It wasn’t that long ago that Padres fans were staring at their televisions and wondering “what on Earth has happened to Chase Headley?”
Because, as you’ll recall, the 2nd half of 2012 Chase Headley was a man on fire. He stormed to win the the RBI title. He increased his power numbers by a factor of 3 (8 HRs in the first half of 2012; 23 in the 2nd half). Fans were ready to offer David Wright level contracts. He appeared to be well on his way to becoming either the face of the Padres franchise or the next superstar that San Diego allowed to walk out of the door.
In 2013 we expected more of the same. Then an injury during Spring Training put Chase Headley on the DL to start the season. He missed the first 14 games of the season. The Padres went 4-10 during that span.
When Chase Headley came back he was not up to his 2012 peaks but he was good enough that no one really batted an eye. He hit .261 in April, OBP of .364 and had 2 HRs. Spectacular? Hardly. But in line with his career numbers. Again, nothing to bat an eye at.
Something happened in May and into June however. On May 11, Chase Headley was hitting .305. It dropped to .287 on May 20th. His average went down or stayed the same every day from then to June 5th when he was hitting .231. That average bottomed out on July 4th at .218. In a month and a half, Chase Headley went from a .300 hitter to a player who looked completely lost at the plate. On June 7th, Avenging Jack Murphy posted a well researched article on what may be different. You can read it here (and I highly recommend it) but the super basic gist? Pitchers had adapted and were pitching Chase different.
Then Chase Headley went 6-14 on the road vs Washington (despite the Padres facing potentially the toughest 3 game stretch of pitchers in Gonzalez, Zimmerman, and Strasburg). Today? Headley is hitting .236, a jump of 18 points in 15 games. Small sample size? Absolutely. But a significant stretch of successful plate appearances for a guy who couldn’t buy a good plate appearance not too long ago.
A few comparisons between June and July:
June BA: .183
July BA: .292
June OBP: .270
July OBP: .388
June OPS: .527
July OPS: .833
So what happened? Perhaps it was as simple as the turning of the calendar. For his career, Chase Headley has posted his lowest BA, OBP, SLG and OPS in the month of June. Perhaps Headley is a big NBA fan and is distracted?
I don’t have any theories on why this is. For his career Chase’s 2nd half are typically better. Higher average, fewer strikeouts, getting on base more. Is it possible that starting the year on the DL delayed his 2nd half resurgence this year by two weeks? Maybe.
But the slump appears to be over. Will the power come back? That seems unlikely. Before last year he had never hit more than 12 HRs. Then he suddenly hit 31 HRs. I don’t think that’s something we should come to expect, though more than 12 seems right (maybe around 18-20?). His average is climbing and will likely land somewhere around his career average of .269.
But the point is, as much as that 23 HR 2nd half of 2012 is beginning to look like an outlier, so was the June of 2013.
Chase Headley appears to be back. Not to late 2012 heights. But back to the Chase Headley that the Padres had before his major breakout half. And that Chase Headley was an above average hitter. He just was so in less flashy ways. So I suppose the takeaway is this: the Padres made the right decision to not buy high on Headley during the winter of 2012. But failing to resign him (for a reasonable contract, I’ll let you guys argue what that looks like today) due to a slump that he’s pulled out of? Equally foolish.
Welcome back, Chase. Whoever you are.