The Most Productive Padres Third Baseman Of All Time Is Currently Playing For The Padres

Chase Headley – Photo by Keith Allison

I know, I know. I know. You might not want to believe Chase Headley is the most productive Padres third baseman of all time when Ken Caminiti exists. I know. Hear me out.

Ken Caminiti is the safe pick for the most memorable Padres third baseman of all time. He put together a monster 1996 season, the second greatest Padres season from any position player by fWAR (7.5) while also leading the team to its first divisional victory in 12 years.

You know who ties Caminiti for the second greatest Padre position player season? Current Padre Chase Headley, whose defense and underrated bat boosted his 2012 campaign to 7.5 fWAR to match.

Chase leads Ken in Padres fWAR 20 – 17 (and bWAR 19 – 17) with 1300 more Padres plate appearances, even after taking a ~1.5 win hit playing out of position in LF for two seasons in deference to Kevin Kouzmanoff. If allowed to play his natural position for those two initial seasons, Chase’s Padres fWAR could be near 21-22.

While Caminiti made some memorable diving stops at third and did cool shit like throwing from his back, Headley was the better defender. Unfortunately the data available for Caminiti is Total Zone, so the comparison to Headley’s UZR and DRS is not completely fair, but it’s the best we have. And the best we have says that Cammy played roughly average defense over his career, but he fell off his first year in San Diego and never recovered. By both DRS and UZR, looking at career numbers and as a Padre, Headley earns a ton of value.

fWAR isn’t everything, and Headley isn’t the political choice. We all remember Caminiti’s intensity, the memorable 1996 and 1998 seasons, and chicks dig the long ball. Headley’s skills were less obvious, his personality less memorable, and through no fault of his own the team around him less good. But he was drafted and developed by the Padres, and he earns the bonus that he and I attended University of the Pacific together in the same freshman class. All combined, he’s the most productive Padres third baseman ever, so enjoy that nostalgia while he’s still here.

I’m mostly on Twitter these days, so follow me @SacBuntChris for mediocre #PadresMeatTwitter entries.

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  • ddesch

    I appreciate your contention but respectfully disagree. Caminiti was a feared hitter and vacuum at third. Looking at their Padres career WAR seems to bias towards Headley. Also, staring the what if I’m regards to Headley playing LF is comical. There are always “ifs” to be had. What if Caminiti hadn’t been hurt so much? As a friend of mine says “if ifs were fifths we would all be drunk”.

    • Sac Bunt Chris

      Thanks for the comment! It’s not comical to assume someone would be more productive at something when doing a thing they’re historically good at than something they have no experience in. Suppose someone studied music in college and played the saxophone, then got a job and their employer made them play the violin instead. Would we not assume that person would be a better saxophone player than violinist? We may not know that with 100% certainty, but as far as knowing things goes it’s certainly reasonable.

      As far as injuries, would you consider that as part of our evaluation of their productivity?

      Anyway, I expected people might have strong disagreements with my opinion and I understand where you’re coming from.

  • Thomas Joseph Burke

    Headley had a monster 2012 season and in my opinion deserved the MVP that year since he lead the league in RBI’s with 116. I would call it a tie since Caminiti also had a monster season. I have always loved Headley, glad to see him back and am super stoked for this year!

  • randplaty

    Most productive… yes. Best? No.