BP on Jason Heyward: ‘Will pitchers ever get him out?’

How many times have we seen this already? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

How many times have we seen this scene already? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

John Perrotto of the scholarly Baseball Prospectus offers a nice  take on Jason Heyward, who’s having kind of a nice rookie season. (Our word of the day: Understatement.) And it’s not just the by-now-standard “oh-what-a-great-talent/mature-young-man” gushing. It’s a nuanced look at just why Jason Heyward is Jason Heyward.

I quote at length for two reasons: Because Perrotto’s article is informative, and because BP is a pay site. (Though I must note that four of the five included paragraphs have been made available for free.) And now, without further ado:

Anytime a player comes to the major leagues and has immediate success, he is always met with this response: How is he going to do once the league adjusts to him? Braves rookie right fielder Jason Heyward has answered that question in an emphatic and positive way. The 20-year-old made one of more memorable major-league debuts in recent years when he hit a long three-run home run in his first career plate appearance as the Braves routed the Cubs 16-5 on Opening Day at Turner Field. Heyward went on to hit .316/.409/.692 in his first 10 games before a .103/.297/.207 slide in the next 10 games dropped his triple-slash line down to .224/.358/.448.

However, it is safe to say that Heyward has adjusted back. He has hit .359/.462/.719 in his last 20 games to get his season lineup to .290/.409/.580. Now it leaves one to ponder if big-league pitchers will ever find a way to get Heyward out …

When Heyward went into his brief slump, [manager Bobby] Cox and Braves hitting coach Terry Pendleton offered only a small piece of advice to their phenom. They told Heyward to be more aggressive early in the count and consider swinging at more first pitches.

Normally, young hitters never have to be told to swing at pitches as they go to the plate hacking. Heyward, though, was intentionally taking extra pitches in order to gauge the stuff of various pitchers around the league as he was facing almost all of them for the first time …

Heyward is 2-for-6 with a double and a home run when he has connected on the first pitch and has also reached on an error. When ahead in the count, he has put up a line of .340/.556/.660 while batting .217/.250/.391 when behind in the count.

And here we pause to reflect: Didn’t the Braves have another young right fielder who hit a home run in his first major-league game and had similar immediate success? And where would Jeff Francoeur be today had he been able to adjust to pitchers? The guess: He probably wouldn’t be playing for the New York Mets, and he surely wouldn’t be hitting .211 in his sixth big-league season.

118 comments Add your comment

Bravos33

May 24th, 2010
10:18 am

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
10:19 am

Bravo, Bravos33.

Bravos33

May 24th, 2010
10:20 am

Haha! I now understand how that can be fun! In a juvenile sort of way, but still…fun!

It is nice to see more than just raw ability from a highly touted young player. He is not just physical tools, but he seems to have a good grasp of the mental approach at the plate as well. Hopefully he can continue to develope. Personally, I think he will!

Bravos33

May 24th, 2010
10:21 am

Why thank you Mr. Bradley! And thank you for not linking me to a $39 website!

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
10:22 am

I’m all about juvenile fun.

fieldofdreams

May 24th, 2010
10:23 am

I wish we had played the starters yesterday; the month of June features series with Tampa Bay, Minnesota, Detroit, and the L.A. Dodgers. Wins are going to be harder to come by than they have the last two weeks. And yes, J-Heyward is a miracle talent with the potential for 600 home runs and 3000 hits. I mean, gosh, he seems to scorch every ball. PS: Jesus Christ is Lord, his tomb was empty, and someday he will rule over a new heaven and earth.

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
10:25 am

maybe the kid could coach the hawks in his free time ?

Fire Frank Wren

May 24th, 2010
10:26 am

No problem, there are plenty of other places to get outs as long as Bobby keeps playing the “used to be good” lineup. Just walk Jay Hey, then you are home free.

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:26 am

Well they have sure figured out Escobar. Hope Heyward is the real deal. I believe he is.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
10:26 am

Kind of weird: The Braves thought they’d gotten a break because they don’t play the Yankees and the Red Sox this season. Instead they get two American League division leaders and Detroit, which is 25-19.

Bravos33

May 24th, 2010
10:27 am

Good to know. I was actually reading the GA Dome article when this one just popped-up as a new article.

I actually agree with you, there is something I like about the Dome as well. Even if it doesn’t exactly have “charm.”

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
10:28 am

I’m all about fresh content, as we say in the trade, as well, Bravos33.

go braves

May 24th, 2010
10:28 am

Mark, What is the Braves record with Heyward out of the lineup…Just curious

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:29 am

Hey Mark, DOB hasn’t responded so I will ask you. Escobar is like 3-31 since his return. How long do we wait before Infante gets his chance (along with his .300 average) to play everyday?

