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Thursday

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March 2017

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COMMENTS

Thoughts on Jason Heyward

Written by , Posted in General

Coming out of 2016 it was all too easy to be as down as can be on Jason Heyward. No matter the situation it seemed as if the Chicago Cubs’ million dollar man always came up empty. Big game situations, little moments where a runner needed to be moved along, or even junk time where he flailed away like someone who had forgotten he was a professional hitter. This was the perception, and based on said perception Heyward quickly became a polarizing figure in Cubs fandom. Heading into 2017 that hasn’t changed much, if anything it could be argued that Heyward is even more disliked and has less expectations attached to him at this point.

The problem with thinking that Heyward is completely broken is that the numbers simply don’t play out such a scenario. Some of his numbers are legitimately scary, there’s no denying that. Posting a slash line of .230/.306/.325 does give one cause for concern. Those are the numbers that stick out when the idea of Jason Heyward being a bust is bandied about. They are far off the career mark for Heyward, a sign of definite regression. Comparatively in his career the left handed hitter posted a slash line of .262/.346/.415. Those are highly respectable numbers, and when added into his immense defensive prowess, and elite base running they help to explain why Heyward posted a WAR around 6 in more years than he didn’t before coming to the Cubs.

There are numbers that convince me that Heyward needs to make small adjustments in 2017 as opposed to large ones. One of the most voluminous complaints levied against Heyward in 2016 was his propensity for hitting into double plays. To my naked eye it seemed as if Heyward was constantly taking two Cubs out of the inning with one swing. However, Heyward only grounded into 13 double plays in 2016. That’s one less than he did in 2015 and in his 2010 Rookie of the Year campaign with the Atlanta Braves. In the in-between years Heyward did keep his GDP numbers in the low single digits, but it’s not as if his 2016 double play showing was a gross anomaly from the rest of his career.

Strikeouts were another area of concern that I, and everyone else, seemed to have about Heyward in 2016. Hold your horses though, because Heyward only struck out 93 times, which is well below his career average of 121 and consistent with his totals in two of the previous five years. The same is true of the free pass, as Heyward’s walk total of 54 isn’t as good as his career high of 91 in 2010, but it is right around the 50-60 average he displayed in five of the previous six years. Perhaps then the answer can be found in doubles, of which Heyward only had 27 in 2016. But, in the rest of his career he only reached 30 or more twice, and was right around the 27 mark year after year.

The one consistent with Heyward has been defense. If you are someone who is doubting the abilities of Jason Heyward as an elite defender then neither the eye test nor the numbers are on your side. His defensive runs saved of 17 in the year the Cubs won the World Series wasn’t the best of his career, but it fit right in with his numbers in that category across the span of his career. Same goes for his 5 assists or his fielding percentage of .991, and his total fielding runs above average of 29 is up there with his very best of years. Jason Heyward is an elite right fielder, there’s no questioning that fact.

None of this is to say that Heyward doesn’t need to fix things. He most certainly does, as evidenced by his 2016 slash line and the increasing frustration he exhibited as a hitter the more the year wore on. Heyward has spent most of his winter working on his swing. It is a work in progress, because he’s attempting to change something that became habit in 2016. Heyward is a highly skilled athlete, very intelligent, and possesses an incredible acumen for the game. There are many reasons the Cubs spent boatloads of money on him when he was a free agent. It is fair to say that Heyward didn’t live up to expectations in 2016. There are areas he knows that he needs to fix when it comes to his swing and his offensive approach. Panic is not the order of the day when it comes to Heyward as he moves through the 2017 season. Patience and a recognition that a world class athlete is working to right the ship are what every Cubs fan should be exhibiting. Jason Heyward is going to be a member of the Chicago Cubs for, hopefully, many more years and I feel confident proclaiming that each year will be progressively better than 2016.

  • Eddie Von White

    I am very confident the Cubs will repeat as World Series Champions – even if Hayward bombs like he did last year. I admire your optimism about Heyward. I am not that optimistic. The Cubs didn’t sign him to have a terrible year and then get “progressively better” after that. The fact that he has to constantly be defended and propped up for his poor performance tells me there is more uncertainty than confidence in Cubs fandom about him.

    • Seymour Butts

      Eddie Von Pessimist.

