Is Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward still hurting from an ailing wrist, even though he says it’s fine?
When Jason Heyward injured his right wrist in the Chicago Cubs’ opening series against the Arizona Diamondbacks, many Cubs fans though it wasn’t a big deal. The injury may seem minute now, considering it didn’t affect his ability to play defense and didn’t keep him out the lineup long. But, Heyward’s swing is still recovering.
Heyward hasn’t been able to get the same wrist-snap he had with the Atlanta Braves, reducing his effectiveness against off-speed and breaking ball pitches.
When he was in Atlanta, Heyward raised his hands during the load phase then drops them again before he swings (courtesy of Giphy):
Doing so gave him a more uppercut swing, making him a lethal threat against ground-ball pitchers.
In this video, we can see how Heyward now utilizes a Rizzo-esque leg kick and lower hand position. Adding these tactics brings more power to Heyward’s swing by leveling swing plane at the point of attack. His step allows Heyward to throw his hips faster, making it easier for him to hit the inside pitch even though he’s 6’5” with long arms. Where the wrist injury really hurt (no pun intended) is his ability to throw his hands and extends through the ball to finish the swing.
The wrists are crucial to accomplishing two things: 1) accelerating the bat-head through the zone, and 2) the ability to make minor adjustments to off-speed and breaking pitches to “barrel” the ball.
Heyward’s wrist injury affected his ability to barrel the ball out in front of him, thus creating what’s known as “barrel drag”—where a bitter lets his hands lead the bat through the zone instead of together on an even plane. This decreases bat speed and power by taking the arms completely out of the swing.
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After returning from his injury, Heyward had 3 hits in his first 36 at-bats and didn’t hit his first home run until the Cubs traveled to Milwaukee in mid-May. It’s been well documented that Heyward typically gets off to slow starts, but his struggles were more than just your typical sluggish start.
At the beginning of the season, Heyward was hitting fastballs above 92 mph 77% of the time. After his injury, that percentage dropped to 27%. His contact rate with off-speed and breaking balls also dropped significantly.
Heyward told CSNChicago that he’s “ready to put the [wrist] injury behind him” even though he’s still feeling some discomfort. He’s two months removed from the injury and has begun heating up to the player the Cubs hoped they’d get when he signed in the offseason.
As the summer months continue, “whatever aches and pains you have have a tendency to loosen up more rapidly when the weather is like this. I’m anticipating all that with him,” coach Maddon said about Heyward.
According to Manhattanorthopedic.com, the simplest way to heal an injury like this is ice and time, between two and four weeks. Heyward came back from the injury rather quickly due to his lack of severe pain, which may, in fact, prolong the duration of the injury, even though his MRI’s were negative for any ligament damage.
Heyward’s offensive number have begun to trend in the right direction again. In June he hit .336/.386/.772. His slugging percentage greatly improved from .271 and .301 in April and May respectively, suggesting that his swing is slowly, but surely, getting to where the Cubs need him to be offensively.