I don’t believe I’m being hyperbolic when I say that yesterday, Jason Heyward had his best day at the plate since putting on a Cubs uniform. If you weren’t able to catch the game, you may not understand why, but trust me, the box score doesn’t do him justice.
Before the ninth inning was up, Heyward had put five balls in play. Unfortunately, only two actually fell in for hits, starting with an RBI triple in the top of the first inning:
And while that was a fantastic start to his day – indeed, it lengthened his current hitting streak to five games (a feat he accomplished just six times last season) – it was just the beginning. Heyward hit the ball HARD four more times before the Cubs won.
Here’s how Jason Heyward’s five plate appearances shook out yesterday (data via Baseball Savant):
- Line-Drive Triple: 380 feet – 99.5 MPH exit velocity
- Line-out: 321 feet – 96.8 MPH
- Ground-out: n/a – 100.5 MPH
- Ground-Ball Single: n/a – 99.8 MPH
- Fly-out: 396 feet – 96.3 MPH
On almost any other day, Jason Heyward would be 5-5 with a home run, a triple, and three singles. He absolutely smoked the ball every single time up, and literally all three of his outs were tip-your-cap, what’re ya gonna do, excellent defensive plays by the Brewers. The ninth-inning fly out, by the way, wasn’t exactly a robbed home run, but it was really darn close.
.@Randyrulesgome The fourth was a 100 MPH RBI single and the fifth was a 96 MPH, 396 foot almost-home run.
He had maybe his best day at the plate as a Cub.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) April 9, 2017
All in all, Heyward hit five balls over 95 MPH yesterday. And if you’re struggling to put that into perspective, let me point out that last season, Statcast indicates there were only 17 instances of a player hitting a ball 95+ MPH five times in a game (via ESPN’s Jesse Rogers). Think about that.
Heyward was absolutely brilliant yesterday.
And for what it’s worth, Joe Maddon was very complimentary of the changes he’s seen. “I like his hands,” manager Joe Maddon told ESPN Chicago. “I like his hands more involved right now. He’s getting started sooner, staying through the ball longer.” He added that no one should expect the changes to happen over night, but it’s hard not to be encouraged by what we’ve seen.
It’s only been 23 plate appearances, but Heyward is slashing .333/.391/.429 (.121 wRC+ and .350 wOBA) in the early going. And that is, of course, despite being robbed thrice yesterday. And if you’ve been watching the games, you’ll definitely have noticed how much more comfortable and confident his swings look – yesterday being the prime example of everything coming together at once.
It’s early and he may have a long way to go, but Jason Heyward has gotten off to basically the best start you could have realistically hoped for. And the most important part is that the results (slash line) is not even what drives this. Instead, we’re encouraged by what we’ve seen with our eyes, what others around the club have said, and what the underlying statistics promise for the future.
If Heyward is truly back, the Cubs lineup just got downright unstoppable.