True? False? Let’s spend your Friday morning figuring that out.
First, a few caveats. Venable is nearly two years older than Headley. Obviously, they play different positions so it’s a bit difficult to make a straight one-to-one comparison defensively. Headley also has 1000 more at-bats. Finally, we will be looking at seasons in which they had at or near 300 ABs. This means ’09-’13 for Venable and ’08-’13 for Headley.
Ok, got that out of the way.
Will Venable has turned a breakout season into an extension and into the Padres future conversations. Chase Headley took his breakout season, double downed, and so far is busting in 2013. Busting being a strong word perhaps, because he is still an above average player. And I’d still sign him to an extension. However, that’s a chat for another time. But he’s probably not David Wright, even though he played like him in 2012.
Still, the perception has always been that Chase Headley is the far superior player to Venable. Venable, for his part, has been the guy who had all the potential in the world and appeared to have all of the tools but simply couldn’t put them all together. Sure, he’d put them all together for two weeks or so. But then he’d come crashing back down to Earth. Until 2013.
That’s been the perception of two players that are quickly becoming the elder statesmen in the Padres increasingly younger clubhouse. But, is it the reality?
Finally, before we get started, it’s worth mentioning that this idea was brought to me via Twitter. So, hat tip sir.
@LeftCoastBias here is something curious Venable career OPS+ 112. Headley career OPS+ 113
— Nathan Zack (@taterz1021) August 29, 2013
We’ll start with some traditional stats. Keep in mind that these numbers are pre-Thursday’s game.All stats provided by Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.
Chase Headley: .268
Will Venable: .257
Takeaway: Not nearly as far apart as I would have thought before looking. Not surprisingly Headley has an 11 point edge and has done so in 1000 more ABs which makes that number (potentially) look even better. Though keep in mind as well that while Headley receives regular at-bats in a season Venable’s came much more infrequently comparatively.
Chase Headley: .348
Will Venable: .323
Takeaway: Not surprisingly, Headley has a more commanding lead in this category. Headley is buyoed by two outstanding seasons in this category (’11 = .374; ’12 = .376) whereas Venable has never gone above .335 in any qualifying season. Even in Venable’s breakout 2013 his OBP remains at .315 compared to Headley’s .333. Chase can get on base. Even when it doesn’t appear that he’s getting on base.
Chase Headley: .412
Will Venable: .433
Takeaway: This is where thing perhaps deviate from public perception. Keep in mind these numbers include Headley’s outstanding 2012 in which he reached career highs in nearly every offensive category including all power numbers, Venable still has him beat for a career. In the way this stat is calculated you have to mention that Venable’s 1000 fewer at-bats clearly help.
Chase Headley: .760
Will Venable: .755
Takeaway: Well, as you could have probably guessed, with Headley clearly ahead of Venable in OBP and Venable ahead in SLG, a stat combining the two was going to be close to equal. And here you go.
Chase Headley: 22.8%
Will Venable: 23.7%
Takeaway: Less than 1% difference. Now, after Headley’s 2013 that perhaps doesn’t surprise you. But think back to the past 5 years. Over that time I think it’s fair to say that the perception did not match this above stat. But the full career number doesn’t tell the whole story. From Fangraphs, a graph. Naturally.
What you’ll see in the event you didn’t click on that link is that while Chase Headley’s strikeouts are relatively similar year to year (his first year notwithstanding) Will Venable has severely decreased he’s strikeout rate to the point that he has a lower K% over the past two seasons compared to Headley. Will Venable strikes out less than Chase Headley. You heard that right. Perhaps not shocking for this season. But this was true last year as well.
Now for an advanced stat. Again, as it’s difficult to compare the two players defensively, I kept it to strictly and offensive metric.
Chase Headley: 16.0
Will Venable: 8.7
Takeaway: Ok, a clear distinction here where Headley has a commanding lead…or does he? Break it down by season and you’ll not only note that Headley has one extra season in which to compile oWAR but his 2012 is a clear peak in an otherwise consistent career.
Headley by the seasons: 1.2, 1.8. 2.4, 2.6, 6.3, 1.8
Obviously the 6.3 sticks out like a sore thumb. Meanwhile, Venable by the seasons.
Venable by the seasons: 0.7, 1.1, 1.3, 2.0, 3.0
The numbers are closer together, other than the obvious outlier. And while Headley’s numbers have more peaks and valleys Venable’s are on a consistent and steady rise.
What does any of this mean? I’m not sure I know. You can parse this a million different ways. Venable has more stolen bases, arguably Headley is a better defender (and a switch hitter). Venable can play each OF position. I guess the primary point is this. Offensively, Headley has an edge. But that’s all he has. An edge. However, keep in mind the value you are getting. Will Venable just took his breakout year and turned that into a 2-yr contract extension worth $8.5 million.
$4.25 million a year.
Estimate for a Chase Headley contract: $10 million/yr. Maybe more.
Is Chase Headley $6 million a year more valuable than Will Venable? That question takes more nuances than we’ve covered today. Who would play third? Gyorko? Then who plays second? Dean Anna? You get the idea. Again, I’ll be the first to admit that this isn’t a straight apples to apples comparison.
But like in 2012 with Headley, Venable has had a 2013 season that we’ve all believed he COULD have but few believed he WOULD have at this point. Is it real or is it more mirage like the 2012 Headley season? I don’t know those answers yet.
But I do know that the difference offensively between Headley and Venable is less than public perception or perceived monetary value would have you believe.