Bravos33

May 24th, 2010
10:32 am

Yeah, the Interleague schedule has not exactly swung in the Braves favor. Playing Tampa Bay, Detroit, and at Minnesota! That is is difficult addition to the NL schedule. But, if they continue to play well against the “lesser opponents” (Pittsburgh, Houston, etc..) they will be much better off this season as opposed to the last fiew. Remember, we didnt lose out on the playoffs because we couldnt play with the big boys, we missed out because we didn’t take care of business against teams that we, on paper, should have beaten. (Remember last year losing 2 of 3 to SD at home, and being swept by Cincy?)

Sam Twain

May 24th, 2010
10:32 am

After the whole Tiger thing, its hard to trust that any athlete is ‘that good of a kid’ anymore, but here’s hoping J-Hey achieves all the best.

go braves

May 24th, 2010
10:32 am

itstime, GOOD Question! NOW!!!!

David Granger

May 24th, 2010
10:32 am

Of course the pitchers will learn how to pitch Heyward…to the extent they learn how to pitch ANY player. (I read somewhere that…back in the mid-60’s…Ron Swoboda looked like the second coming of Henry Aaron his first time through the league.) But of course, Heyward will learn the pitchers, too. He’ll learn what each one’s best pitches are, what they throw to try and get him out, what pitches he can turn on and hammer, and which ones he needs to just throw the head of the bat at and try to bloop the opposite way. He’s a big guy, and has a big swing…and sometimes that’s hard to control. But he’s sure looking good so far. I almost wish Bobby Cox had left him hitting sixth, but we have sure needed people hitting first and second who got on base.
I just hope…when he finally gets to his free agent years…we can afford to keep him. Nothing worse for a team (or for baseball itself, for that matter) for a team’s fans to see a young player develop, work his way through the system, and then leave as soon as he can because that team can’t afford to pay him the going rate.

GStateBen

May 24th, 2010
10:33 am

Heyward is so much more disciplined at the plate than Francouer is. Their starts are very similiar but Heyward walks so much more. He drives the ball to both fields and is having a season (so far) that is better than Ryan Howard’s rookie year (in which he won the ROY in 2005).

Howard’s Final Numbers that year: 88 Games Played .288 BA, 22 HRs, 63 RBI, 90 Hits, .356 OBP

Heywards Projections for 2010: 150 Games Played, .290 BA, 34 HRs, 130 RBI, 146 Hits, .409 OBP

And for the folks comparing him to Frenchy:
http://www.sabernomics.com/sabernomics/index.php/2010/05/hot-starts-heyward-versus-francoeur/

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:36 am

I think very FEW people are coming J-Hey to Frenchy.

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Mark Bradley, TDC. TDC said: BP on Jason HeywardWill pitchers ever get him out | Mark Bradley: Baseball Prospectus analyzes the adjustments of … http://bit.ly/azjJr3 [...]

SOUTH GA DAWG FAN

May 24th, 2010
10:36 am

its going to be really fun for fans to watch his career as long as ownership doesn’t do something stupid.

DHD

May 24th, 2010
10:37 am

Another Heyward article. Wow. At least you’re writing about a current player, but why not spread it around a bit? Anything on Melky? What about Glaus? What’s going on with McCann’s eyes? What has happened to Yunel’s bat? Any trade rumors?

Bravos33

May 24th, 2010
10:39 am

Well DHD, I think this article was prompted by the Baseball Prospectus piece, but I could be wrong.

P Rose

May 24th, 2010
10:39 am

J-Hey could be the best thing to ever happen to Atlanta pro sports. How appropriate that the new home town hero happens to play the same position as The Fallen One. It just goes to show that being a great baseball player is as much, if not more, about having character as it is about having talent. Yogi actually got it right when he said, “Baseball is 90% mental; the other half is physical.”

Baseball Expert

May 24th, 2010
10:39 am

Even if pitchers figure out how to get him out, he will make adjustments. Just like any other great hitter.

Kevin

May 24th, 2010
10:41 am

Sam Twain, if you EVER thought Tiger Woods was a “good kid,” that says enough about your gauge of character. He’s always been the same egotistical, spoiled, angry brat that he is now. We don’t know everything about Jason Heyward, but we can sure tell how much different he is than Tiger Woods just from his on-field demeanor and actions. How Tiger acts on the golf course is representative of how he carries himself off it. TERRIBLE, TERRIBLE COMPARISON.

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:42 am

Your next article could be “Infante bats .300 and sits in favor of Hot Dog Escobar (.180)”

same braves lose and blackhawks win Cup

May 24th, 2010
10:43 am

what a waste lose to a bad team now we be swept by fish now be back under 500 soon why are manager can’t stand when somethin good starts.also looks like frenchy on bad terms under 214 now n battin 8th which means that fellow comin replace n frenchy will either go to minors to re-tool his hittin if he not be released.Any way Jason Heyward will be in cub uniform soon as lu pinella be fired at break.Oswald will be a Cub also and will be stuck with lame duck cox who been one since 2000.Oh and lets all cheer for chicago blackhawks in stanley cup to hey waddell u watchin this n that former goalie u gave up to flyers is one win to stanley cup to. ha Ha to thrashers for helpin flyers get to stanley cup!

jarvis

May 24th, 2010
10:45 am

Remember that time that MB said Heyward had little shot of making the Big League squad this year?

