I can’t help but cheer for Jason Heyward because of his contagious enthusiasm and tremendous clubhouse reputation. That’s why his lackluster offense over the last 1000+ plate appearances in Cubs pinstripes has been disheartening.
Fortunately for the defending champs, Heyward seems to be heating up at the perfect time. So far in September, the glove-first outfielder has posted a 116 wRC+ due to a stellar 14.6 percent walk rate to go along with a .265 batting average and .176 ISO (.356 wOBA). Basically, Heyward is taking tons of pitches, swinging at the hittable ones, and sending the baseball into the gaps and over the seats. The Cubs signed him to do exactly that, but we haven’t seen this Heyward yet.
What we have seen is small, short-lived stretches of success here and there. The difference between those previous streaks and right now is that this current one does not appear to be fraught with unsustainable peripherals.
Take, for example, Heyward’s xOBA (xStats expected weighted on base average) in every month since he signed with the Cubs. Never before has he had a xOBA+ above 100, which means he’s never been an above-average hitter. Not until now. Heyward has produced enough hard-hit balls that he qualifies for an eight percent greater expected run value than league average.
The right fielder’s impressive 108 xOBA+ isn’t a product of just batting average either. He’s driving the ball, evident by his expected slugging percentage of .419.
If the Cubs can get Heyward going in the postseason, his bat would be a complement to an offense already rated as the best in the National League and best in MLB since the break. And we already know about his defense. For the first time as a Cub, Heyward’s offense might actually be trending upwards as his expected metrics match his actual numbers.