A Look at Jason Heyward's Strike Zone

It's official: Jason Heyward is in the first mini-slump of his career. After taking the league by storm on Opening Day, he has struggled to make consistent contact since then. Now, this doesn't mean we should panic. And if you're doubting Heyward's ability to be an everyday player for the Braves, you're nuts. Remember folks: He's only 20 years old.

This is his current line:

.176AVG   .222OBP   .412SLG   1HR   8K/1BB

That's not too pretty. Do keep in mind though that unlike most rookies, pitchers have a full game plan to face Heyward. It's not the same situation that Jeff Francouer had when he came up to the Majors in June 2005; pitchers and scouts are doing anything they can to know how to attack Jason Heyward. 

Here's a look at the pitches he's faced in his first 4 games: 

Heywards_plate_medium 

Analysis after the jump.

*Reminder: This is the view from the opposing catcher. In this case, Jason Heyward would be on the right side of the chart.*

Here is a key to the graph:

·         Green - Ball

·         Blue – Hit/Put in play

·         Red - Strike Looking

·         Purple - Strike Swinging

·         Pink - Foul

Jason Heyward has put 8 balls into play so far this season; here are the outcomes:

   1. Home Run to RF

   2. Reached 1B on an error

   3. Line drive single up the middle

   4. Double to RF

   5. Grounds out softly to 2nd; reaches on FC

   6. Groundout to 1B

   7. Soft groundout to 1B

   8. Ground out to 2B

Looking at the graph, it's pretty apparent: Jason Heyward, like most lefties, prefers the baseball inside and low. It's also easy to see that Jason has also struggled to command the lower-half of the strikezone. That should improve with more experience in the league.

It also appears that pitchers are really focusing on the outside corner while facing the Jay Hey Kid. As you can see, the bottom-left corner of the chart is much more filled than any other.

A positive here: It appears that Jason doesn't chance too many of the pitches in the upper part of the zone. With Heyward being 6'5, it's much more difficult to throw him a high strike. But if his first 20 or so plate appearances are any sign of things to come, it looks like Jason will be able to hold off on the high fastballs.

You might notice there are a lot of little pink circles on the chart. This just proves what many of us have known for a long time: Jason Heyward does a darn good job of protecting the plate with 2 strikes. Once he learns to control the strike zone a little bit better, J-Hey is going to give opposing pitchers fits with his plate coverage.

Finally, Bobby said this after the game and I think he hit the nail right on the head:

"(Heyward) was chasing today pretty bad, trying to win it all by himself."

He has a great point here. Ever since Heyward hit his 450ft bomb on Opening Day, everyone has called him our savior and the future of baseball. There's no doubt Jason is going to be a great player; but to put the burden of being the Braves' "savior" at age 20 with only a few major league at bats under his belt is ridiculous, not to mention incredibly unfair. Let the kid come into his own and establish himself before we go throwing all that pressure on him.

I know this post didn't bring up any news points and it didn't invent anything new, but I thought it was important to see how pitchers had been attacking J-Hey in his first few games in the big leagues. As of right now, it's working pretty well. But it's only a matter of time before a player of Jason Heyward's talents and abilities catch up to these pitchers and their scouting reports. And it's going to be great fun to watch once he does.

If you've made it this far, thank you for reading and, like always, go Braves.

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