clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Chase Headley is finally swinging at pitches in the zone

New, comments

It looks like Chase Headley is turning his year around and actually swinging at strikes is part of that.

Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Chase Headley, as we all know, has been terrible. He did not have a hot season last year by any means (.259/.324/.369, 1.5 fWAR), but it was at least passable. There was a reasonable expectation that he would bounce back this year, and instead, he started off the season at an absolutely atrocious 24 wRC+ over the month of April. That is almost immeasurably bad, so bad that I think many fans (and the writers here as well) questioned whether he was even a major league player anymore.

Thankfully, though, he seems to be breaking out of rock bottom. He is now hitting .291/.339/.436 in May and has pulled his batting line from 24 to 64 wRC+ in just a few weeks. The obvious reason for his break out is that of course he has to get out of his slump, because his lifetime numbers certainly outweigh one bad month, even if it was that bad. If you have been watching the games, you could visibly tell that Headley was uncomfortable.

What's funny, though, is that a lot of his troubles aren't caused by what you might think. When a hitter is doing poorly, which happens from time to time, they tend to expand their strike zone, trying to hit just about anything that is close to the zone in hopes of running into a hit. Headley, on the other hand, retreated into the strike zone. Look at his plate discipline numbers in April compared to May:

O-Swing% Z-Swing% O-Contact% Z-Contact% SwStr%
April 18.5 58.8 64.5 94.8 5.0
May 47.4 73.7 62.2 87.1 10.0

Ironically, he is swinging and missing at more pitches. The cost is lower, though, because he is actually swinging at more pitches in the zone and making contact. That is an objectively good thing, I think, because just as pitchers were adjusting to the fact that he was struggling mightily at the plate, and likely threw pitches closer to the middle of the zone, Headley obliged and swung more often. The results are pretty clear to see in his batted ball data:

GB% FB% LD% Soft% Med% Hard%
April 46.8 29.8 23.4 17.0 61.7 21.3
May 44.2 37.2 18.6 20.9 53.5 25.6

Yet another funny thing is that Headley wasn't just making weak contact in April. He actually hit the ball pretty well, but it doesn't help much when your BABIP is .191. Not only is Headley swinging at more pitches, but he is getting more fly balls and generating loft in his swing.

This also puts him back within a few percentage points (in each category) of his career batted ball profile, so there is at least a reason to believe that even though he won't hit this way all year, his hitting might stabilize a bit. If there's one thing the Yankees don't want, it's the constant ups-and-downs.

Chase Headley is a decent player. He's not going to win you a playoff spot himself, nor will he be on any All-Star team this year or in the future, but he's fine. He still plays adequate defense, and he is well-respected within the clubhouse. I can't even imagine why he was so out of whack to start of the year, but it happens, and I can absolutely say that this wouldn't have been as big of a deal if it had happened in the middle of the season, as opposed to the start. It seems that Headley is back to the approach that has given him success in the past, so it'll be interesting to see how he adjusts when pitchers start pitching him more carefully.