SD chapter of BBWAA picks Venable as Padres' MVP
Trusting adjustments at plate, 30-year-old outfielder enjoys career year for Friars
SAN DIEGO -- In his first five seasons in the big leagues, Padres outfielder Will Venable tinkered with his swing and about every other aspect of his game as it pertained to hitting.
Swing path, hand positioning, footwork … if they didn't produce the results he wanted, Venable would then try something else.
This season, after countless hours of work with hitting coaches Phil Plantier and Alonzo Powell, Venable found something that worked for him, something he could use in his pregame routine and carry it into a game.
"You have to find something that's comfortable," Venable said Thursday. "You have to trust that those adjustments are going to work."
Venable's newfound mindset was certainly tested greatly, especially in the first half of the season. On June 22, after going 0-for-4 with four strikeouts against the Dodgers, Venable's average stood at .215.
Whereas the old Venable might have tried a handful of mechanical remedies to get himself right, this time, he stuck to the teachings of Plantier and Alonzo and trusted the process.
"Instead of panicking when I didn't feel good, I trusted the adjustments," Venable said. "Because of that, I didn't feel like I needed to tinker."
Venable soared offensively shortly thereafter, hitting .309 in July followed by a scorching .367 in August on his way to a career year.
On Thursday, Venable was named the Padres' Most Valuable Player for 2013 by the San Diego chapter of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Venable set career marks in games (151), runs (64) and hits (129), while tying his career high in triples (eight), and he also hit 22 home runs -- nine more than his previous career best in 2010. He was also one of nine Major League players to hit 20 or more home runs with 20 or more stolen bases (22).
Venable, a left-handed batter, also raised his batting average against lefties from .231 in 2012 to .276 in '13.
Not bad work for a player who experienced a career year at the age of 30.
"Maybe 30 years old is considered old for some players, but maybe not for Will," Padres general manager Josh Byrnes said in September.
"He's a unique story with his basketball background through college. He's obviously been a good player for a number of years. This year, he's taken it to a higher level."
In September, the Padres awarded Venable a two-year contract worth $8.5 million, which will cover his last two arbitration years.
"He's a self-admitted tinkerer, one who probably did a little too much, making too many adjustments on the fly," Padres manager Bud Black said Wednesday. "I think this year, working with Phil and Alonzo, that he finally realized he had to find a basis of what he wanted to do every day. Stay with it, believe in it and take it into every game.
"That doesn't mean you can't make adjustments, but his stance, hand position, pregame work, all those things became much more stable and his play became much more consistent too."
Venable is up for a GIBBY Award for the top play of 2013 for his back-to-plate, diving catch at AT&T Park in San Francisco in June that saved a game the Padres eventually won in extra innings.