Let me preface this post by saying I have zero doubts you’re about to see the best Jason Heyward you’ve ever seen in 2015. No one; and I mean no one out there has the ability to polish a turd up nicely and have it work out like the damn St. Louis Cardinals. They’re going to find a way to fix this guy and turn him into a really good all around player. He may come close to reaching the lofty expectations scouts once set (and his first half of his rookie season was phenomenal).
But I take issue with Heyward saying the Braves hitting him lead-off limited his power:
When describing how stymied he felt at times batting leadoff for the Atlanta Braves, Gold Glove-winning outfielder Jason Heyward borrowed an analogy from the field. It’s playing long toss and really wanting to cut loose with a full-strength throw but having to hit a target 90 feet away.
“You feel like there’s a governor on you and you’re not letting it ride,” Heyward said. “You have to think of other ways.”
Greg Walker was one of the shittiest hitting coaches in big league history. If you’ve followed the Braves even on a surface level the past few seasons, you know he had his hand in fucking up a number of big league hitters and doing more harm than good to their approach.
Fredi Gonzalez also jerked Heyward around from day one – platooning him with replacement level players and hitting him all over the damn lineup instead of penciling him in the top five and leaving him the Hell alone. This is where I figure Heyward began to get lost deep in his own mind and naturally tinker with his approach which was best in the minors and the first half of his rookie campaign.
But Jason Heyward’s power was stymied because of his own fidgety ass movements in the box, all the movements in his hands and uncomfortable demeanor and stance. If Heyward let a hitting coach change him to the point where he couldn’t really functionally be the player he was, it’s his own fault. I’m pretty sure if he took his own approach out there and succeeded, a hitting coach would do a good job of doing no more than reminding the successful young player of the things he already knew. That’s really the job of a hitting instructor anyways.
Every time I watched a Heyward at-bat the last few years I just couldn’t believe what I saw. His plate discipline had eroded, he was taking fewer walks, swinging at more pitches, neglecting to use the entire field and rarely hitting balls hard. He didn’t handle breaking balls particularly well, leading to a sharp decline in the number of fastballs he saw.
I realize this is someone they said would be the gem in all of the game in a few years, and I realized that something had gone terribly wrong along the way more likely than Heyward being a bust.
Heyward seems to be a fragile player mentally – that’s the type of statement bloggers get in trouble for saying – but it’s something I’ve picked up on. He needs his confidence rebuilt, and I think over time in St. Louis some big hits in big moments for a successful organization are going to help accomplish that.
Heyward can’t fully blame the lead-off spot for the lack of pop in his bat. His own swing he developed over time and his approach were just as much the culprit.
And in closing, Fredi Gonzalez is the worst manager in baseball. Train-wreck hire from day one; if Bobby Cox could have hung on another five years, Heyward would likely still be in Atlanta and a perennial All-Star. Nothing good comes from Fredi Gonzalez.