Jason Heyward healthy, happy and meeting expectations

Jason Heyward has raised his batting average 45 points in the past month. (Getty Images)

Jason Heyward has raised his batting average 45 points in the past month. (Winslow Townson/Getty Images)

(Updated: 10:15 p.m.)

Jason Heyward just completed a week in which he hit .522 with three homers, three doubles, nine runs, five RBIs, 26 total bases, four multi-hit games and a slugging percentage of 1.130, which sounds good even to all of those people who don’t really know what a slugging percentage is.

Do you realize that if Heyward continues at this pace, he would break, like, probably every record in baseball history, even those set by mutant chemical creations?

I bring this up because from the moment Heyward announced his arrival with the Braves and the major leagues two years ago with a first at-bat homer that traveled about 800 feet – it’s like the fish that got away: it just keeps getting bigger – expectations have been cartoon-like. People expected so much so soon. Then, predictably when Heyward struggled, was injured, then struggled some more, many started to cast him as the next Jeff Francoeur (post-Sports Illustrated version).

Whatever happened to just taking a breath?

“Sometimes when there’s labels and expectations, it’s human nature — we jump on things a little too quick,” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said Tuesday. “We forget he’s a 22-year-old kid. We want to anoint somebody: ‘This is a guy who’s going to be the next Hank Aaron. The next Mickey Mantle.’ We have to take our time.”

This should please both realists and jacked-up-on-Red-Bull Fantasy League players: Jason Heyward is really good again.

He was just named the National League’s player of the week. He went 2-for-4 with an RBI against Arizona in Tuesday night’s 8-1 win over Arizona, raising his average to .282. He looks so confident and mechanically sound in the batter’s box that Gonzalez batted him second in the order for only the second time this season. (Heyward has hit sixth or seventh most of the season.)

Gonzalez even showed Heyward three different lineups before the game and asked him which one he liked best.

“I said, ‘Whichever one I’m in,’” Heyward said, smiling. (He was in all of them.)

Heyward has raised his average 51 points from .231 on May 30. His 11 home runs are tied with Dan Uggla for the team lead. He is third in runs batted in (36), third in total bases and second in stolen bases (10).

This is the Jason Heyward you expected, right?

This doesn’t mean he’s not going to slump the rest of the season. He will. Everybody does. But it should momentarily mute the critics who were convinced he was some overhyped prospect bound for a crash.

Heyward will tell you he has been healthy, which has allowed him to accumulate at-bats and make adjustments. Even when the batting average was down, he felt good.

“I’d get one hit, maybe a big knock in a game and I’d tell myself, ‘Just stay there.  It’s gonna happen. Just keep pushing. More at-bats and it’s gonna get better,’” he said. “I just had to keep that mindset: Don’t get too frustrated, don’t get impatient.

“It’s taking an 0-fer and making it into a positive.”

This means everything for the Braves. The starting pitching remains a bit of a mystery. Chipper Jones’ health is going to be an issue all season. But if Heyward can be productive, it changes the game. He showed that last week in New York and Boston. Heyward gives them something they didn’t have enough last season, certainly not down the stretch: a real problem for opposing pitchers.

Heyward said he has focused on “just having fun.” He says he has done a pretty good job shutting out the criticism. But Jones is pretty sure the ride has been tougher than Heyward has let on.

“He’d never say it but you can’t escape it,” he said. “As much as he tries to hide his frustrations with his offensive output and his struggles, you can’t get away from it. You’re going home at night saying, ‘Can I play this game any more? Am I in over my head? What’s going on? Why am I not producing.’ As a player and a coach, you just have to harp on it with him, ‘You’ve got the world by the tail if you just get your mechanics back.’ It’s taken him a while to get it, but I dare say I think he’s got it.”

Imagine the possibilities.

Just don’t go crazy.

By Jeff Schultz

116 comments Add your comment

David from Athens, AL

June 26th, 2012
6:59 pm

Thanks for BLOG, nice write up!!

