Chase Headley's career in a Yankees uniform has been an interesting one. He made a very strong first impression in 2014, coming over in a trade from the San Diego Padres. In the second half of the 2014 season, he was fifth in the league in fWAR, generating 2.9 wins above replacement in 61 games. He became a fan favorite early on, delivering a walk-off single in his first game with his new team and providing a steady supply of clutch hits.
In 2015, he appeared to forget how to throw the ball to first base, setting a career high with 23 errors. His offensive numbers were down as well, but his defense was a much bigger concern. However, he managed to pull it together in the second half, shoring up his defense and raising his offensive production to around league average in the second half.
This year, his above average defense has returned, but his offensive numbers plummeted even further. Through May 11, he had a .442 OPS, with a grand total of zero extra base hits. When he has been on a roll, Headley has been an asset to the Yankees on both offense and defense, but his slower periods certainly have not been pretty.
Getting off to a slow start is nothing new for the third baseman. He has a lifetime OPS of .702 before May, a figure that jumps to .788 after the second half. His offensive numbers have been better in the second half every year since 2012. This year, he has an .806 OPS since May 12, when he hit his first home run of the season.
But is there anything to his second half resurgence beyond the basic stats? Looking at some of his career totals before and after the All-Star break, it appears that his first half and second half splits are due to simple fluctuations over small sample sizes:
|Chase Headley (Career)||LD%||GB%||FB%||Hard%|
However, when it comes to making quality contact, Headley seems to epitomize the term "midseason form." Recently, Fangraphs introduced a new feature which provides rolling data, providing a player's stats over his most recent stretch at any given time. Here is Headley's hard hit percentage over a 30-game sample size, starting with his 2013 season:
In three of his previous four seasons, Headley's hard hit percentage has taken a nosedive early in the season. He appears to pull it together around June or July, before coming back down to earth again for the remainder of the season. For Headley, it might not be about the second half as it is his struggles early on in the season.
It might take a while, but when Headley gets going, he is clearly capable of producing at an average to slightly above average level, while playing excellent defense at the hot corner. In the AL East, he will have to be compared to the likes of Josh Donaldson, Manny Machado, and Evan Longoria, which will cast a lot of players in a negative light. But from a big picture perspective, Headley appears to be a valuable part of the Yankees' immediate future. If he continues his trend of starting slowly, it will be important for fans to be patient and give him enough time to get into the swing of things.
Data is courtesy of Fangraphs.