|Flashing a little leather. Even when the ball is ruled foul.|
Headley came to the majors as the next great Padre power hitter, and he charged out of the gate. Headley hit HRs in 2 of his first 4 games after being called up for good in 2008. Since? He hit 34 HR in his next 517 games. Freese didn't make it to the majors with as high of a set of expectations as Headley did, but he's hit the ball about as well. Freese's OPS+ (116) is slightly better than Headley's (105), but their career slash lines are pretty close:
- Freese .298/.354/.429
- Headley .269/.343/.392
Defensively the edge goes to Headley, and it's not particularly close. In his three years as the everyday starter he has excelled with the glove. Chase Headley was ranked the #1 defensive third baseman on the Dewan Plus/Minus scale (which can be found at Bill James' website), saving 19 runs. Last season he was 10th but still credited with saving 2 runs in his 113 games. Freese, on the other hand, has never had a positive runs saved number. This year he was -1. Last year he was -4. If you watched any of the World Series, you saw Freese get eaten up by several ground balls to third. He looked slow. And no, I am not counting the pop up that hit him in the head in Game 6. Headley in a rout.
Then there's the injury bug. In his three major league seasons, Freese has yet to play 100 regular season games. Over the same span Chase Headley has yet to play LESS than 100 regular season games. San Diego suffers from a systemic lack of infield prospects. Suppose Freese had stayed with the Padres and reached the majors, with Headley having been moved. The Padres would have had to have someone play almost as many games at third as Freese did. Could you see Jesus Guzman trying to man the hot corner for the 40% of the season Freese is on the DL? Better offensively, worse defensively.
Because to his injuries, Freese lags Headley in fWAR. For the 3 years in question Freese's WAR is 4.4. Headley's is more than double that (9.1). It's what we expect given the disparity in playing time and defense.
What is the point of this exercise? To show that Headley has been a better bet than Freese over the past 3 years in terms of defense and durability. The Padres have been better off with Headley at third than they would have been had Freese taken over the hot corner. Those recently bashing Kevin Towers for that late 2007 trade have lost sight of this fact.