With the Chicago Cubs facing the Dodgers’ Kershaw tonight, one lineup choice seems obvious. Sit Jason Heyward. He’s been strong on defense, but worthless at the plate. The numbers back the move up, right?
So this should be a cut and dry decision for the Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon. Jason Heyward has looked lost at the plate. He seeing a lot of fastballs, but simply can’t get around on them. I’ve been a big supporter of his this season. The defense has lived up to the billing, but it’s been a nightmare at the plate. With the lefty Clayton Kershaw on the mound, there should be no debate. Except that there is.
I’ve hung my hat on the one great game Heyward had this year. The game against the Giants on September 4. In the extra inning game, Heyward drove in all three runs of the 3-2 win. He had finally come up big in the clutch. It was known as the “Jason Heyward game”. But that’s because there hasn’t been another since.
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Heyward is 1-for-16 ( .063), and hasn’t looked to be getting any closer to breaking out of his slump. His best hit of Game 5 was when he WAS hit. That’s what this has come to. We’re happy when he doesn’t ground out to second base or pop out. While the rest of the Cubs have shaken off the postseason funk, Heyward remains square in the middle of it.
A better option than Heyward?
So many options for Maddon as well. Willson Contreras, Albert Almora, Jr. and Jorge Soler all solid choices. Contreras seems like the most likely with his play. He’s 3-for-11 ( .273), and if he isn’t catching is the best option to fill in for Heyward.
Then there’s the one stat that makes this a less than obvious choice. The one figure that could lead to Heyward in the lineup. And that number is 0-2. Yes, the Cubs haven’t won without him in the lineup. Surely that just coincidence you say. Well, it’s been 108 years–do you want to take that chance?
With Kyle Hendrick on the mound and being at home, I think it needs to be Heyward in right field tonight. Bat him eighth. Tell him to take pitches the entire at-bat. But we need his glove in right field. Hendricks pitches to contact. And while it may have been a questionable call after replay, Heyward’s throw to get Adrian Gonzalez at the plate could be considered the turning point in the NLCS.
Heyward is going to have to dig deep this offseason to find a way to make things work next season. And I believe he can. And somehow, the Cubs find a way to win in spite of his struggles at the plate. But in this small sample of six games–three to his favor, two of them not. I say start Heyward. Leave well enough alone. #FlyTheW.