There’s been much consternation going on around these parts ever since I ranked Chase Headley 34th in my Top 100 Keepers for 2013 and Beyond post that came out last week. Wait, is that the correct word? Consternation? Does constipation work better? There’s been much constipation… hmmm. Decisions. Let’s just go with both. Actually, now that I think about it, no one really cared about that ranking. However, there were some eyebrows raised at not including a second baseman, whose name rhymes with Rick Danklin. But I don’t want to talk about him anymore. I already wrote about him here. ARE YOU NOT SATISFIED? And even though I also talked about Chase Headley in the same post, I want to examine him a bit further for a few reasons. And I also want to examine both your consternation and constipation. My friends call me ‘H’. As in Preparation H. But not really. Not at all. This will never be mentioned again.
So, onto the reasons why Headley is this week’s focus — it has come to my attention that I have yet to spotlight any player on the Padres. Now, you could surmise that the reason for this is either because the Padres are a horrible team, of which said team has about close to zero star power as a team can have, an ingredient necessary for this Bear/Bull series. OR, that I’ve done what any serious writer does in this profession, and that is to take my hometown bias, stick in a lock box with Al Gore’s Social Security plan, (yes, I know that joke is dated by like 20 years. Do you know any other lock box jokes? Didn’t think so.) and purposefully produce neutral pieces for the benefit of you, the readership. It’s totally that last one, cause I’m that good bro. And it doesn’t hurt that the Padres are something wonderful. Shhhh. Also, let us come to the fair conclusion that Chase Headley has not had a good first half. Let us also come to the conclusion that at first glance, the evidence we have to support Headley producing a very strong second half mostly relies on data from last years second half, which might not be who he really is anyhow. That’s the easy way to do things. But we don’t do easy here folks. We do it hard and rough. Just the way your mother likes it Trebek.
…One only has to look at his career .333 BABIP compared to his .281 BABIP this season to feel better. You are the one, so go look. After a putrid June, Chase is already hitting close to .300 the last few weeks with improved plate discipline. And there doesn’t seem to be any huge discrepancies with his batted ball profile either. Don’t forget, last season, in the first half, Headley hit 267/368/413. Second half? 308/386/592. Not saying that’s a ‘how’. More like, ‘it’s happened before.’
Suffice it to say, based on that blurb from my midseason buy/sell, I believe in a resurgence. In fact, if you haven’t noticed, I think the resurgence is happening this very moment. What makes Headley an even better buy-low is that everyone is defaulting that last year’s second-half assault was all smoke and mirrors, and that he really is only a 270 hitter with a few homeruns. While he may not be a 300 hitter with 30 bombs, I don’t think arriving at the lowest denominator is a rational conclusion. Something in the middle actually ends up being quite a valuable asset at the hot corner.
Whoa whoa wait. It’s time for a Chase Headley GIF intermission.
A Chase Headley Homerun
We can call it a Headrun. Right? Right? RIGHT.
Foremost, let’s analyze his BABIP. As stated above quite plainly, there is a huge discrepancy with Headley’s luck on the balls he puts into play. In 3,208 plate appearances, he has a .334 BABIP, which is certainly a sample size we should all be comfortable with. In June, when he suffered from a 183/270/257 line, his BABIP stood at .235. It would be fair to think that these two occurrences are quite related. And it’s no surprise that so far in July, his .379 BABIP has fueled a 293/398/476 slash. When regression happens, it certainly happens. Obvious statement is obvious.
Are you ready for some more dreamboat intermission action? Of course you aren’t. I’m not even ready and I know what’s about to go down.
Where I come from, they call that sexy. Yes, I come from San Diego. Shut up.
Another Headrun. It’ll catch on. Trust me.
The following is the expression I’m assuming that’s on your face right now.
Cool story bro.
Now that the BABIP section is out of the way, and, along with my personal Chase Headley circle-jerk, let us enter into evidence his batted ball profile, which I also touched lightly in the blurb above. And if you know anything about me, touching lightly requires a large amount of restraint.
Now, if there’s one thing that sticks out from this table, its the abnormally low 9.3% HR/FB rate sitting right below an abnormally high 21.4% HR/FB rate, which, strangely enough, sits below an abnormally low 4.3% HR/FB. It’s my general conclusion that all three numbers are inaccurate in terms of Headley’s true talent level. Those are some fightin’ words. I know. In fact, I feel like déjà vu is going down. With Matrix cats. Let’s take another trip in the Razzy time machine and have archived-Jaywrong tell us what’s up. Here, in my sleeper post for Yonder Alonso, I use Chase Headley as a proxy, but the information is just as useful here, as it gives us clues as to why that 4.3% HR/FB was folly.
Chase Headley was once a highly thought of prospect who arrived in 2009 and put up two okay seasons, and then two-thirds of an ouchie season. That ouchie season, in 2011, was a 4 HR effort. Granted, that was only in 113 games, but his ISO stood at .110. But there were some statistical indicators here that we should have paid attention to. First, we shouldn’t have accepted that ISO level as normal, even considering the home park effect. If you go back season by season over a four year period, Headley’s ISO actually goes up. .110->.111->.131->.151. And, if you go even further back, in 186 AA and AAA games, his ISO was roughly around .250. Second, his HR/FB rate in 2011 was at an unheard rate of 4.3%. The MLB average was 9.7%. There’s hitting in PetCo. And then there’s being incredibly unlucky with your FB% combined with hitting in PetCo.
An easy counter argument here would be that Headley’s flyballs are going at an average distance of 280.09 feet. In 2012, the average was 304.47 feet. 2011? 284.44 feet. So it’s easy to see which number doesn’t belong. But we have to remember context. Now, I’ve already admitted that 2012 may be an outlier, but we’re not that far apart. Why? Because flyball distance and HR/FB correlate with each other. Take, for instance, the fact that Headley’s own teammate, Carlos Quentin, a Grey favorite, who has an average flyball distance of 281.61 has a HR/FB rate of 13.0%. Does this mean that Headley’s rate will inflate by a large margin, ala 2012? Probably not. But regression demands, just like it did in 2011, that his HR/FB rate will move closer to the league average of 10.7%, and quite possibly above that mark. And, so again, its a question of luck. In this specific case, flyball luck.
In fact, that appears to be the ongoing theme so far. When you look at both his BABIP and HR/FB, luck is the issue.
In terms of his plate discipline, there aren’t really any red flags. All numbers are generally gravitating towards Headley’s career norms. He’s swinging a bit more, to be expected from a slumping player. His Z-Contact% has been trending down, with his SwStr% trending up, which may be troublesome. But I”m encouraged that his BB% has jumped in July to 13.7% from 9.0% in June, and that his BB/K has risen from 0.41 to 0.56 in the same time span.
So his BABIP, batted ball profile, and plate discipline are all trending in the right direction. Granted, I could be wearing an optimist shade of glasses. I could be biased. But I’d like to think I”m not. We have plenty of data here to say that 2012 was fluke, but we also have data to say the same thing about 2011 and the first half of 2013. So that certainly doesn’t leave us with the 95/31/115/286/17 third baseman from last year. But for a buy-low option this year, and if the luck-dragon has his way, over a full season, we are looking at the profile of a 80/25/90/285/15 hitter.
Padres or not, that’s a pretty good player. And that’s who you are buying for the second half and beyond.
Jaywrong is a 30-year old Korish writer who finds solace using Makers Mark as a vehicle to impress women, and also has an affinity for making Jennifer Lawrence GIFs. You can follow him @jaywrong, read his blog Desultory Thoughts of a Longfellow, or, you can find his GIFs at his tumblr, named Siuijeonseo.