Good call.

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:46 am

The above quote is why certain people should not be allowed internet access

Fire Frank Wren

May 24th, 2010
10:46 am

Get on the band wagon early and beat the rush. WAIT TIL NEXT YEAR!!! Only 1 and 1/2 games out of last place. Who needs a stinking .311 hitter that gives 110% in this awesome lineup.

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:47 am

I am referring to the long drawn out post full of chidish gibberish

fire jerry manuel

May 24th, 2010
10:47 am

man you must’ve slaved away for hours on this article. copying… and then pasting.

that’s the kind of journalism that will save newspapers!

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:47 am

See this is why Fire Frank Wren and I would be great friends. The man has a brain.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
10:48 am

That’s incorrect, jarvis. I never said Heyward wouldn’t make the big-league team. I wrote that financial considerations — starting his major-league service clock — might keep him off the Opening Day roster.

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
10:51 am

Not much longer, I wouldn’t think, itstime. I know the Braves like to have Omar Infante on the bench to use as a pinch-hitter, but at some point you’ve got to say, “The starting shortstop isn’t doing the job — where can we turn?”

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:51 am

Hey MB, with the front office track record of the Braves it wasn’t a bad prediction. We left an ace pitcher down last year for over a month while we struggled!

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:53 am

I hope you are right. Let’s see…we could have a pinch hitter who gives us one quality at-bat per game IF he’s used OR we could have 3-4 quality at-bats from the same guy. We did this with Hinske and WOW have we gotten results. Hello? Bobby? ITSTIME to make a change!

jarvis

May 24th, 2010
10:54 am

Yes, that is true, but you also hypothesized that if Melky or Diaz got off to a hot start that Heyward might spend the entire year in the minors.

“You want him playing everyday some where.” Or something like that.

go braves

May 24th, 2010
10:54 am

Wonder what our record would have been now if we hadn’t started his major league career?

itstime

May 24th, 2010
10:56 am

It’s Monday…I don’t want to think about where we would be if he wasn’t playing.

yep

May 24th, 2010
10:57 am

I think Heyward is good enough to adjust to whatever adjustments the pitchers make. He’s just gonna get better with time.

yep

May 24th, 2010
11:00 am

I agree that benching Melky and starting Hinske was one of the best moves Booby has made this year. However, Escobar has a better track record of hitting than does Melky, so his leash is a little longer. If he doesn’t start producing soon though, you have to pull him from the lineup.

go braves

May 24th, 2010
11:01 am

yep…I agree, VERY smart kid with a good head on his shoulders! He will make adjustments

Mark Bradley

May 24th, 2010
11:02 am

I never thought that Heyward would spend the entirety of 2010 at Gwinnett. Nobody did. I mean, come on.

Mark

May 24th, 2010
11:05 am

Wow. Quoting content from a subscriber site. How long will this article stay up?

[...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by JD and enosarris, Peter Hjort. Peter Hjort said: So this is basically plagiarism — http://bit.ly/dn8KBO [...]

David Granger

May 24th, 2010
11:11 am

Mark, as per your 10:51 message:

…at some point you’ve got to say, “The starting shortstop isn’t doing the job — where can we turn?”

You’re certainly right, but ONE weakness that Bobby Cox has consistently shown is that he sticks with players who are just not getting the job done. To some degree, especially early in the season, you can understand wanting to give someone the chance to show what they can do with a little playing time, and not pull the lever too soon. But Bobby has played a lot of players WAY PAST the point where it’s obvious we needed to give someone else a chance.

JMK's Mystique and Aura

May 24th, 2010
11:11 am

I wonder about the quality of those ethics classes you took in J-School, Mark. You may claim you did this out of the goodness of your heart – “saving” people $39, yes you’re quite the Robin Hood – but it strikes more of laziness and contempt. There are often blurred lines in “borrowed” content, particularly on the web, but a straight copy/ paste job removes that haze. If there are complicated ideas, perhaps you should summarize and hey, I don’t know, even offer your own take later on. Simplifying life’s complexities for the general public in a way that provides some insight as to how a story is developing, is journalism. You should know how to do that.

I blog and often link and quote the work of others. In rare instances, if I’m taking a substantial portion, I make sure to directly ask the person for permission. There’s no predefined terms on what’s too much, but anyone with a grade school education can see that what you did is too much. It’s a common courtesy.

Blogging communities can be a great tight knit hub where different ideas are expressed that can springboard, providing more exposure to those that what have gone unnoticed years ago. When effectively and appropriately done, it can be great. This isn’t even about the cost. If you had taken an entire post from my (free) blog, even citing it, I’d be upset. What you did is not extending ideas for the good of intellectual vigor across the net. No, what you did is simply plagiarizing for self-serving interests. And that’s sad.