Those of you who follow this site regularly, know that I was one of the
loudest and most obnoxious few supporters of Jason Heyward throughout the 2016 season. Even as his hot streaks became fewer and further between, I championed the tiniest glimmers of hope, because I just couldn’t accept such a profound offensive meltdown after six years of success.
In reality, that support was probably based more on hopeful emotion than dispassionate evaluation. His swing was a mess – our eyes saw it and the numbers proved it – and nothing was going to totally fix that mid-season. Still, I couldn’t help myself.
To be sure, I’m not bringing up my past-support of Heyward as a matter of fact now that things are going more smoothly. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
I’m hoping that my self-awareness will allow you to fully embrace and appreciate the following good news without any reservation, because it’s legitimately some of the best Heyward’s ever provided …
- Jason Heyward: 90.5 MPH
- Albert Almora Jr.: 90.1 MPH
- Addison Russell: 89.9 MPH
- Miguel Montero: 88.9 MPH
- Anthony Rizzo: 88.7 MPH
- Kyle Schwarber: 87.8 MPH
- Willson Contreras: 87.2 MPH
- Kris Bryant: 85.7 MPH
- Ben Zobrist: 85.0 MPH
- Javier Baez: 84.3 MPH
Yup. Jason Heyward’s 90.5 MPH average exit velocity is the single highest mark on the Chicago Cubs so far this year (57 batted balls tracked). Yes, in front of guys like Addison Russell, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, and Javier Baez (guys who are otherwise known to hit the ball hard). It also represents a ridiculous 3.9 MPH increase over his average exit velocity last season, when good old fashioned “not hitting the ball hard” was a major factor in his offensive decline.
But that’s not all.
While it’s impressive to lead the Cubs in such a category (and improve upon your former self), there are still many more players throughout the league than just the ones wearing blue in Chicago. And without knowing how well the Cubs are doing relative to everyone else in MLB, Heyward’s first place finish is hard to conceptualize.
Well, according to this Statcast search, Jason Heyward’s average exit velocity ranks 17th best in ALL OF BASEBALL here in 2017 (minimum: 50 results).
Heyward’s 90.5 MPH average exit velocity is just one tiny tick down from number 16 overall, Bryce Harper (90.6 MPH). And some of the other names ahead of Heyward are guys you might recognize: Manny Machado, Giancarlo Stanton, Nelson Cruz, Paul Goldschmidt, Corey Seager, etc. As are some of the names behind him: Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor, Robinson Cano, Brian Dozier, A.J. Pollock, etc.
Clearly, Jason Heyward is hitting the ball with authority in 2017 and that was certainly on display yesterday. Check out the exit velocities of his four batted balls:
- 105.2 MPH (Home Run)
- 104.4 MPH (Groundout)
- 102.9 MPH (Groundout)
- 82.5 MPH (Flyout)
That’s three of four balls with an exit velocity over 102 MPH. Never mind that he went 1-4; if he keeps hitting the ball with that much authority, the base hits will find him.
Since we last checked in on Heyward, his soft-hit rate has decreased by 3.4 percentage points, with all of it (plus some medium contact) transforming into hard contact (+3.6 percentage points). And Heyward’s slash line is beginning to look a lot better, too: .294/.342/.456 (117 wRC+).
According to the numbers, Heyward’s offensive contributions have been 17% better than the average offensive player in baseball (for reference: he was 28% worse than average last season). And among all MLB right fielders, Heyward’s contributions rank 13th. Impressive in its own right, but considering the fact that he’s also one of the best defensive outfielders in the game, I’d say that’s pretty freakin’ amazing.
His manager can already see the benefits of his offseason work both on and off the field.
“That ball was properly struck,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said of Heyward’s homer last night, via Cubs.com. “It’s a nice continuation of what he’s been doing since Spring Training to now. … His confidence is soaring. You should continue to see that trending upward.”
And for what it’s worth, Heyward has heard the praise and seen the headlines, but isn’t ready to call it a victory just yet (Cubs.com): “This game is hard, it’s not easy, and you’re always going to be humbled. It’s great to see hard work pay off but I have to keep going because that’s the way the game goes.”
If there’s ever been a ball player that simply exudes hard-work and determination, it’s Jason Heyward. The guy was in Arizona all offseason working earlier and harder than almost anyone, even after signing a $184 million contract the year prior.
He put in that work, and it’s great to see him getting the early results.