Ran into a Kansas City Royals’ fan the other night and he assured me the Royals will lose 110 games this season.

Since the San Diego Padres are quickly becoming the West Coast version of the Royals, I started wondering how many games the Padres could lose this season.

The Royals at least employ 2009 American League Cy Young Award winner Zack Grienke, one of the top five pitchers in the game. The Padres used to have a guy like Grienke, but peddled away 2008 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy to the Chicago White Sox during the 2009 campaign.

You at least felt good about the Padres’ chances of securing a victory on any night Peavy took the mound. The guy was a splendid pitcher and an even better competitor while going 92-68 for a team that often struggled to score runs for him.

But with Peavy on the South Side of Chicago, the Padres no longer have a stopper at the top of the rotation. The opening-game hurler against the Arizona Diamondbacks was journeyman Jon Garland, who would be a No. 3 or 4 starter for most teams. He’s a durable pitcher with 117 career victories since 2000 but he should never be the best starter on your staff.

The No. 2 guy is Chris Young, who is getting paid $6.25 million this season despite making just 32 starts over the past two seasons. He has 46 career victories with only 11 of them coming over the past two seasons. He had some impressive moments during the 2006-07 seasons but still has never won more than 12 games in a season.

Kevin Correia (26-33 career record) had a respectable 12-11 record last season after the Padres found him on the scrap heap and there’s no telling how he’ll fare this season. He could be respectable again or he could be a major flameout. One thing I can tell you is that the 29-year-old isn’t going to suddenly win 17 or 18 games.

So unless 22-year-old phenom Mat Latos (4-5, 4.62 ERA in 10 starts last season) emerges as a force – think the way the Detroit Tigers’ Rick Porcello won 14 games last season at age 20 – the Padres are going to lack what it takes to contend in the weak NL West.

And if the pitching struggles when you play half of your games in the pitching paradise that is Petco Park, your chances of winning even half your games isn’t good.

Throw in the fact that 40-homer first baseman Adrian Gonzalez is the one bona fide offensive threat in a hitting-challenged lineup, scoring runs again figures to be a problem.

Chase Headley (12 homers, 64 RBIs in 2009) is the Padres’ second-best hitter, and that’s a major problem. Kyle Blanks showed some pop (10 homers) after a midseason call-up and the Padres desperately need him to provide 25 homers this season.

The jury is out on players like shortstop Everth Cabrera (25 steals, 23 errors last season) and outfielders Will Venable (.256 after a strong final third of the season) and Tony Gwynn Jr. (.270 average). And bringing back journeyman Scott Hairston and signing his utilityman brother, Jerry Hairston Jr., doesn’t excite anyone other than the Hairston family (meaning, yes, it’s nice that the two brothers get to play on the same team, but their presence does nothing to improve your chances of winning a division title).

And signing a 42-year-old pinch hitter who batted .194 last season (that’s you, Matt Stairs) is borderline silly when you lack solid every-day hitters in the starting lineup.

Closer Heath Bell is solid and I think Bud Black is a good manager but these aren’t exactly the 1998 Padres taking the field. It figures to be another long season, one in which new general manager Jed Hoyer can get a lot of answers about the talent (or lack of) in the organization and plan his eventual rebuilding of the team (yes, that means Gonzalez will eventually be traded).

But lose 110 games like the Royals’ fan predicts for his beloved franchise? I don’t see that occurring for the 2010 Padres. I see them losing 90 games (that means 72 victories) but I think they’ll avoid losing 100 games.

As bad as the Padres were for most of the 2009 season, they still went 75-87. In fact, 75 wins is about the most one can honestly expect from this year’s Padres.


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