Bud Black on Will Venable Batting Second

Earlier this week I wrote about Will Venable’s place in the batting order and how his hitting second would most definitely ensure that my soul would settle in purgatory, never reaching the treasure trove of celestial paradise.

But before I wrote that piece on Tuesday morning, I called Craig Elsten of 619 Sports last Sunday morning during the Padres pre-game show. I implored Elsten to ask Bud Black what the rationale was behind batting Will second. Why on EARTH, was he batting Venable second!? I believe those were my precise words. Well Craig didn’t let me down. Filling in for Darren Smith on Tuesday afternoon Craig interviewed Buddy and finished the interview with the following question:

I get input. I get feedback from folks out there, in Padres Public, in the world and I love to have this opportunity as a conduit to talk to you about it. What is the mindset, or what is the thought process at the top of the order . . . Venable in the #2 spot? What’s the thought process, why you like to put Venable 2nd?”

Here’s what Bud said . . .

With him and Cabby at the top, they’re our two best base-stealers. When both of those guys get on it creates a dynamic between the pitcher and the catcher that might alter their pitch selection. They’re more apt to throw fastballs to Chase and the pressure that’s implied, they have to be quicker to the plate. That might impact their ability to make pitches [.  . .]

I like the idea of having some speed at the top of the order. Is Chase Headley fast enough to create this same dynamic of which Bud Black speaks? From 2010-2012 Will averaged 26 stolen bases a year while Chase averaged a shade under 16. There’s a difference there to be sure. And it should be noted that Will accrued his numbers in less playing time. Will Venable definitely creates a greater speed advantage tandem with Everth Cabrera than Chase Headley would create. But . . .

Chase is a good hitter already which begs the question, “Does he need to see more fastballs?” Couldn’t another hitter, a lesser hitter, benefit from the fastballs that this spot in the order might see if Cabby and Headley were the 1-2 combo at the top of the order? Keep in mind, that in order for this dynamic to be enacted at the top of the order it requires Will Venable to get on base. Currently Venable’s OBP is .295 while Headley’s is .394, a sizable difference.

Bud went on to say:

Will second, if Cabby gets a base hit, that leaves the hole open for Will to hit a groundball through the hole for a first and third situation.

OK. But wouldn’t this also be true of Chase Headley batting second? As a switch-hitter batting left handed wouldn’t Chase also benefit from the hole created by a first baseman holding Everth Cabrera close to the bag, and as a higher quality hitter, actually exploit the hole?

What about the prospect of a hit and run? Bud pointed out that:

I think Will’s capable of hitting and running as well if we want to do that.

Will Venable has the bat control to hit and run? That sounds scary with the number of times Will Venable Ks, which is currently 23.4% of the time. So would Chase Headley be a better candidate to hit and run from the two hole? Actually, Chase also Ks 23.4 % of the time, so probably not. Although, if I had to bet my pinky on it . .

Bud explained to Craig that Will has certain skills that are important while batting second:

I think Will’s capable of laying a bunt down if it’s late in the game and we need to sacrifice a man to second late in the game to get to Headley, Quentin and Alonso.

Check this out. If you’re thinking of using Will Venable, your number two hitter, to bunt just so you can get to Headley, Quentin, and Alonso why not try this: Eliminate Will Venable from the number two hole and move the three better hitters up in the line-up? Yes? Yes!

Bud went on to describe the “hotness” factor:

And the way Will’s been swinging the bat well the last few weeks, we want him to get the higher number of at-bats when the order turns over.

At the time of the interview on Tuesday afternoon here’s what Will Venable had done during the previous few weeks, where a “few” is defined as “three”. From May 1st – May 2oth, Will Venable put up the following slash-line:


Wow, those are some good numbers. The OBP could be higher but look at the slugging percentage! That’s what 5 HRs will get you across 18 games.

Let’s see what Venable’s numbers looked like after the interview on Tuesday when Venable faced the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright. Let’s expand the hotness by one game to include May 1st-May 21st:


That OBP of .317 is downright ugly for a team’s number two hitter but such is life when you add one bad game to a three week hot streak.

In summation, Bud Black offered the following to Craig Elsten’s listeners:

So in particular, Will, or how we do our lineup – a lot of thought goes into it on a daily basis and a lot of that is information that we’ve accumulated over time as we do each and every day.

There you have it folks. Will Venable is batting second against RHP and against LHP we’ll likely continue to see Chris Denorfia leading off with Everth Cabrera batting second.

But what happens when Cameron Maybin returns to an already crowded outfield, one in which, a hot Kyle Blanks can’t even get playing time?  Stay tuned.


P.S. I love listening to Bud Black. He has a very calm and cool demeanor and I can tell why his players like him. As for me, I certainly don’t know more about baseball than Bud Black, but I do enjoy asking questions.

I contribute to Padres Public on Thursday mornings and when I’m feeling particularly inspired. I can also be found on twitter at @AvengingJM where I write derogatory things about the playing time Will Venable receives, 7 days a week.

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  • Melvin

    Cool of Craig to ask and for Bud to give such a thoughtful answer to the question.

    The good news is Will’s baserunning score indicates he’s above average at it, so that jives with Black’s thinking. Unfortunately, as the Avenger noted, Venable is an out-making machine, projecting just a .307 OBP this year, and batting second means he’ll have the second most opportunities on the team to make those outs.

    The studies I’ve seen suggest that base stealers discourage more than encourage improved production for hitters when on base. I’m assuming Black is relying on his intuition and baseball tradition in his thinking here.

  • Axion

    I like this post.

  • Patrick

    This is great! Thanks! I think all of your responses were spot on, too. Speed is a nice asset to have, but I can’t imagine that it is seriously making up for all the missed on base opportunities provided by Venable in the no. 2 hole

  • Half-expected to see Bud Black’s answer to be “Because F**K those guys at Padres Public, especially AvengingJM!”