San Diego's Chase Headley has already set career highs in homers and RBI.
Prior to this season, many people's reference to the name Headley came in the form of Headley Lamarr, the villain behind director Mel Brooks' western-comedy, Blazing Saddles.
By year's end, baseball fans will know another Headley, as in Chase Headley, the third baseman for the San Diego Padres who has quietly and obscurely become one of the game's better players.
Playing in San Diego, a team that hasn't made the playoffs in six seasons, Headley has suddenly become their best player and their main source of power.
San Diego cut ties nearly two seasons ago with their main slugger, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and opted for a youth movement, or as many fans realistically call it, "rebuilding."
With the exception of the signing of former two-time all-star outfielder Carlos Quentin from the Chicago White Sox, the Padres packed little-to-no punch offensively in many experts eyes.
With the lowest payroll in all of Major League Baseball at just over $55 million, the Padres have done what many baseball writers expected them to do, lose more games than win.
What baseball writers may not have expected was the sudden offensive power surge of Chase Headley.
As of September 2, 2012, the Padres have scored 524 runs, good for 26th in all of baseball. Only Houston, Miami, Seattle and the Cubs have scored less runs than San Diego and yet, despite the lack of offensive firepower, Chase Headley is on pace to break the century mark in RBIs.
On Sunday, Headley finished 4-for-5 with one home run and a career high six runs batted in. On the year, Headley is hitting .282 with 23 homers and 89 RBI.
Headley has already set career highs in homers, RBI, slugging and on-base percentage, and is just .005 behind his career high on-base percentage of .374, a mark he set last season when he hit just four home runs and 44 RBI in 113 games played.
Headley not only leads the entire Padres team in the three biggest offensive categories (batting average, homers and RBI), but he also ranks ninth in batting average, fourth in home runs, and second in RBI among third basemen in all of major league baseball, yes, ALL of major league baseball.
He's put up better numbers than Kevin Youkilis, Ryan Zimmerman, David Wright, David Freese, Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez and bests Adrian Beltre, Aramis Ramirez, Pedro Alvarez and Mike Moustakas in several categories. Only Miguel Cabrera has better numbers than Headley in all three major offensive stats.
Headley was the subject of intense rumors at the trade deadline over the summer, but San Diego held onto him, and as it turns out, the move may be one that helps turn around the Padres franchise.
Whether he's eventually traded or not, Headley's stock has steadily risen with his surprising offensive surge, considering the lack of help. In the winter, Headley could attract major attention from teams like Atlanta, the Dodgers, the Angels and perhaps even the Red Sox and Yankees.
Or perhaps San Diego could also hold onto Headley and build around their youth in hopes of a turnaround season, much like the Washington Nationals, Oakland A's and Baltimore Orioles are doing currently.
San Diego already has a nucleus of good, young baseball players and they've done it the right way— through the draft (Headley), through key trades (Yonder Alonso and pitchers Casey Kelly from Boston and Edinson Volquez), and solid free agent signings (Carlos Quentin).
Either way, one thing has become abundantly clear.
Chase Headley is one of the best and most unknown and underrated third baseman in the league.