Baseball Prospectus On Jason Heyward: "What Does All This Mean? I Don’t Know"

Bill Parker at the Baseball Prospectus takes a look at Jason Heyward's summer explosion ($) and notes that not only is he walking less than he did during his outstanding 2010, but also his disappointing 2011:

But then again, one of the things (one of very many, to be fair) that made Heyward such an intriguing prospect in 2010 was his eye at the plate: he walked in nearly 15 percent of his plate appearances that year, a pace that'd get him more than 100 if not for the DL stint. In 2011, his walk rate was down to 11 percent, and in 2012, it's down even further, to 10 percent. Part of Sam's point was that Heyward was swinging at a lot more pitches now than he was then, and he still is. What's more, he's actually walking just slightly less often from June 11 on than he had been when Sam wrote his piece, and he's striking out slightly more often (26 percent compared to the prior 24 percent). He's hitting for a tiny bit more power (while stealing fewer bases), but the single biggest difference is this: when Sam wrote his piece, Heyward's BABIP was .299; since, it's been .368 (for what it's worth, the cumulative .332 is virtually identical to his .335 from 2010).

What does all this mean? I don't know, but what I think it means is that we don't really know anything about who Jason Heyward really is. His last two months have been outstanding, but there's no real reason to pretend that they're more telling than his first two months, or that either of those sets (or the combined effect of them) is more "him" than his 2010 or 2011 are, either.

It's interesting to me that Bobby Cox and Terry Pendleton were slightly critical of Heyward for looking at too many pitches in 2010. He seems to be taking that advice and is looking to swing more, even while maintaining his good knowledge of the strike zone. The other takeaway from the piece is that Heyward's decision to move a little farther from the plate could be the reason why his BABIP has gone up. His line drive rate is up this year and his ground ball/fly ball rate is down. In other words, there is no reason to think that his BABIP is a reflection that he has been lucky in 2012.

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