Down 0-2 in the 9th inning last night, Jason Heyward stood at something of a disappointment nexus. For the night, he – like all of the Cubs except Ben Zobrist at that point – was hitless, and the team was scuffling. Reaching back a little further, the start of the season hasn’t gone anything like Heyward would have hoped, as his bat has yet to break out, his power had remained completely latent, and we’ve now headed into the second half of May.
A lot of disappointment to unpack in that moment.
And that’s when Heyward turned on a meat fastball for his first homer of the year, and first with the Chicago Cubs. A turning point? It always sounds nice to be able to drop that label on an otherwise meaningless homer. And who knows? Maybe the lack of power was a bit of a monkey on Heyward’s back, and, not unlike when Kris Bryant finally hit his first big league homer (also in Miller Park) last year, things will start clicking now. For extra fun, Bryant followed Heyward’s homer last night with one of his own.
You can watch the whole thing Heyward homer here (not yet embeddable), or watch the cobbled-together GIF if you want to see the loop:
At least it was nice to finally see Jason Heyward do this. pic.twitter.com/QFiIPFekyE
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) May 18, 2016
Although the ball looked crushed off the bat, the metrics say it was a more run-of-the-mill homer: 390 feet, 98.6mph exit velocity, would have gone out in 10 parks.
No one is complaining, though, as it was the kind of well-struck ball we’ve been waiting a very long time for Heyward to provide. Even though he was not signed exclusively for his offense, and even though he’s probably never going to be the Silver Slugger type the Cubs can put out there at other positions, he has historically been a well above-average bat. Expecting some positive contributions on offense was never unreasonable. Hopefully this is the start of something.
Interestingly, even as Heyward has seemed like a zero in the Cubs’ lineup, he’s still walked at a 13.1% clip, posted a .342 OBP, and has a 79 wRC+ that isn’t quite as terrible as I would have assumed it was before I checked this morning.
The homer extended a very quiet eight-game hitting streak for Heyward, during which he’s gone .344/.432/.438. No, that’s not the kind of gaudy slash line you’d like to see when you hack a guy’s season to find a small sample hot streak, but it’s still nice to see.
Maybe the homer won’t be seen as a turning point after all – maybe Heyward’s season is already turning.