In case you have not been paying attention, some broadcast announcers use the phrase “on the interstate” to identify a player whose batting average begins with a ‘1’. I’m convinced most major league hitters hope that they can exit the interstate as soon as possible each season and avoid a return, but a few get stuck, looking for an exit for an extended time. Such has been the case with a pair of Chicago Cubs this year.
Ian Happ and Jason Heyward find themselves in that dreaded sub-.200 batting average territory right now, but both look to be making their move. Over the last few weeks these two Cubs have upped their hard-hit rates and decreased their propensity for hitting ground balls.
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Currently Happ is hitting .198, higher than he has been in a while. His OPS is up to .670, still far below his .788 average but trending in the right direction. One announcer for the Cubs on the Marquee broadcast Wednesday suggested it might be that he is becoming more comfortable in left field.
Meanwhile Heyward has been slashing line drives with a very welcome regularity. His average is now .201, his OPS is .591, like Happ, considerably below his career mark of .749, but on the up and up.
If these 2021 Cubs are to avoid the total disaster of a 100+ loss season Happ and Heyward must continue to contribute. At this point, with the team standing at 56-73, there are 33 games to go. Players who still remain on the roster from the beginning of the year like Heyward and Happ must step up.
Both men have had chances, Heyward has 311 plate appearances, Happ 397, second only to Willson Contreras with 403. But if they continue to improve, this last string of games can go a long way toward preparing the team for success in 2022.