In last Sunday’s game against the Washington Nationals, Padres outfielder Will Venable made one of the most ridiculous diving catches to rob Nationals Jayson Werth from extra bases. His catch prevented a big inning for Washington and preserved the Padres three run lead.
Padres’ fans have come to expect these type of big defensive plays from the 31 year old outfielder. His highlight reel catches and speed reflects Venable’s natural talent, but the team also saw a turnaround in his offensive power numbers in 2013.
Last year, Venable’s home run totals nearly tripled from 9 to 22. What caused this increase? According to Neil Weinberg, “he started catering his swing to the new dimensions, he became a Petco Park superstar. Venable looked for pitches out over the plate that he could pull down the right field line.”
In previous years, it would take a mammoth blast to get the ball over wall in right field. With Padres’ lefties struggling, ownership looked to add more offense and brought in the right field fences changing the dynamics of Petco Park to cater more to left-handers. These changes had a considerable impact as the Padres as a team hit 21 more homeruns than the previous year. Venable definitely was one who benefited the most from the shorter porch hitting 8 more homers at home than on the road.
Weinberg adds, “Venable is a reminder that context can often be deceiving. Venable didn’t magically get stronger last year, but he was finally playing in a home park in which he could hit a significant number of home runs.”
However, the Padres are 27 games into the 2014 season and Venable has yet to hit a homerun. He is batting a poor .213 with 2 RBI and 27 strikeouts. There is no doubt Venable has the talent both on offense and defense, but he needs to begin to resemble the player from the 2013 season who had finally found his power stroke.