Heyward's Goal and Playing Time Allocation, Pace-of-Play Versus Sign-Stealing, and Other Bullets

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Heyward’s Goal and Playing Time Allocation, Pace-of-Play Versus Sign-Stealing, and Other Bullets

Chicago Cubs

I had a really rough night last night on the pain side of things with my foot, which was its own problem, but more than that, it’s left me feeling an extended bit of bummed-ness today. Obviously when you have tendons and ligaments repaired, bones shaved and realigned, and screws insert to fuse a couple bones, it’s going to hurt as it heals. And it hasn’t even been three weeks yet. But after a few really good days, when I was able to even start walking a little bit in the boot, it really sucked to suddenly have a night when I couldn’t sleep because of the throbbing pain. I am so ready to feel a sense of normalcy again in getting around, playing with the kids, leaving the house, etc., and it’s hard to accept a step back.

  • With pace-of-play changes coming next week, one way or another, Jon Lester and Joe Maddon were asked their thoughts, the fruits of which probably will not surprise you here at ESPN. Maddon has never been a fan of the prophylactic rules MLB has installed over the last decade or so, and Lester has always been an old school guy. To the extent they aren’t into the pitch clock, I may disagree, but I certainly get it. As for limitations on mound visits – something I sense is much more popular among even hardcore fans – Lester emphasizes a good point we’ve heard before: many of those mound visits from the catcher are designed to limit sign-stealing, which Lester suggests is rampant thanks to technology in modern ballparks. If there is going to be a limit on mound visits, it may also be necessary to assist pitchers and catchers on this front in some way.
  • Sign-stealing will always be a “thing,” the way, and I don’t think too many of us have a problem with players taking whatever edge they can get with their eyes. But there’s something about using advanced cameras, Apple Watches, and other assistive technology to steal signs that just feels much closer to “cheating.” I want to see the pace of MLB games improved because I believe it’s a necessary component of preserving and attracting fans over a 10 to 20-year horizon, but I do think every change needs to be thoughtfully vetted so that the unintended consequences are as small in scope as possible.
  • Jason Heyward isn’t focused on any specific changes to his game – or if he is, he’s not gonna tell us:

  • In all seriousness, contributing more overall, staying on the field more, and facing more lefties are perfectly adequate goals at the highest level. Heyward’s offensive production and health will go a long way to determining how those goals play out, of course. So far, the Cubs haven’t had a reason to forego a TON of Heyward’s playing time in favor of another player, but as guys like Ian Happ and Albert Almora merit more and more playing time (not to mention Ben Zobrist, if his bat returns), and if Kyle Schwarber cements himself as an everyday starter in left field, Heyward’s elite defense will increasingly be not quite enough to keep him in the lineup every day. Don’t get me wrong: it’s great that Heyward continues to be so very good defensively, and provide that value floor. But eventually, the bat will need to provide more, or the Cubs will have to more seriously consider playing time allocations.
  • That will be especially true if Heyward’s platoon splits continue to grow pronounced: last year, Heyward hit a nearly-league-average .256/.338/.396 (94 wRC+) against righties, but just .267/.292/.371 (71 wRC+) against fellow lefties. His numbers were even worst across the board in 2016, but, again, he was especially dismal against lefties (.207/.300/.286, 61 wRC+). Making things less encouraging, Heyward hasn’t had a season without a strong platoon split since 2013. You can live with it when it’s like 130 wRC+ against righties and 100 wRC+ against lefties. But, the last two years, he hasn’t been that guy.
(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
  • Note that I didn’t mention Heyward’s contract in all of that. Barring a shocking opt-out, Heyward is a Cub for another six years, and although you don’t allocate playing time based on a contract, you do have to consider how a player will work through playing time decisions over the long haul in terms of optimizing his/others’ performance. I’m not saying anything about Heyward in particular here, because I don’t think we have reason to know how things would go if there were a serious change in playing time (and we’re not quite THERE  yet); but the human component is a part of the balancing act.
  • Lester also spoke here about the slow offseason for many free agents, and expressed his concerns with how many quality players are still unsigned.
  • Fine, whatever:

  • I think Kris Bryant is a better and more valuable overall player than Nolan Arenado, and I think it’s a bit strange to have Arenado so high on a top 100 overall list like this. But I also think the differences are small enough that I’m not gonna flip my lid about the two being separated by one spot. I also don’t think the top 10 is all that bad:

  • We were all thinking it, and Miggy had the courage to say it:

  • Old friends:

Got a chance to catch up with one of my guys and his bride! @arizz_44 @vakosem

A post shared by Dexter Fowler (@dexterfowler) on

  • This is nerdy as all get out, but I think it’s pretty incredible:

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Author: Brett Taylor

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