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Only Tweaks for Heyward, Pitch Framing Questions, Hollandsworth Leaving, and Other Bullets

Analysis and Commentary, Chicago Cubs News

Jason Heyward CubsThe Taylor Family is headed out for some holiday family visiting today and tomorrow. There will still be reasonably normal posting, though I suspect many of you will be similarly traveling. If so, be safe, have fun.

And if you’re celebrating Festivus today, I got a lot of problems with you people …

  • We’ve been following Jason Heyward’s work in Arizona on his swing this week via videos shared by Cubs Mental Skills Coordinator Darnell McDonald, not only because Heyward’s ability to bounce back offensively in 2017 is a huge story, but also because it’s late December and we have little actual baseball-type-stuff over which to obsess. Of note on this front, though, Jed Hoyer says that the Cubs aren’t asking Heyward to completely remake his swing (Cubs.com). Instead, the Cubs are working to “tweak” his mechanics to be back what they were when he had success in the past.

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  • Hoyer mentioned 2012, specifically, when Heyward had his most powerful year (27 homers, .210 ISO). Interestingly, that was not Heyward’s best overall offensive year, as he had his lowest walk rate (8.9%) and highest strikeout rate (23.3%), even as the power numbers were much better than usual. Normally that might alarm you as a reference point for what you want an otherwise high-contact, high-discipline batter to shoot for, but consider one of the particular issues Heyward dealt with in 2016. His walk rate trended down as the season went on (10.5% in the first half, just 7.1% in the second half) because pitchers became less and less concerned that challenging him was going to result in serious damage. Mechanically, then, Heyward might be best served by figuring out how to get back to where he was when he was at his most powerful, not only because power is a good thing, but also because it could allow him be in a position once again to utilize his plate discipline skills. Moreover, we know that the predominant problem with Heyward’s offensive performance last year – if we had to drill it down to one thing – was an inability to consistently create hard contact. So, again, whatever changes are necessary to allow him to strike the ball with more authority should be given paramount attention.
  • The finalists for the #WinterCubsFan contest have been announced, and the voting for the winners is taking place here. Get your vote in, and check out the great pictures.

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  • Jeff Sullivan writes about pitch-framing, and, although it was not the focus, I found his case study on Ryan Doumit to be very interesting, given the near identical match between how many runs pitch-framing data thinks he lost for his teams, and the actual number of extra runs his teams gave up (compared to average) when he was catching. It’s just one data point (though it’s spread over 4,000 innings, which greatly reduces the potential for noise). But it’s interesting. I’d be very interested in seeing this kind of analysis spread over many catchers: how correlated are pitch-framing “runs” and actual differences in expected and actual runs when a given catcher is catching? (That would probably take a really long time, or access to some serious database processes. I have neither right now, so I am just teeing up the question.)
  • If you missed it this morning, the Braves signed Ender Inciarte to an extension, which provides another young player extension data point for the Cubs.
  • Todd Hollandsworth, who’d done pre-and-post-game with Dave Kaplan on CSN Chicago for Cubs games, is moving on:


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Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.