In a move that we’ve been waiting on for quite a while, the Padres finally traded away their starting third baseman since 2009. Chase Headley now finds himself in New York, calling Yankee Stadium home. That alone should be cause for celebration, as his home park hasn’t been too kind to him over his career. But Headley has been a disappointment once again this year and has been bothered by a herniated disk in his back. Could this move be the jolt he needs to reward those fantasy owners who remained patient?
Obviously, if health is truly to blame, then no matter what park he landed in, expecting a rebound would be silly. Back injuries are scary and tend to linger. Of course, we don’t know exactly how it affects him at the plate, if it’s consistent pain or if it only flares up from time to time. Injuries are no fun to analyze. So let’s assume perfect health for this exercise. We’ll begin by comparing the 2013 park factors of Petco Park and Yankee Stadium. Headley is a switch hitter and although he obviously comes to the plate more often from the left side, I’ll use the overall factors in the comparison.
The first cells to compare is the overall run scoring factors, labeled “Basic”. Unsurprisingly, Yankee Stadium is dramatically more hitter friendly than Petco Park is. And remember that the factors are halved, so Yankee Stadium is really 6% friendlier than the average park, while Petco reduces run scoring by 10%. So overall, Yankee Stadium increases run scoring by nearly 18% compared to Petco. That’s quite significant.
While singles and doubles are fairly similar, with both parks reducing the rate of the latter, Petco was a triples haven, while Yankee Stadium doesn’t allow a whole lot of them. That matters little though for Headley, since he’s not the burner you expected to hit many triples anyway.
The real driver of the run scoring difference is of course the home run factors. Last season, Yankee Stadium was as the fourth best ballpark for homers, while Petco sat in the middle of the pack with its slightly pitcher friendly environment. But after the Padres moved the fences in, Petco was no longer hell for left-handed home run power. Though Yankee Stadium tied for second best last year in left-handed home run factor, Petco was actually seventh, with a 109 factor, versus a 114 mark in the former.
So Headley shouldn’t be expected to enjoy a dramatic spike in home run power from the left side of the plate, which is perhaps contrary to the knee-jerk reaction. On the other hand, he should be better off from the right side, as Yankee Stadium sported a 106 factor, compared to just a 93 mark at Petco for right-handed batters.
From a park perspective, the move to Yankee Stadium is certainly a positive, but perhaps not as significantly so as one might assume before diving into the park factors. Then there’s the issue of surrounding offensive cast. The Yankees offense has been rather poor this season, ranking just 23rd in baseball in runs scored, ranking second to last in the American League. But the Padres have been even worse, ranking dead last in baseball in runs scored…by far. In fact, they have scored about 80 fewer runs than the second worst team! While he batted sixth in last night’s game, which is a less desirable spot than he was hitting in San Diego, the better lineup should offset the worse lineup spot.
On the whole, this move is easily a positive for Headley owners and potential Headley owners. His batted ball distribution suggests a better BABIP the rest of the way, he moves to an even better home park for home runs and is being surrounded by a better lineup. While there’s no telling how his back issue affects him, he’s worth rolling the dice on if you’re in need of third base help.
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