During the Yankees' off season (after the 2014 season), I did not want the Yankees to get all crazy signing free agents. But the one signing I coveted was Chase Headley. And then time seemed to drag on until December and the Yankees reeled him in at a fairly modest three-year deal. I was very excited. After a very successful Spring Training, I even picked him for my fantasy team. Flash forward to the All Star Break and Chase Headley has been worth -2.9 runs at the plate and -1 run in the field. What the heck happened to Chase Headley!? And what will he offer in the second half?
The reason for being excited about the December signing was that he was solid at the plate in his late stint with the Yankees in 2014 and was spectacular in the field. Headley's play at third has been disappointing to say the least in 2015 and his offense at the plate is very reminiscent to what he was like for the Padres in 2014 before the trade.
Let's start with the fielding. Most people are focusing on Headly's throwing and it has indeed been a struggle. He has made seven errors on throws and there would have been countless more without Mark Teixeira's scooping ability at first. To me, he looks tentative on his throws as if he is trying to be perfect instead of just letting it fly. The throwing problem is either mental like a mild case of yips or there might be some injury that we don't know about. I have long assumed the latter. But in either case he has already tied his career high for throwing errors and we have two and a half months of the season to go.
We cannot focus just on the throwing. Headley has also made nine errors catching the ball. That also ties a career high with a lot of the season left to go. Headley has already topped his career high for errors in a season. Headley's play at third this season has been baffling.
Chase Headley's offense (or lack of it) would be a bigger story thus far in 2015 if other regulars such as Stephen Drew and Didi Gregorius hadn't been worse. Headley's wRC+ (and/or OPS+) sits at 89. Average is 100. Last year with the Yankees he was at 117. But before that with the Padres, he was swimming in wet sand at 88. The question seems to have become: Which part of his 2014 season was a fluke, the Padres part or the Yankees part?
Headley is only slugging .373. His ISO sits at .118, far below his career norm of .141. His walk rate is at 6.8% after averaging a 10% rate for his career. His strikeouts are slightly down too. He doesn't seem to be suffering dramatically from the shifts deployed against him. His .307 BABIP is healthy enough but it is 17 points lower than his career average.
Looking at other areas, Headley's line drive percentage is very good at 27.4%, but he is hitting more ground balls and less fly balls. His GB/FB rate is the highest of his career. Also at the highest of his career is his rate of hitting the ball softly (18.1%).
I think I have established that up until now, Chase Headley has been disappointing. But what will the second half hold for him? And yes, I know: The All Star Break is beyond the halfway point. Anyway, there are a couple of reasons to be optimistic.
First, if you look at his career numbers (splits), Chase Headley's bests months have always been August and September. His OPS for those two months are easily the highest of any other months. That might partially explain his success with the Yankees in 2014. And in a small sample size, July was going well for him before the break in action this week.
Secondly, the projection systems which probably account for those career splits still are fairly aggressive for Headley in the games remaining. I looked at three and all three project his remaining games to come in at a 105 wRC+ the rest of the way. That is not spectacular, but it is by no means as bad as what he has been up until this point. The projections also feel his defense will rebound the rest of the way as well.
Obviously, the Yankees can win without much production from Headley. The team has scored well and there is enough offense in there to overcome his lack of production. But the AL East will be a dogfight the rest of the way and any extra value Headley can add, the better. I had very high hopes for this season for Chase Headley and the season is far from over. I am looking (hoping) for Chase Headley to be solid for the remainder of the season.