Chase Headley: Is the Power Real?

Matt Kartozian-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Chase Headley is one home run away from 30 home runs this season, after hitting his 29th home run of the season in San Francisco last night. I did not see this power surge from Headley this season, and I am sure I have company in saying that.

Here are his career stats, courtesy of Baseball-Reference:

Year Age G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS OPS+ TB
2007 23 8 18 1 4 1 0 0 0 0 2 4 .222 .333 .278 .611 68 5
2008 24 91 331 34 89 19 2 9 38 4 30 104 .269 .337 .420 .757 110 139
2009 25 156 543 62 142 31 2 12 64 10 62 133 .262 .342 .392 .734 102 213
2010 26 161 610 77 161 29 3 11 58 17 56 139 .264 .327 .375 .702 97 229
2011 27 113 381 43 110 28 1 4 44 13 52 92 .289 .374 .399 .773 120 152
2012 28 150 563 86 160 28 1 29 106 14 79 151 .284 .373 .492 .865 141 277
6 Yrs 679 2446 303 666 136 9 65 310 58 281 623 .272 .350 .415 .765 114 1015
162 Game Avg. 162 584 72 159 32 2 16 74 14 67 149 .272 .350 .415 .765 114 242
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2012.

Headley is having a terrific season at the plate, with career highs in BA, SLG, HRs, RBI, runs scored, and he is 4 stolen bases away from a career high in that category too. But looking back at his month to month stats, Headley was having an ordinary Headley-like season as of June 30th. Here are his first and second half splits according to Baseball-Reference:

Split G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS TB
1st Half 86 315 39 84 20 1 8 42 10 50 88 .267 .368 .413 .780 130
2nd Half 64 248 47 76 8 0 21 64 4 29 63 .306 .381 .593 .974 147
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com: View Original Table
Generated 9/22/2012.

Headley has had a breakout second half hitting .306-.381-.593 with 21 HRs, 64 RBI and 47 runs scored. His second half home runs alone is more than he has hit in any full season of his career, and the 64 RBI ties his career high RBI total coming into the 2012 season. So, this begs the question: is his power surge for real?

I will dive into that after the jump:

Looking at his ISO and SLG stats according to FanGraphs, this season look very different than any season of his career so far. Let's take a look:

Year: ISO/SLG

2008: .151/.420

2009: .131/.392

2010: .111/.375

2011: .110/.399

2012: .208/.492

As you can see, Headley has had one heck of a breakout power year in 2012. It's not like his .338 BABIP is the reason for his breakout season, as he had a .368 BABIP last season, and has consistently had .300+ BABIPs in every year of his 5 year career thus far. He just never hit for this much power.

Headley is hitting less fly balls this season than in any year of his career, but his HR/FB% is significantly higher than in any year of his career as well. Let's take a look:

Year: FB%/HR-FB%

2008: 37.0%/10.7%

2009: 38.3%/7.6%

2010: 36.0%/6.4%

2011: 32.3%/4.3%

2012: 31.2%/22.3%

Yes, his trend in fly ball rate has dropped over the years and his 2012 HR/FB rate stinks of a career year this season. Could his increase in power be the result of a change in approach this season. Sure, but I have not read anything indicating he has changed his stance or changed his approach at the plate this season.

Headley currently leads the National League in RBI with 106, and is 7th in HRs with 29. Amongst all fantasy third baseman, he ranks third in HRs behind Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre, second in RBI behind Miggy, fifith in runs scored and 7th in batting average. No one saw this coming from Headley this season, but I always wondered what he could do if the Padres did actually trade him. I think this season is what we can expect from Headley, or something close to it, should he be dealt away from the confines of Petco Park.

Coming into the season, Headley had 36 career home runs spread across 4 major league seasons. In 2012, he has almost equaled his career home run total. Let that sink in for a moment. I like Chase Headley a lot, but I don't see him replicating his power surge in 2013.

Could I be wrong? Sure. If he gets traded, and there is a possibility with Jedd Gyorko almost ready to contribute at the big league level, I will change my stance on him. But until then, I don't see him putting up a 30-100 season in 2013. I ranked him as my 5th ranked third baseman in my Early Third Base rankings about a week ago. I will reconsider that ranking when I re-rank them in the offseason.

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