New York Yankees

New York Yankees’ third baseman Chase Headley seems as though he has regained his Gold Glove form at the hot corner here in 2016. 

By Christian Kouroupakis

When the New York Yankees traded for Chase Headley in 2014, they were looking for a professional at-bat and a gold glove caliber talent at the hot corner.

In fact, helping the Yankees’ infield improve defensively was a major reason why general manager Brian Cashman resigned him on a 4-year $52 million contract last offseason.

In his first full season as the Yankees’ third baseman, however, Headley looked like a shell of himself at the position, committing a league-leading 23 errors and defensive runs saved above average of -6 Rdrs.

“I think that’s something you always deal with as a player,” Headley told Anthony McCarron of the Daily News. “The mental side of the game is as important or more important. When things aren’t going well our natural instinct is to try to correct it and try to focus even more. Sometimes that’s not the way to fix it.”

The number of errors Headley committed in 2015 was a number that hadn’t escaped his mind during spring training, and the 31-year old was determined to reverse his brutal season on the field.

It all started with finding the origin of the issue, and for Headley, his footwork was the primary cause of his disastrous season.

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When watching clips from of Headley making a throw to first a year ago, his hips would be square causing his shoulders to swing open from time to time.

As a result, the body throws the ball in the direction that’s not directly towards first base, and along a plane that is not ideal.

So, Headley watched tapes of Nolan Arenando and Manny Machado in order to get used to how the best defenders in the game use their feet to make even the toughest of plays seem effortless.

Joe Espada, the Yankees’ infield instructor, worked effortlessly to simulate the footwork in order to get an improvement in results one a more consistent basis.

Reps, reps, and more reps helped Headley get into a better throwing position to make an accurate throw, something we have seen here in 2016.

Another issue for Headley was that he wasn’t setting his feet while fielding a ground ball. We already talked about his footwork while throwing the ball across the diamond, but the 66th overall pick from 2005 also struggled with setting his feet on grounders.

If you take a look at Headley’s feet on that ground ball, they were never set. As he attempting to field the ground ball, his feet appeared as though he was ready to make a throw before he caught the baseball.

When you fail to get in the proper fielding position, the risk of letting the baseball dictate what is going to happen skyrockets. In this case, it cost the Yankees a run.

After a spring training dedicated to footwork and the prevention of another fall off, Headley has reverted back to his Gold Glove ways.

Now, watch this play from opening day closely.

He makes one hell of a play, but the footwork as he pivots and fires a throw to second base is hard to ignore. Headley’s hips don’t fly open like they were in 2015, and his front shoulder is on the target as long as possible.

If his hips were open, his shoulder would have flown off resulting in as errant throw into right field that could have cost the Yankees another run.

Sure, it’s only six games, but the pace he has after he fields a ball is promising while he appears more compact and fluent with his footwork. His reflexes and arm strength was always there, but his footwork has resurrected itself into his arsenal.
Thus far, Headley, who won a Gold Glove with the San Diego Padres in 2012, has not made an error in his first 42 innings of play and his defensive runs saved above average per 1,200 innings is at +34.

With New York lacking depth at the third base position, there’s no doubt that Headley needs to continue to improve defensively. His current backup is Ronald Torreyes who doesn’t have a credible Major League resume to be trusted as a consistent third baseman.

This, at least right now, is not a problematic situation because vintage Chase Headley is back. That may sound funny, but the guy the Yankees traded for and re-signed will finally help the Bombers finish the transition into a solid defensive team.

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