Jason Heyward’s overall numbers so far this year don’t look too bad. Entering Thursday’s action he’s hitting .241/.344/.421 (32-for-133) with six home runs and 21 walks. The walks rank second on the team, and though the BA is low, the OBP is decent.
But. Heyward is currently in a 4-for-48 slump. Joe Maddon says you shouldn’t worry about this:
Maddon believes Heyward is hitting into hard outs dating to last weekend’s series against the Brewers.
“He hit a line drive off (Josh) Hader, a line drive at (Christian Yelich),” Maddon recalled. “Those balls were well struck — not rollover grounders.
“He’s been unlucky too. So if you just got a little lucky with all that stuff, his numbers wouldn’t be that bad.”
While that’s all true, the bad luck has led to poor results. And while that could change, the Cubs have got to get Heyward out of the leadoff spot in the batting order. He has led off in six of the Cubs’ last seven games, and in those six games he’s 3-for-29 (.103). Overall as a leadoff hitter this season, Heyward is hitting .097/.125/.258 (3-for-31) with one walk and one home run.
Clearly, that’s not going to cut it. While the role of a leadoff hitter can be overrated, those numbers are awful.
The Cubs don’t have a traditional “leadoff guy” and haven’t since the “You go, we go” days of Dexter Fowler.
But they do have two hitters who could do the job in the leadoff spot, and one of them has done it before with success.
Anthony Rizzo has led off on a number of occasions over the last couple of seasons. Last year he hit .328/.428/.552 in 31 games as a leadoff hitter (and I hadn’t remembered him doing it that many times, either). He was 38-for-116 with six doubles, a triple, six home runs and 16 walks. And in 14 games leading off in 2017, he hit .300/.373/.680 (15-for-50) with five home runs.
Obviously, taking Rizzo out of the middle of the order on a permanent basis isn’t a good idea. But a few leadoff games might help the team, and Rizzo seems to enjoy doing it. Over his last 11 games he has hit .341/.440/.732 (14-for-41) with five home runs. When he’s ready to return from his back issues, this might be a good idea.
In the meantime, why not put Kris Bryant in the leadoff spot? KB has always had good plate discipline and leads the team in walks with 28, with a .400 OBP. Bryant, too, is currently a hot hitter. Over his last 12 games: .364/.500/.795 (16-for-44) with two doubles, a triple, five home runs and 12 walks.
Neither of these players is your typical “leadoff guy.” But both could provide the on-base skills needed for that leadoff spot.
In any case, please, Joe Maddon, get Jason Heyward out of that batting-order slot. He’s hit markedly worse since you put him there.
Who should lead off for the Cubs?
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Someone else (leave in comments)