another.
The rotation doesn't have an "Ace" per se, but four twos will beat a pair of aces in a series more often than not and that's what the Padres have shown.
The team is definitely a buyer. Owner Jeff Moorad has confirmed that he's looking to increase player payroll this year. When you consider that the Padres currently have the lowest payroll in the major leagues and are still even at least a million dollars under their original budget estimates (somewhere in the $40 million range was mentioned in the Spring), there is definitely some room to acquire a piece or two.
Jed Hoyer has been vocal about wanting another arm for the rotation and potentially some bullpen help. At this point, another offensive threat for the middle of the lineup has also been talked about, but the position to be acquired is up in the air in my view. The team is relatively flexible position player-wise and just about any position, save catcher and first base, could be shifted and moved to accomodate an acquisition. Chase Headley could move to the outfield if needed. The Hairstons play any position asked of them. Eckstein similarly could slide to shortstop if needed.
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