Almost two years into Jason Heyward’s stay with the Chicago Cubs, we’re still going to hope that, given his past track record of offensive success and his relative youth, he can find a way to get the mojo back before, oh, say, the second half of his eight-year deal.
For now, though, we simply have to be content enjoying his still-outstanding glove work, and the occasional good offensive day when it pops up.
While every other positional starter notched just one hit on the day (literally every other offensive starter had exactly one hit – kinda crazy, no?), Heyward had three. And none was bigger than his two-out single in the 7th, which gave the Cubs back the lead, which they would not lose:
Jason Heyward is hitting .322 (19-for-59) with two outs and RISP this season. pic.twitter.com/x4WraBAirD
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) September 17, 2017
That’s the kind of thing you love to see Heyward do with a 92 mph sinker on the outside black – just flick that baby the opposite way.
Although Heyward’s season line is still just .262/.324/.388 (86 wRC+), his recent hot streak has him sitting at .286/.364/.449 (115) in September, which is actually basically his career line before coming to the Cubs. So he’s fixed, right!?!? Well, the sample is 55 September plate appearances against expanded rosters, so let’s chill on going that far. What’s nice to see, though, is that all of his peripherals in September look completely normal and sustainable. In terms of his results so far this month, there’s nothing out of whack or flukey about them.
Overall, though, the concerns persist.
The problem for Heyward is a compounding one. He is not hitting the ball very hard, yielding less positive results overall on balls in play. And because he’s not hitting the ball very hard, pitchers are challenging him in the zone more and more (his first strike percentage is through the roof this year – from 54.4% in his career to 61.7%). If you’re not afraid of what Heyward can do if you serve him one up, then why not make sure to get strike one? From there, Heyward’s walk rate plummets: at 7.8%, Heyward now has a BELOW AVERAGE (8.5%) walk rate – did you ever think you’d see that? And when he isn’t walking, he’s trying to hit behind in the count.
To his credit, Heyward is doing the right thing in response – he’s swinging a heck of a lot more than he used to, and swinging much, MUCH more at pitches in the strike zone. It’s just that he’s not doing damage on those pitches. So the vicious cycle continues.
Hopefully this September is showing something of a resurgence that can carry forward into the offseason and next year? I put a question mark at the end there because there still isn’t a reason to project that’s going to happen. Instead, it’s a hope. It’s not an unreasonable hope, again, given his age and previous performance, but we can’t act like these two years with the Cubs haven’t happened.
For today, though, after yesterday’s great game, I am pleased.