Despite trailing the Boston Red Sox for the American League East division lead, the New York Yankees’ success this year has come as a surprise to many.
This was a team expected to spend 2017 tuning and rebuilding before coming out in 2018 and actually contending for the postseason.
On the backs of some young stars like Aaron Judge, Luis Severino and Gary Sanchez though, the Yankees are in the hunt for October baseball now with eight weeks remaining in the regular season.
The team has also gotten sizeable contributions from veteran infielder Chase Headley, who has made the transition from third to first base after the team brought in Todd Frazier from the Chicago White Sox.
How many people saw him as a difference maker this year? Because that’s exactly what he’s been.
In the midst of a four-game losing streak, Headley broke the skid on Saturday night with a game-winning solo home run in the eighth inning against the Cleveland Indians.
His numbers don’t necessarily jump off the page. Entering Sunday’s series finale against Cleveland, he was batting .272 with six home runs, 43 RBI and a solid .351 on-base percentage.
The month of May is really to blame for the pedestrian-looking stat line.
In 23 games during that stretch, Headley hit a miserable .165 (14-for-85) with a .211 OBP and 29 strikeouts after a strong showing in April. At the time, it had Yankees fans calling for top prospect Gleyber Torres to make the jump to the majors to give the team another option on the left side of the infield.
A torn UCL detoured Torres’ path to the majors and alleviated some pressure off Headley’s shoulders and he quickly regained his early-season form.
Just look at his numbers outside May:
March/April: 23 games, .301 BA, .402 OBP, 3 HR, 8 RBI
June: 24 games, .296 BA, .410 OBP, 1 HR, 11 RBI
July: 26 games, .333 BA, .388 OBP, 1 HR, 10 RBI
Total: 73 games, .311 BA, .400 OBP, 5 HR, 29 RBI
Leave the power to the likes of Judge, Sanchez and surprisingly enough, Didi Gregorious and Brett Gardner. As long as Headley continues to set the table and get on base, the Yankees offense will rarely grow stale down the stretch.