Thursday, May 7, 2015

Chase Headley's baffling beginning to Yankees' tenure

When the New York Yankees signed Chase Headley to a four-year, $52 million contract this past offseason, I was fairly happy with the deal. I, like the Yankees, have been a big fan of Headley’s and he proved he could handle playing in the Bronx after a midseason trade. There are not many switch-hitting third baseman with 15-homer power, a good on-base percentage and a fantastic glove.

Chase Headley has had a rough start in field.
Photo credit: Keith Allison
While $52 million is a lot of money, it’s not difficult for a player to return value on that over the course of the contract. As it stands right now, Headley has a good deal of catching up to do.

Through 27 games and 109 plate appearances, Headley looks more like the player the San Diego Padres vanquished last season than the man who showed up in the Bronx and made people relish in what he could do here over the course of a full season. Headley owns a .238/.294/.386 slash with three home runs and 10 RBI. He sports a wRC+ of 87 (100 is average) and has generated a measly 0.1 fWAR.

Headley strikes out; he always has. But he mixed in a fair number of walks keeping his on-base percentage at or above league-average. He was never as bad as his current 3.6 K/BB rate. It doesn’t seem to matter much as to which side of the plate Headley is hitting from either. He has a 5.1 percent walk rate versus left-handed pitchers and 7.1 percent against right-handed pitching.

Well, his defense must be counting for something, you say?

Sure, it’s counting against him. Headley’s gold glove is tarnishing for some reason. He’s committed seven errors on the season in only 85 chances. Last season, he made just eight errors in 319 chances. He is six errors short of tying his career-high of 13 which took 388 chances to attain.

Clearly something is amiss with Headley. Is it the pressure of proving he was worth the commitment the Yankees made to him? Or is it something more?

For the fielding, I’ll give Headley the benefit of the small sample size argument and guess he’ll tighten up his fielding issues. It is hard to do the same with his hitting when he was declining in San Diego since his monstrous 2012 season (31 home runs, 115 RBI, 17 SB and 145 wRC+).

Since then he turned in a respectable 114 wRC+ in 2013, and then registered a 103 wRC+ in 2014 (90 in San Diego, 121 in New York). His walk rate in San Diego last season was 7.2 percent and it jumped to 12.9 percent with the Yankees. The Yankees surely thought they were getting the guy they saw for the second half of the season. More importantly they need him to produce at the end of the middle-third of the lineup.

I believe Headley can get back on track, but it has to begin with him being more selective at the plate. He proved he still has it in him; as recently as last season. The strikeouts are going to come, but they cannot be at a pace over three and a half times greater than his walks. Until he reigns in that ratio, expect Headley to continue to falter at the plate.

Christopher Carelli is a freelance baseball writer. Besides his work here, Christopher is a featured Yankees writer for He is also a correspondent for FantasyPros, where he writes a weekly column covering the closer/bullpen situations around Major League Baseball. His baseball commentary has also been published on Yahoo Sports and linked multiple times on MLB Trade Rumors’ Baseball Blogs Weigh In. He is a member of the Internet Baseball Writers Association of America, the Baseball Bloggers Alliance and the BYB Hub.