Chase Headley had a nice start to the season. In April, Headley had a 0.364 wOBA, boosted mostly by a 27.8 percent line-drive rate, which helped him achieve a 0.322 batting average. Many attributed his success at the plate to a greater comfort at third base, and speculated that perhaps Kyle Blanks’s slow start to the season was due to discomfort in the outfield.
In May however, things started to go sour for Headley. His line-drive rate for the month was only 13.5 percent, and his BABIP for May (0.280) was over 100 points lower than in April (0.394). His batting average for the month dropped to 0.250, as did his wOBA (0.250).
Headley’s strong line-drive rate in April covered up some other distressing statistics. He was walking less (6.2% BB rate in April compared to 10% in 2009), and his power was almost nonexistent (0.100 ISO).
In May, Headley did not improve his walk rate, and actually hit for less power (a miserable 0.086 ISO). Combined with his decrease in line drives, the result was a miserable offensive month.
Headley’s season numbers are nothing special. He has a 0.317 wOBA, a 6.5% walk rate, and a 0.089 ISO. He is hitting for almost no power, and is not getting on base enough to compensate or that lack of power. Headley’s minor league statistics suggest he should be hitting for more power, and drawing more walks, and it is something he will need to do to have sustained major league success.
As for now, I do not think there is any evidence to suggest Headley hits better when playing third base than he does when playing left-field. He is a more valuable player at third due to positional scarcity and because he is a better fielder there than in left-field. But his batting does not seem to have improved due to a switch to third.
Note: Splits data courtesy of Fangraphs