Jason Heyward is an Oppo Guy, Cardinals Uncertainty, and Other Cubs Bullets

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Jason Heyward is an Oppo Guy, Cardinals Uncertainty, and Other Cubs Bullets

Chicago Cubs

Just had an adventure with the freezer trying to scrape off all the ice that was preventing it from closing, and then digging out the lone ice cube in a dark corner that was preventing the thing from sealing, which created all the rest of the ice/frost in the first place. My hands are now making it very difficult for me to type this very sentence.

•   In Jason Heyward’s excellent 2020 season, you may have noticed things soured quite a bit over the final 20 days (.184/.333/.265, 71 wRC+), but you’re talking about a 60 PA stretch that wouldn’t even register in a normal season. Moreover, as Sahadev Sharma points out, Heyward has been an extremely streaky hitter for his career, even in his best seasons:

With Heyward’s struggles down the stretch, it would be easy to assume that his hot start to the season was merely a blip. But Heyward is known for such hot and cold streaks. His best seasons are filled with ups and downs. With the Cubs, he’s lacked the extreme highs and when he finally had some last year, they were coupled with some of his worst lows. So going forward, can he avoid those downswings?

Part of the nature of Heyward’s unique swing is that there is little room for error with his timing. Unlike many hitters today who have embraced getting out in front of the ball and attacking it early, Heyward’s swing works best when he lets the ball travel deep into the zone. When he’s on, that leads to hard contact, especially to the opposite field. If his timing is even slightly off, that’s when the groundballs to the right side of the infield start to pile up. Hence the large swings in production. But as long as Heyward can have those hot stretches and he’s put in a position to succeed, perhaps he can be of more value in the latter half of his contract.

•   The most interesting point there, for me, is the opposite field success for Heyward based on his unique swing. It *tends* to be the case that the guys who have the most success going the other way are guys who have huge bat speed and natural power, which allows them to still drive the ball with authority after letting it go deep in the zone. With Heyward, his home run power is almost entirely to the pull side, so I’ve been kinda big on wanting him to cheat and get out in front of the ball. But maybe that was never going to work for his swing (and maybe that’s what has taken the Cubs a few years to stop futzing with – hence his progression in offensive success through his five years with the team).

•   And sure enough, although Heyward doesn’t have much consistent home run power to the opposite field, he DOES have a good enough ISO going the other way to make an opposite field approach playable, and his BABIP is quite strong that way. Sure enough, the last three years, his BABIP the other way is .360, and his wRC+ on balls in play to the opposite field is 156. To the pull side? Sure, he’s got three times as many homers that way, but just a .242 BABIP and a 96 wRC+. I, like the Cubs, should’ve long ago stopped wanting Heyward to be something, and instead just worked more with him to be the thing he’s really good at. Here’s hoping that’s a reason to buy into more success for him next year.

•   No changes expected on the Cardinals coaching staff this offseason, but the team can offer far less clarity about what it will do with its roster this offseason: “A lingering unknown for the team as it looks into the offseason and acquisition plans is whether there will be fans in the stands for 2021 and how many.” The Cardinals don’t have a whole lot in the way of huge arbitration bumps coming (Jack Flaherty is really the only guy), but they also don’t have a lot in the way of free agents rolling off at positions of non-need. Between Yadi Molina, Adam Wainwright, Matt Wieters, and Brad Miller, the Cardinals have almost $30 million coming off the books, but the vast majority of that is Molina (whose loss would be acutely felt), and Miller could seek a raise after a very good season (his second in a row, incidentally).

•   The point there? Add the Cardinals to the list of teams that are going to be cautious in the early offseason. The list might be 28 or 29 teams by the time we get into November.

•   One of the few teams that might actually try to add quickly? The Mets, what with their new owner. Or maybe they’ll just work the waiver wire for old friends:

•   Tons of excellent Deals of the Day at Amazon today, including Star Wars toys and apparel. #ad

•   Just because:

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.