Steve

June 26th, 2012
7:01 pm

Nice article Jeff. Very true how many “fans” jump down a players throat the second they have an 0-4 day. Regarding the lovely starting pitching, if you were King Wren, what would you do regarding Delgado, Medlen, and Minor regarding who should start, move/stay in the pen, be sent to the Minors, etc. This assuming Jair does OK.

SilentCC

June 26th, 2012
7:18 pm

… and web-gem minded Uggla didn’t have to fall to the ground to try to catch the first “hit”.

Younger Than That Now

June 26th, 2012
7:20 pm

Good article Schultzie!! JHey’s definitely got not a good, but a great ballplayer inside him… let’s hope this sets him off on a tear for the rest of the season!

Thanks for the good job you guys do every day!

Ignition

June 26th, 2012
7:22 pm

Jay Hey will be OK… The Paul Bunnion expectations were unfair …

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:28 pm

Sorry folks. Had to take care of some things. Oh look — the game started. And look: Bourn homers and Heyward singles. See, I don’t miss a thing. (That was 5th career leadoff homer for Bourn.)

Steve

June 26th, 2012
7:29 pm

Please sign Bourn! Although I bet they don’t.

spellpolice

June 26th, 2012
7:31 pm

who is paul bunnion

Steve

June 26th, 2012
7:34 pm

I miss the Maddux days when games were a little over 2 hours long. Game started 25 min ago and we are only in the bottom of the first!

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:41 pm

Sorry folks. Computer issues. I think I’ve finally solved the issues.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:42 pm

Thanks for early comments on Justice column. As you can see, he’s off to a good start tonight.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:42 pm

Steve — Bourn’s agent is Scott Boras. Signing him won’t be easy.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:48 pm

Hudson vs. Hudson. … Biggest reason I wrote about Heyward tonight was not his hot streak but so I wouldn’t be tempted to write lines about which Hudson could hold the other team at bay. Because that would be bad. … Where was I?

Tyler(TN)

June 26th, 2012
7:50 pm

Jeff, been hearing a lot more about Greinke the last few days. Given the Beachy injury, think the a Braves pursue him more aggressively. I think Greinke would be a much better fit than a Dempster or Garza

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:53 pm

Chipper doubles in his first at-bat. Turns out he can still play.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:55 pm

Make that 2-0 after consecutive doubles by Jones and Freeman. The Lesser Hudson doesn’t look good.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
7:57 pm

Is Andrelton Simmons secretly a 12-year vet?

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:01 pm

Tyler — I’ve been asked about pitchers a lot lately and I’ll repeat: I don’t think Wren will make decision on pursuing a pitcher until he sees more starts from Jurrjens, Minor and Delgado, and also knowing he can go with Medlen if necessary. If Jurrjens is good, that means Braves have 3 solid starters (Hudson-Hanson), which means now we’re only talking about the No. 4-5 starters in the rotation.

1eyedJack

June 26th, 2012
8:02 pm

Jeff, you ever have spells where you feel like your talking to yourself?

1eyedJack

June 26th, 2012
8:04 pm

That Heyward guy could be good. Where we been hiding this guy?

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:04 pm

1eyedJack — I have 2 kids. Well-practiced.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:07 pm

That might be in for the Lesser Hudson. He’s thrown 53 pitches and something is wrong.

1eyedJack

June 26th, 2012
8:08 pm

Bless your heart Jeff. I hope they’re adolescents.

1eyedJack

June 26th, 2012
8:10 pm

Sorry about that Jeff. I was channeling my Grandma.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:10 pm

Daniel Hudson just came off DL with a shoulder issue. Might go back on with a headache. So far Braves have 4 runs with 2 more on base. Josh Collmenter is in

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:13 pm

Uggla is ninth batter to come to bat in inning after McCann’s single.

1eyedJack

June 26th, 2012
8:13 pm

Looked like Hudson could be suffering from some indigestion. That and the Braves were beating the crap out of him.

