Yes, how? How indeed.
First, this is apparently something that is true:
The very-early-season leaderboard for hard-hit rate is amazing (min. 10 batted balls):
1. Jason Heyward: 76.9%
2. Shohei Ohtani: 72.7%
3. Miguel Sano: 70.0%https://t.co/NIgsGRLFbi
— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 5, 2018
On the one hand, we desperately – DESPERATELY – want to see things like this from Jason Heyward after two seasons of underperformance at the plate, driven largely by a lack of hard contact.
On the other hand, the sample here is so nothingburger small that it’s almost designed to be hilarious, rather than informative.
On the other-other hand, Heyward is not on top at FanGraphs, which uses a different classification system for hard contact (and is what we use around here most frequently).
On the other-other-other hand, Heyward is 19th at FanGraphs, with a 53.9% hard contact rate, which is crazy high.
On the other-other-other-other hand, while we certainly have seen a lot of hard contact from Heyward, I’d be lying if I said he looked really good and transformed.
On the other-other-other-other-other hand, Heyward’s swing has always looked terrible, even when he was at his best, so how much can we trust our eyes?
On the other-other-other-other-other-other hand, the results haven’t matched the contact, as he’s hitting a paltry .235/.263/.294 through five games.
On the other-other-other-other-other-other-other hand, Simon points out that Heyward’s expected slugging based on his contact is well over .500.
On the other-other-other-other-other-other-other-other hand, the times I’ve seen him drive the ball deep this year, it looks like he crushes the ball, and then it just doesn’t go, which makes me wonder if there’s some gap in the data here that makes *his* hard contact not reliably translate into actual power. Backspin or launch angle or something?
Whatever the case, when I consider my many hands, I’m not inclined to credit this data right now. I’m not saying it isn’t accurate, I reckon it probably is. But, given the history, our eyes, the other numbers, and the size of the sample, I just don’t think it tells us much of anything at all.
Yet. Nothing would please me – or you! – more than coming to find, two months down the road, that this early data was a clear indicator of what proved to be a wonderfully productive offensive stretch. I don’t think we have any reason to expect that will be the case at this point, but I’m open to being pleasantly surprised. Baseball can do that to you.