Before we get to the meat of the post, a quick comment about last night. San Diego tied yesterday’s game in one of the weirdest ways possible – on a passed ball, which allowed the runner to score from third. It immediately reminded me of this game three years ago, when the Padres tied the game – against the Phillies, no less – on a bases loaded BALK. The Padres eventually lost that night 3-2 in 12 innings; Chase Headley just missed tying it up with a HR in the home half of the twelfth. It became loss #2 of the 10-game losing streak that cost them a playoff spot.
This time, the team turned its good fortune into a 4-3 win. Here’s hoping this is the start of a 10-game winning streak that propels them into the playoffs. Yeah, I said it.
There are few things better than talking baseball every day. Maybe watching AND talking baseball. Maybe sleep. Maybe waking up from a a nap with the game about to start. But eventually, even with things we really enjoy, they get tiresome; one needs to step away occasionally for a break. One can only argue about who should close for so many hours. Even your bed will spit you out after repeated double-digit hours spent in it.
One would think this is even more true for those who make their living by doing physical things. Since he came off the DL, Chase Headley has played every game for the Padres. Is it time for a day off?
Chase’s first 2013 game with the club was April 17, and he came off the DL with guns blazing. In his first 20 games, he hit .320/.402/.533, blasted 3 home runs and generally terrorized opposing pitchers. Since then, he’s experienced an extended run of futility. Over his last 42 games (not counting last night), he’s hit .178/.291/.268. He’s hit exactly as many home runs as he did in those first 20 games. He’s struck out in 23% of his plate appearances, his highest rate since 2008. He’s looking more like the hitter he used to be than the monster he morphed into during 2012.
Why is he struggling? That’s hard to pinpoint. Looking at his Fangraphs page data, there’s a slight uptick in line drive rate and a corresponding down tick in ground ball rate. He’s seeing about 3% more change-ups, but the same percentage of fastballs. Pitchers are throwing him sliders, curveballs, and other off-speed pitches less frequently than in 2012. He swings and misses a lot, giving the appearance he’s expanded his the strike zone. He really hasn’t. He’s swinging at pitches in the strike zone at a career high rate, but he’s making contact on those pitches at a career low rate. His overall contact rate is down too, again closer to his 2008 numbers. It’s like he’s seeing the ball well but can’t put the bat on it.
When a good contact hitter is having trouble making contact there’s something amiss. Sounds like if there was ever a guy who needed a day off to clear his head, it’s Headley.
Right now who would Bud Black trust to play third instead of Chase? Headley is a Plus-14 defender by Dewan plus/minus, third best in baseball. He’s also ranked third in the majors in runs saved by a third baseman. Those are big defensive shoes to fill. Jedd Gyorko is on the DL. In limited action at third his play grades at a Minus-4 runs saved. Not a great choice. Logan Forsythe only played 17 innings at third in 2012. Pedro Ciriaco played 56 innings for Boston, and was just below average (-1 runs saved), but he’s playing shortstop while Everth Cabrera mends. Bud could move Ciriaco to third, but then does Amarista play short? Does Alexi play second and Forsythe move over to short? Do they burn a 40-man roster spot to call someone up from Tucson just to give Headley a day off? (hint: NO.)
Headley played 161 games last season. He was so white-hot after the all-star break Black would have been off his rocker to sit him. This year is different. Maybe with Gyorko back he’ll be able to rest Headley. Maybe with Gyorko and Cabrera back he’ll put Ciriaco at third occasionally to spell his
All-Star third baseman.
No matter how tough we think we are, no matter how hard we try to fight it, eventually everyone needs a break from their normal routine. Chase Headley looks like a ballplayer who needs a day off. He’s tried to work through this slump for 42 games with no success. Let him sit, grab some sunflower seeds, watch Cup of Coffee reruns. This team has performed a minor miracle by returning to .500. They absolutely have to have Chase Headley’s bat to contend for the NL West title.
I wrote this before last night’s game, so of course Headley goes 2-4 with a double and a walk. I was happy to see that.
I normally post on Tuesdays and when the muse strikes. E tan e epi tas. Amazingly 200 people now follow me on Twitter.