10-57: 2014 Jason Heyward

Today I’m gonna start a new feature called 10-57. The name 10-57 comes from the police code for a hit and run and in this case implies taking a quick and dirty look at something, rather than attempting to go too far in depth. I’ll be using this occasional column to do basic player evaluations, quickly pointing out fairly obvious things that are driving a given player’s success or failure in a given season. The writing in these posts will not be proof-read, as it is for my other posts, so the grammar may be suspect, the attempts at humor more banal, and all the editor’s notes will be a complete farce. They will also use a lot of heat maps, because I really like heat maps. At some point I plan on doing a post where I “open up the toolbox” to show everyone the information needed, and where to find it, in order for you to do these on your own for any player you’d like. Until that day comes, we’ll just take this player by player.

Note: If you wanna skip the verbose intro, just scroll down to the Quick and Dirty section.

Today we’re going to be talking about Jason Heyward’s struggles at the plate in 2014. Before I start this I want to take a moment to remind everyone that Jason Heyward is a superb baseball player. Maybe I’m being a bit of a homer, but I have no qualms putting him in the top 5 defensive players in the game today. When you’re talking defensive excellence at their respective positions, I think Andrelton Simmons, Manny Machado, Yadier Molina, Jason Heyward, then everyone else. Because of this, Jason really doesn’t need to be that much of an offensive threat to still generate a ton of value. For example, in 2012 Heyward was in the top 10 in fWAR, despite being 45th in wRC+ (my preferred way of measuring batting value on a rate basis). In fact, if we’re being totally honest, I prefer Jason’s baserunning and fielding to Freddie Freeman’s bat, but I digress.

If the season were to end today, Jason would finish with his worst performance at the plate since his notoriously bad 2011. His last couple seasons saw him return to better form, although he still wasn’t able to come close to how he performed at the dish in his rookie of the year (Editor’s note: Buster Posey can kiss our respective asses here at the General Store. We still refuse to acknowledge him as RoY, but for the sake of honest reporting we must present just the facts to you, our loyal readers) campaign. This year his wOBA is down to a measly .319, despite a career low in strikeout rate and his second highest walk rate. All of this is being driven by his abysmal performance against lefties. In 2014 against left handed pitchers Jason Heyward is hitting .134/.209/.232 with a .205 wOBA, good for a 24 wRC+. I’m not going to go more into how bad that is, because I generally try to watch my language on this, our interwebs. What I will do is very quickly show a large part of what the issue is here:

Quick and Dirty

Jason has always had a hard time making contact on pitches down and away from lefties:

JHey Contact vs Lefties

So lefties have thrown him a lot of pitches down and away this year:

JHey Pitches vs Lefties All Counts

Especially in 2 strike counts:

JHey Pitches vs Lefties 2 Strikes

Last year, he took a lot of pitches down and away with 2 strikes for balls:

JHey 2013 2 Strike Outcome

This year, he’s having trouble laying off of them:

JHey 2014 2 Strike Outcome

Likely due to the fact that they are going to the slider a lot more in those situations:

2013

JHey 2013 2 Strike Pitches

2014

JHey 2014 2 Strike Pitches

Which all combines to produce this heat chart, where we see a lot of strikeouts on pitches down and away with two strikes:

JHey 2014 Strikeouts vs Lefties

Now, this isn’t the entire reason why Jason has struggled against lefties this year, as he hasn’t exactly done anything resembling what may be misconstrued as decent when he’s put the ball in play against them:

Jason Heyward Heatmap

But it is part of it. A quick and dirty part of it, to be exact. That’s all I got for now, because my job starts Monday, and I’ve yet to get an iron or ironing board. I hope y’all enjoy, and feel free to contact me on The Twitter if you have any other 10-57s you’d like me to look into.

Big shoutout to Daren Willman, the brains behind BaseballSavant.com, which is where most of this info came from. One of the plots wasn’t pulling up earlier today, so I contacted him via The Twitter, and he quickly had it fixed.

Stephen came up with the idea for this blog shortly after graduating from Tech. Realizing that life is ephemeral, he decided to put (metaphorical) pen to paper and catalogue his thoughts. His thoughts are series of numbers and spreadsheets, casually categorized as “research,” and said research is usually conducted on the margins of what is both relevant and socially acceptable.

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