1eyedJack

June 26th, 2012
8:16 pm

I think I’ll mosey on down to the Dairy Queen and see if I can find Clusters.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:20 pm

See ya … Kubel crushes 1-0 pitch over RF wall. (Yes, the fan threw it back.) Make that 5-1.

LakeDawg

June 26th, 2012
8:21 pm

Jeff

You’re rolling tonight. LOL

Bill

June 26th, 2012
8:24 pm

Jeff do you think Braves will make a move for a pitcher are RH hitter..neither?

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:28 pm

Chipper probably shouldn’t do that with 80-year-old knees, although play was closer than I expected.

Sonny Clusters

June 26th, 2012
8:29 pm

We was surprised to see uh, Chipper streaking to third for that first out.

Bill

June 26th, 2012
8:29 pm

Yes, hope his leg is ok..close play.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:31 pm

Bill: too early.

Sonny Clusters

June 26th, 2012
8:31 pm

Jeff, please explain the difference in dry heat and wet heat . . . and which one got to their pitcher?

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:34 pm

Sonny Clusters — It’s been my experience that an attractive woman in a bikini looks just as good in dry heat as wet heat. I’m sorry, what was your question?

LakeDawg

June 26th, 2012
8:45 pm

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
8:50 pm

D-backs announced The Lesser Hudson left the game with “tightness in his forearm.” Also, he stinks. Season ERA now 7.35.

K-Baby

June 26th, 2012
8:50 pm

Jeff – Sorry to disagree, but the attractive woman in a bikini in wet heat looks better…..

Bill

June 26th, 2012
8:52 pm

Jeff reason I asked was on Insider it said, Braves were in on talks with Cubs for Garza, also Braves had interest in x-Brave Harrison from Rangers. Insider also said Braves had interest in Liriano of Twins. Thought you might get some of your own Insider info while at game.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
9:04 pm

Well, there’s something you don’t see every day. Hudson gifted a hit — I still think it should be error even though CF lost the ball in the lights.

K-Baby

June 26th, 2012
9:04 pm

Losing a high fly ball has to be the worst feeling for an outfielder.

Dirty Dawg

June 26th, 2012
9:09 pm

If I were ‘their’ Hudson I’da claimed it was a sore arm too. What it actually was was he kept thinking what ‘our’ Hudson was gonna do to him at his next at bat – after that head-seeking throw to Tim’s cranium on that bunt attempt – and decided it was a good time to get outathere.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
9:10 pm

Zagurski for Collmenter. (Yawn)

K-Baby

June 26th, 2012
9:11 pm

Seems to me that if Collmenter throws tomahawks and that is how he got his over the top behind the ear pitching motion, the Braves should trade for him or sign him……seems like a natural fit ;~)

K-Baby

June 26th, 2012
9:14 pm

Zagurski reminds me of Terry Forester. Wonder if he can hit like Terry did.

Ryder

June 26th, 2012
9:15 pm

Can’t count on Jair to keep pitching that way the rest of the season, so they should go after Greinke if it doesn’t dilute the farm system to do so. Bourn-Heyward is Atlanta’s best bet for some consistency on offense since they don’t have anyone else you would really fear in the lineup.

Jeff Schultz

June 26th, 2012
9:17 pm

Just took a break from game to read about Nora Ephron, a great writer who died tonight. Forgot she was married to Carl Bernstein, got divorced when she learned he was having an affair, which inspired book/movie, “Heartburn.” Great excerpt from Wiki bio: “In the book, Ephron wrote of a husband named Mark, who was “capable of having sex with a Venetian blind.”[2] She also said that the character Thelma (based on Margaret Jay) looked like a giraffe with “big feet.”[2] Bernstein threatened to sue over the book and film, but he never did.[3]”

And now, back to the game.

Bill

June 26th, 2012
9:18 pm

Bourn, J-Hey and Prado….