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On Platooning Chase Headley

Wasting time with the proverbial series of tubes one day, I stumbled upon one of the dumbest questions I’d seen in a Yahoo! forum. Some sad human being actually asked “how many dimes are in a dollar” on Yahoo, the top response was “How many do you want there to be?” No fooling.

Now, as dreadfully Homer Simpson as that might sound, I actually found sort of a terrifying similarity when looking at one of my fantasy squads. I’ve had such a run of terrible luck at third base that I rather feel like I’m getting about five dimes on the dollar in return for my investment, and well, I’d like there to be more. While I’d prefer to have a neat-and-tidy lineup where I’ve got a stalwart at each position, I’ve had to scramble in a way that has forced me to think well outside the box. Like taking the blue pill kind of outside the box.

Enter the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad home/road split for Chase Headley.

I’ve never considered Headley a guy that I want starting in a traditional 5×5 12-team mixed league. In fact, I believe it was me that said “If ‘won’t kill you in any category’ is what you have in mind, Chase Headley is your guy,” and I stand by that. But things have gotten so downright untenable that I’m beginning to think carrying Chase Headley is a good idea. Specifically, that carrying Chase Headley as a starter is a good idea – with a caveat – only starting him when he’s on the road.

Headley hit .243/.348/.326 at Petco Park in 2011. He hit .330/.399/.465 on the road. He only hit four home runs last year, in large part due to a laughable 4% HR/FB rate, but three of them were on the road. He’s already matched that home run total in 2012, and, you guessed it – three of them have been on the road. It’s like deja vu all over again.

This season his home/road stats look like this: .238/.378/.313 and .273/.377/.591. Still managing to get on base at home, but there’s just nothing to speak of in the power department. On the road, it’s like he’s a Aramis Ramirez (the good one). At home, he’s like Jack Hannahan.

So let’s just imagine, fantasize if you will, that Chase Headley can hit some approximation of .280/.375/.500 on the road the rest of the year. That’s not too shabby covering another 60-some games. The trick is to find a couple freebies that can produce something more impressive than a .240 batting average and a .325 slugging percentage. And when you look at it that way, it really shouldn’t be too difficult.

Chris Johnson is currently owned in just 37% of Yahoo and 46% of ESPN leagues, he of the .289/.321/.445 slash line. ZiPS seems to think he’s capable of another 11 home runs over the course of the season not to mention a goodly number of RBI. Even if you accept that his batting average is likely to regress due to an inflated BABIP, Johnson is a better play than Headley at Petco Park in standard league formats. His power hasn’t just been a product of Minute Maid over the course of his career, but in 2012, he’s been pulling the ball a ton and taking advantage of his home park much more than in the past. Johnson over Headley at home would be good, but Johnson at home would be even better.

If it’s just the home runs you’re after, look no further than Pedro Alvarez, who is owned in 30% of Yahoo and 37% of ESPN leagues. He’s not likely to outhit Headley in batting average at any point of the season, but he’ll almost assuredly net you more round-trippers than Headley will. In fact, in a strict platoon, Alvarez might double Headley’s final total in half the at bats. His batting average might irritate you, but combining his .220 with Headley’s .280 or .275 will at least avoid black hole production. Alvarez is still striking out a ton, but his contact rates have improved markedly in 2012. The ZiPS crystal ball suggests another 19 home runs, and if you could manage half of those along with Headley’s platoon, you’ve got a pretty decent two-headed-third-base-monster.

Kyle Seager isn’t as widely available (50% ownership in Yahoo, 56% in ESPN) as the other two, but if you’re taking this “collective” approach, it’s worth a waiver wire scan.  He’s a little bit like Headley himself, with far better results on the road, which is logical since Safeco Field is just a big wet blanket on offense. He’s not likely to hit as many home runs as the previous two, but he has flashed pretty solid pop on the road and he’s been hitting in the middle of the lineup which should give him decent RBI opportunities. He’s also been hitting near .300 on the road, and it’s not luck inflated.

So in looking for ten dimes at third base, it just might take a village. Maybe even an idiot.