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Fixing Jason Heyward’s Swing: Perhaps Simpler Than You’d Think

Is the Cubs outfielder doing the right thing in fixing what ruined his 2016 season?

Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

SCOTTSDALE, ArizonaJason Heyward is not having much luck in games with his revamped swing. Through Sunday he’s 2-for-26, a double and a home run, both in the same game last Monday against the Angels. He’s walked eight times, but that still makes his OBP just .200.

Having a bad spring isn’t necessarily a bad sign. Two years ago, Anthony Rizzo hit .172/.250/.328 (10-for-58) in spring games. That was no signal for his 2015 season, where he hit .278/.387/.512 with 38 doubles and 31 home runs.

So perhaps there’s still hope for Heyward. As you know, he spent the winter in Mesa working on his swing. Here’s video posted by Cubs mental skills coordinator Darnell McDonald back in December:

As you can see in that video, Heyward doesn’t drop his hands. The swing, in fact, looks somewhat like Rizzo’s in that his hands are out over the plate. Here’s more video of Heyward, from batting practice before spring games began:

Now look at the swing he took to hit the only home run he has so far this spring:

Same swing. Hands level. In watching Heyward play this spring, I’ve noticed that his hands are dropping when he produces the weak groundouts to second base that we saw so many times in 2016, or strikes out.

Sunday in Mesa, Heyward again went 0-for-3 with a strikeout. But two of the outs were medium-deep fly balls to center field, and both of those were lofted slightly to the left-field side of center, Heyward’s opposite field.

Maybe I’m under-thinking this. I will not claim to be an expert on batting stances, but what I see appears to be simple: When Heyward keeps his hands up instead of dropping them, he can hit the ball far, and with authority.

One of Joe Maddon’s sayings is: “Do Simple Better.” Maybe Heyward is overthinking things. In any case, I don’t think you can judge what Heyward will do during the 2017 regular season from 26 spring at-bats. These at-bats are more for him to continue the offseason work than to produce results.

But it seems to me that if he could produce the muscle memory of keeping his hands up, good things will happen starting April 2.