No matter what the final years of his contract bring, Jason Heyward will always have a special place in Chicago Cubs history for his rain delay speech during Game 7 of the 2016 World Series.
But I’m sure if you asked Heyward, that’s not what he wants to be remembered for. He’d rather be remembered as a key presence during one of the best runs in franchise history. After steadily improving annually at the plate since 2016, the veteran has completely cratered in 2021, putting manager David Ross – and the team – in a tough spot.
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"“He’s had a couple of spurts where he has hit for some power. I think it’s just a timing thing for him,” Ross said last week. “He just came off [the injured list] maybe a week or so ago. So he is still getting back into the flow. We played a couple of games, given him a day off. We’re just trying to get him back into his rhythm. When he is in his rhythm, he is one of our better at-bats.”"
Well, over the last seven days, Heyward has managed to put up better numbers, albeit some of the hits lived up to the ‘they all look the same in the box score’ category. He’s batting .417/.563/.500 over his last 12 at-bats, striking out just once while drawing five walks during that stretch.
On the year, he’s still getting on base at just a .277 clip – a far cry from his .342 career mark. You have to think he’ll start performing at least a little better given his .220 BABIP, but to this point, it’s been a real grind.
Chicago Cubs: Jason Heyward has been dead weight offensively
Defensively, Heyward isn’t necessarily what he once was, but he’s still an above-average right fielder. But when he’s doing next to nothing with the bat, the fact he’s not elite with the glove anymore either makes this whole scenario – and the $44 million the team owes him between 2022 and 2023 – even more unsavory.
His .272 wOBA ranks in the bottom seven percent of the league – and the offspeed stuff has killed him. He’s batting .255 against fastballs, which isn’t anything earth-shattering – but compared to the .098 mark against breaking balls and .074 clip against offspeed pitches, it’s pretty clear where the issue is here.
We can only hope that this recent stretch, which included a pair of hits on Friday night, can help him turn the season around. Because we’re close to the point where, when this team returns to full strength, Ross might have to go with who’s hot over his veteran leader – and that’s always a tough pill to make a key clubhouse guy swallow.