SAN DIEGO -- One of the biggest questions facing the Padres as they push ahead toward the 2011 season is how the offense will function without Adrian Gonzalez, who has taken his sweet left-handed swing to Fenway Park.
While the team won't go as far to profess -- at least not in January -- that the offense will be better than it was with Gonzalez, the Padres are unabashedly certain it will not be any worse than it was in 2010.
Padres general manager Jed Hoyer and manager Bud Black have said recently that an offense that ranked 15th out of 16 National League teams in average (.246) a year ago has the potential to be much more diverse and balanced.
"I think our offense has the potential to be as good as last year," Hoyer said. "We lost our clear best player [Gonzalez], but we have better balance. The positions we were weak last year, we're better at now. It's tough to lose Adrian. It's tough to predict how it will impact the offense."
The Padres believe their offseason additions of second baseman Orlando Hudson, shortstop Jason Bartlett, center fielder Cameron Maybin and the continued growth of players like Will Venable, Chase Headley and Nick Hundley will lead to bigger gains in 2011.
And a few more runs, which certainly won't hurt, even for a team built around pitching and defense.
Will that happen? Hudson and Bartlett are coming off down seasons offensively. Maybin will be 23 when the season begins, and the team believes he's on the cusp of big things. Brad Hawpe, who will play first base, is a player the Padres hope can bounce back from a disappointing 2010.
Scoring runs was certainly a monumental chore for the Padres last season, much more so than for any other 90-win team. There wasn't help at the top of the order, little protection for Gonzalez and fitful spells when runs were entirely scarce.
Such was the case late in the season, when a 10-game losing streak allowed the Giants to creep closer and eventually pass the Padres in the NL West. The Giants, of course, went on to win the World Series.
From Aug. 26 on, the Padres hit .226 as a team and had a .289 on-base percentage over the last 37 games of the season. They were shut out six times, three times over the final week of the regular season.
"We got away from our ability to manufacture runs late in the year," Hoyer said. " ... That was in part injuries, in part poor performance and partly my fault for not having enough of those guys on the team. The ability to not get one or two runs hurt us. We need to be more consistent."
The Padres believe that the additions of Bartlett and Hudson will benefit the top of the order. Both are veterans, both can handle the bat, hit behind runners, and can help continue the edict of manufacturing runs, something the Padres got away from after midseason trades that landed Ryan Ludwick and shortstop Miguel Tejada.
"I've said it before, but it's got to be a one through eight contribution," Black said. "With the names that we have added, there's offense in there. Now we have to do it on the field.
"I think the total offensive game has to be efficient, getting a guy over, situational hitting and getting guys to third base with less than one out. Manufacturing runs. If that happens, our offense will be better."
Black also promises the Padres will get back to being aggressive on the bases, something that wasn't so easy after the acquisitions of Ludwick and Tejada, and when the guys with speed weren't getting on base as much in the second half.
"It's still important we run the bases aggressively. It's more than stolen bases. It's going from first to third base, getting good jumps, scoring on doubles. We think that the overall team speed is similar to where we started last season," Black said.
"We still think the stolen-base component can be part of our game. We will also need those guys to get on base."