Breaking Down Heywards First BenchingPosted: April 9, 2012
When Mark Bowman released the lineup for tonight’s game on twitter against the Astros, Jason Heyward’s name did not appear. A follow-up tweet revealed Heyward was not hurt and did take BP. The most likely reason Fredi Gonzalez chose Matt Diaz and Juan Francisco to start over Heyward is tonight’s lefty starter J.A Happ.
J.A. Happ Career Splits:
|J.A. Happ||FIP||Opp Avg.||K/9||HR/9|
As expected, Happ is much more effective against LHB than RHB. Now, lets check the career splits v LHP for Heyward (L), Diaz (R) and Francisco (L):
Francisco should not be starting against a lefty over Heyward. While these are really small sample sizes for Francisco, he clearly struggles against lefties. I am going to focus on Diaz though because Chipper will be coming of the DL within the next few days to hopefully anchor 3B for a good part of the season.
Diaz is known as a lefty killer during his career and is a more productive hitter than Jason. He strikes out less than Heyward but also walks at a dismal rate. Does this mean Fredi made the right decision in tonight’s line up? Happ is clearly better against lefties and Diaz is better than Heyward when facing lefties, right?
Not so fast, these numbers may be a thing of the past for Diaz. In 2011, Diaz did not hit a single HR. His slash line was not close to career his career norms either, .290/.336./.356. His wRC+ was below league average, 92. He had a very poor season in general last year. This does not even take in account Heywards defense. He is one of the best defensive RF in the game, while Diaz is well below average. Heyward has tremendous range in the outfield, and defensive metrics back this up. Saving a run in the field means just as much as producing one at the plate.
Jason Heyward is also only 22 years old. He is a budding superstar that could be great for years to come. Does he currently hit lefties well? No. Is he going to have to work on this to be the All-Star OF he is capable of? Yes. It will hurt his growth if he cannot straighten out his weaknesses against lefties. Being platooned is not the solution to help him grow and correct his problems.
Instead of Francisco 3B, Prado LF and Diaz RF, a smarter line-up would be Prado 3B, Diaz LF and Heyward in RF.
While the stats may say one thing, this is not the correct move. There comes a point when R/L splits do not paint the entire picture. This is one time I believe Fredi is being too narrow-minded and not looking big picture. While the Braves offense is struggling to begin the year, this is not the solution.
Be sure to follow on Twitter: @decisions_brave
UPDATE (7pm): Fredi’s explanation on sitting Heyward per Dave O’Brien. Still don’t agree, a one game sample size should not override what has happened in the past, good or bad. I still would have gone with Francisco 3B, Prado LF and Heyward RF, but we’ll see how it plays out tonight.
UPDATE (10:45pm): Big story of the night was the defense played by the above positions. As I said in the post above, “Saving a run in the field means just as much as producing one at the plate.” The 3B/RF combo cost the Braves about 3-4 runs tonight.