Although he often is overshadowed by teammates, Chase Headley has been one of the Yankees' best hitters in the season's second half.
Headley's .336 batting average and .408 on-base percentage since the All-Star break both led the team entering last night, and he also is slugging .455 in the second half.
"I've been seeing the ball a little bit better, so I've swung at better pitches for the most part,'' said Headley, who went 1-for-4 in Thursday night's 3-2 loss to Cleveland at the Stadium
Overall, Headley is hitting .275 with nine home runs, a .335 on-base percentage and a .395 slugging percentage this season, but his slash line has been weighed down by a slow start.
Before the All-Star break, Headley had a .251/.305/.368 slash line, and the subpar OBP was perhaps most alarming. He came into the season with a .347 OBP.
"Honestly, it was weird for me in the first half as far as how little I was walking,'' he said. "I've never had to try to get on base or try to see pitches. That's just something I've always done.''
The third baseman has a 10- percent career walk rate, but he drew a base on balls on only 6.8 percent of his plate appearances in the first half of this season. Since the break, Headley's walk rate is 8.0 percent, and 10.1 percent in August.
Headley said teams seemed to be pitching to him differently in the first half, and that "maybe I was swinging at a few more balls than I normally would have.''
The numbers support Headley's inference. He is swinging at only 22.4 percent of pitches outside the strike zone in the second half, compared with 28.5 percent in the first half, according to the statistics website FanGraphs.com (his career average is 26.3 percent).
Headley also has dropped his strikeout rate from 21.6 percent to 12.0 from the first half to the second half. (The major-league average is 20.2 percent this season, and Headley's career rate is 22.3.)
His second-half surge has made him another valuable cog in the Yankees' offense, whose 4.8 runs per game rank second in MLB.
"It seems like every day somebody else comes up big, and it's fun because there are so many guys that can do damage and can get the big hit,'' Headley said. "It really takes the pressure off you individually, so you can just go up there and do your thing and hopefully be another part of it.''