      • Eddie Von White

        Just saying…

    • Bill Thompson

      Like I said though, if you take a deeper look at his stats, it wasn’t as terrible of a year as it seemed on the surface. The main issue was weak contact, and that is an issue that needs to be addressed and fixed. Removing a lot of the unnecessary changes that John Mallee made to his swing should result in his hard contact rates going back to what they were.

  • Brad Lyerla

    I would like to see Heyward and Schwarber combine for 83 HRs this season.

    • Doc Raker

      They may combine for 85 jacks since Schwarbs will hit 83 and Heyward may hit a couple before he is benched.

      • JTBarrett16

        This reminds me of Bill Wennington’s comment me and Jordan scored 57 points. He had 55 and I had 2. Jordan’s 5th game back from his first retirement. Double nickels at Madison Square Garden. March 28, 1995. A Tuesday. I know because this year is a repeat of 1995.

      • Sherm

        That reminds me of the time somebody did something and other people reacted. It was awesome. It was a day of the week. Or a weekend. Possibly in the afternoon, or not.

      • Whoa thanks for sharing that experience my friend.

    • JTBarrett16

      I want to see the Cubs become the first team to have 7 players with 30+ jacks:
      Schwarber: 104
      Bryant: 45
      Rizzo: 40
      Russell: 32
      Baez: 33
      Contreras: 33
      Heyward: 30

    • Bill Thompson

      We’d all love to see that, but Scwarber would need to hit at least 70 for that to even be remotely possible. So, maybe…

  • Doc Raker

    My eyes got tired of watching Heyward make weak contact weak after weak.

    • JTBarrett16

      You mean week contact weak after weak.

      • Seymour Butts

        Both of your grammar teachers should be shot.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        Aren’t you against the death penalty?

      • Seymour Butts

        Only when possibly applied to me.

      • JTBarrett16

        I agree with you about my 10th grade teacher

    • Bill Thompson

      The weak contact was his biggest problem. But, hopefully, by removing the unneeded hitches put in place by Mallee he can get back to making hard contact.

  • Doug S.

    Interesting parallel (at least to me) between the Lester signing and Heyward. During and after Lester’s first year I was sure the Cubs had their pockets picked, or they overpaid for damaged goods. Year 2 seemed much better. Not expecting something similar with Heyward, but I’m hoping for it.

    • Jerry in Wisconsin

      I’m with you on this. Run him out there now in spring training to see if he comes around, but if he does not you need to have a short rope with him during the season. I am hoping that the lateness in the swing that Cap’n sees is just timing issues that will work out, but that is not a good sign.

      • cap’n realist

        It could also be a vision issue. If only there were someone around here we could ask about that….

      • Eddie Von White

        It could also be a mental issue after getting clocked in the face. If only there were someone around here we could ask about that…

      • Sherm

        If only it were heart problems

      • cap’n realist

        heart problems are easily solved by consuming bland sandwiches full of nitrite and sodium laced meats.

      • Eddie Von White

        I think Bryan Adams would tell you there is no cure for a broken heart.

      • Sherm

        Maybe that’s why he’s growing that huge pillow on his face. I think he’d be a better hitter if he shaved it down. It makes his face sort of off-balance…and who can hit with an off-balance face?

      • Seymour Butts

        Could also be a complacency issue what with having been paid a lot of coin. If only we had someone financially astute around here to ask.

      • Jerry in Wisconsin

        So you are saying he has too much money to waste on things like bland sandwiches full of nitrate and sodium laced meats.

      • Seymour Butts

        If they are bland, it’s your own fault.

      • JTBarrett16

        Don’t forget the ranch dressing and raspberry cheesecake cookies.

    • Bill Thompson

      Lester was a case of a handful of bad outings making everything else seem a lot worse than it was. Heyward is going to need to make a lot more adjustments than Lester did, but I’m thinking he can.

  • Guy Karafa

    Sorry , but “THE SPEECH” makes it ALL right in my long suffering book. I’m in on Heyward !

    • Sherm

      Agree 100% – and I was NOT easy on him during the season. In my opinion, all is forgiven with the WS victory. This is a new year, and if he completely SUCKS and they win again? I’m okay with that, too.

    • Bill Thompson

      I think a lot of people feel this way, or at least more people are willing to give him another chance than if they hadn’t won the Series.

  • Doc Raker

    Italy just scored 5 in the bottom of the 9th to walk off Mexico, somewhere in Mexico. No weak contact for Italy. Sergio Romo continues to blow games out of the pen. Fantastico.

    • Bill Thompson

      Romo gonna Romo.