See Chase. See Nate. See Chase Chase Nate.

Chase Headley is making history this year. On July 24, in Milwaukee, he played his 552nd career game at third base for the Padres. This pushed him past Luis Salazar as the franchise leader in games played at the hot corner.

Did you know that Salazar had been the leader? I did, but I’m weird that way.

Now Headley is chasing another record. Nate Colbert has the most strikeouts (773) in Padres history. However, his lead over second-place Headley–who has already passed Phil Nevin and Garry Templeton this season–is far from safe.

The question isn’t if Headley will break the record, but when. It could happen in 2013. He currently has 104 strikeouts in 100 games and needs 41 more in the final 48 games. Assuming he stays healthy, I like those odds.

In 1999, when Tony Gwynn was pursuing 3,000 hits, I calculated when he should reach the milestone and ordered tickets for an entire homestand to celebrate the event. Gwynn ended up on the disabled list, so I know this is asking for trouble, but who can resist a little trouble?

If Headley maintains his current seasonal pace, he will need 39 more games to break Colbert’s record. Since Bud Black almost never gives his third baseman the day off, that could come as early as the team’s 153rd game and probably no later than its 159th.

The good news is that the Padres are at home against the Dodgers and Diamondbacks for games 153 through 159. If you want to see history made, there’s your chance.

Of course, this assumes that:

  • Headley stays healthy
  • Headley continues to strike out at his current rate
  • Black continues to use Headley as he has so far

The universe could have other ideas regarding what should or should not happen, but if you like to live on the edge, you might want to buy tickets for that final homestand (September 20 to 26) in the hope of seeing something special or at least enjoying a nice breeze.

None of this is meant to disparage Headley. We are comparing him to Colbert, who was a fine ballplayer back in the day. He is, after all, the franchise leader in home runs.

Headley, despite his relatively lackluster performance in 2013 after what may have been a career year, is also a fine ballplayer. The real stories are that:

  • Headley has played in San Diego longer than many people realize.
  • Nobody stays here for long. Heck, Brian Giles ranks fifth all time in plate appearances, and it seems like he was hardly here at all.

Once Headley has the record, it could be a while before anyone catches him. Here is the current list of active leaders:

  1. Chase Headley, 733
  2. Will Venable, 495
  3. Nick Hundley, 390 (how about that class of 2005, eh?)
  4. Everth Cabrera, 324
  5. Mark Kotsay, 260

So as we head down the home stretch and watch (or don’t watch, as the case may be) the Padres try to hold off the Rockies and Giants for third place in the NL West, there is a larger story unfolding. If you are lucky, one day you can tell your grandchildren about the time you saw Headley pass Colbert as the Padres’ all-time strikeout king, thus reinforcing in their minds that you are a crazy old person.

* * *

On a scale from 1 to Russell Branyan, how excited are you about Headley’s pursuit of history? Leave a comment, send an email (geoff@sonofaduck.com), or hit me up on Twitter (@ducksnorts).

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  • The Abbot Costello

    not The Most Auspicious Of Occasions I Assure You… #BadCompanyTillTheDayIDie

  • #WhyNotKotsay

  • Thomas Long Distance Padres F

    I really like these small but interesting points of trivia…keep them coming…too bad we don’t have any with a “positive” offensive hitting category to discuss…humm…

    • Geoff Young

      Thanks, Thomas, I shall do my best. :-)

  • Frank K

    Venable only has 500 Ks? That caught me by surprise, I guess it’s the injuries and demotions, but I figured higher. It got me to take out the calculator and run a Will’s 23.6% K rate against some of the big time strikeout guys. He strikes out more often than Reggie Jackson or Sammy Sosa, close to Jose Canseco, but no serious threat to Jim Thome or the King, Adam Dunn, who is redefining the strikeout by doing over 28% of his plate appearances and staying in the bigs.

    • Geoff Young

      Frank, you raise an interesting point. Venable’s high strikeout rate is at least partly a function of an environment in which failing to make contact is regarded as a less grievous offense than it once was. For example, here are the MLB strikeout rates for every year ending in “2” over the past four decades:

      1982: 13.2%
      1992: 14.7%
      2002: 16.8%
      2012: 19.8%

      This doesn’t excuse Venable’s approach, but it does help explain it. Thanks for the thoughtful note.

  • Geoff Young

    I have to share this comment from my friend Wayne on Facebook: “Can’t wait for him to break this record. Wonder if they’ll stop the game and give him the ball he missed.”

  • ballybunion

    Well, I’m a little late, but congratulations on an accurate prediction. It took two Ks in game 157, but he got it done. Chase got three hits and three RBI in the other three ABs, so we won’t sweat the two Ks.