A few weeks ago, Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports wrote an article that had a lot of the San Diego Padre fans up in arms. The day that article was released, I had one San Diego media member tell me, “I’d be upset if I actually knew who he was.” Ouch.

The article Morosi wrote was prior to the Padres’ series against the Atlanta Braves in late July. He was of the opinion that the Braves were going to be a playoff team while the Padres were going to fade right out of the playoff picture.

Since that article was released, the Padres are 8-6, hold a two game lead in the NL West, and currently hold the National League’s best record. As for the Atlanta Braves, they are 7-7 and they too hold a two-game lead in their division (NL East) over the Philadelphia Phillies. While a writer has his opinion, I have a lot of doubt that Mr. Morosi did a lot of research before filing that article, but he’s entitled to his opinion right? Just don’t expect me to agree with him.

I’m not going to spend my time bashing him for multiple reasons, though I will give you one reason: It’s really not worth my time.

What I will say is the Padres team that he said, so easily, would fade, has continued to hold on to their lead in the NL West and has played like contenders most of the year. Not to mention they have seven wins in eight tries against the second place Giants, putting them in a good position in head-to-head battles. They’ll need every bit of momentum as they begin a three-game series in San Francisco starting on August 13.

While they have the upper hand when it comes to their own division, it’s the rest of the National League that they will have to contend with come playoff time.

We already know that they dropped two out of three to the NL East leading Braves, but with home field advantage likely, that should put the Padres in a good position against either them or the Phillies, depending on who takes the east or the wild card. One guy they don’t want to face is new Phillies pitcher Roy Oswalt, who has a career 10-2 record and a 2.56 ERA against San Diego.

Bringing in Miguel Tejada from Baltimore hasn’t proved to be quite the move the Padres thought it was going to be, but adding Ryan Ludwick from St. Louis has definitely paid off. While Tejada is only batting .214 since coming over from the Orioles, Ludwick is batting .250 and has provided some protection to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Since Ludwick’s acquisition, the Padres are averaging almost five runs per game (24 runs in five games).

Everyone wants to talk about the Padres offense and how they are one of the worst in baseball. While that is accurate, ranking 25th out of 30 teams, they more than make up for it with their pitching. Both in the rotation as well as out of the bullpen.

The Padres, as a team, have baseball’s best pitching staff with a combined 3.28 ERA. Right behind them are the Giants (3.41), Cardinals (3.45), Braves (3.56), and Rays (3.59), two of which (Giants, Rays) the Padres have winning records against this season.

Say what you want about them as a team offensively, but let’s not forget that they managed just one hit against Giants right-hander Jonathan Sanchez earlier this year and still won the game 1-0. In baseball, you don’t have to win pretty, you just have to win. There’s no BCS computer ranking strength of schedule, there are no Alabama against San Jose States on the schedule.

If the season ended today and the Padres had a first round playoff series to get ready for, the rotation for the first round would probably be Mat Latos, Jon Garland, and Clayton Richard. I don’t see the Padres taking a chance at running Kevin Correia or Wade LeBlanc, unless either one is needed in a fifth game situation.

Out of the bullpen, the Padres are probably the strongest team in baseball when they have a lead in the late innings. They can bring out guys like Ryan Webb (3.05), Joe Thatcher (1.59), Luke Gregerson (2.38), or Ernesto Frieri, who’s yet to be scored on in nine relief appearances. Those four guys can get you right to closer Heath Bell (1.93 ERA, 31 saves) who’s about as automatic as they come.

The Padres don’t want to play the role of Cinderella looking for their missing glass slipper, but they will come into the playoffs with a chip on their shoulder the size of the Grand Canyon. They don’t mind being doubted; it’s been happening all season long, but when you have a team that is out to prove something, it makes them dangerous.

The only other time the Padres have been in a better position this far into the season was back in 1998. The same season they went to the World Series.

You can have the best hitters money can buy, but it’s been proven over the last 10 years that good pitching will overcome good hitting any day of the week. Ask the Yankees what happened when they met the Anaheim, now Los Angeles, Angels in the playoffs a few years ago.

They have the players in place, they have the pitching staff, and they have the motivation to go deep into the playoffs. Whether they go to the World Series or not will depend solely on putting everything together at the right time.

Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports wrote an article this past Wednesday with his playoff predictions. In it, Brown has the Padres facing the Cincinnati Reds in the first round of the National League Division Series. The other National League game would be between the Giants and Braves.

Assuming Brown is correct and things end the way he has them going, the Padres, with their big league leading 3.23 combined ERA, would be facing the Reds and their offense which ranks fourth in the majors. It’s a matchup that would prove to be a lot of fun to watch but would eventually end with the Padres moving on.

The next two teams facing off to play San Diego, San Francisco, and Atlanta are both favorable match-ups in a seven game series especially with the Padres having home field advantage.

The Padres are 7-1 against the Giants and 1-2 against Atlanta. They have the pitching to win either series, especially if they get 6’10” right-hander Chris Young back in time for the playoffs. Having him anchoring the rotation with Latos, Garland, Richard, and either Correia or LeBlanc, gives the Padres a decidedly strong advantage.

While the playoffs are still a few months away, it never hurts to look ahead and talk about what might happen. The San Diego Padres have the best record in the National League, and as long as that continues, they should be considered the favorites. Offense isn’t everything, they’ve proven that pitching and defense can keep them on track to their ultimate goal—a World Series championship.

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