Chase Headley was always a highly touted prospect coming up in the Padres organization but was always more known for his offensive prowess. Having said that, he slowly gained respect as one of the better third baseman in the National League with his fantastic defensive skills, tireless work ethic and consistency.
If this last season wasn’t special enough for Headley by winning the RBI title (along with many other personal offensive highs), he put the icing on the cake to go along with his MVP-like season by winning the NL Gold Glove Award. This is Headley’s first Gold Glove and the first Padre to earn the award since Adrian Gonzalez did so in 2009. Headley is also only the second third baseman in franchise history to win this prestigious award. The last was the late Ken Caminiti, who won three consecutive awards from 1995-1997.
Headley posted a 5.0 UZR/150 (Ultimate Zone Rating) while compiling the most innings played by a third baseman. In addition, he showed his consistency by having the second-best fielding percentage. URZ is an advanced statistical measurement used by many sabermetric analysts, baseball pundits, coaches and scouts to place value on a player’s defensive worth. Every organization in baseball has traditional scouting, but they also value sabermetrics now more than ever. In my opinion, that specific measurement (UZR) is the most flawed of the advanced metrics.
David Wright seemed to be the front runner, posting a career-high 15.4 UZR/150 at third base, which lead the league. Wright was third in fielding percentage at .974, compared to Headley’s .976, while both commited only 10 errors, but Headley had done so in 1,397.0 innings (250 plays) compared to David Wright’s with 1,348.1 innings (204 plays). Suffice it to say, Headley had more chances, and there is much more to earning a Gold Glove than using solely advanced metrics as a defensive measurement.
Headley had an unbelievable 17.9 UZR/150 in 2010 but regressed to a negative -5.0 in 2011. He came in a bit heavier in 2011 in attempt to drive in more runs. It’s hard to say if being more muscular had any correlation to his decline. Wright also experienced a considerable disparity in his UZR from last year to this year. In 2011 he posted a negative UZR at -16.4, meaning he more than doubled that this last year. Both players were deserving in their own right, and Headley’s banner offensive year didn’t hurt his cause. Unfortunately, we don’t always see the best defenders win the award because of lack of exposure and offensive production. This was a tough year for voters, but given the years of work, all the intangibles and beyond the box score, they got it right.
This certainly won’t help the Padres in arbitration negotiations.