Jason Heyward thriving in new leading role

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Braves outfielder Jason Heyward was carrying a sub-.700 OPS near the end of July when Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez decided to move him from the #2 spot in the lineup, where he had hit for most of the season, to the lead-off spot. Despite owning baseball’s best record at 74-47, the Braves have lacked a “true” lead-off hitter for most of the season. Andrelton Simmons (.643 OPS) has led off 62 times and Jordan Schafer (.828 OPS) has led off 20 times but has also been injured for most of the season. Even B.J. Upton led off 13 times at the beginning of the season.

On July 27, Gonzalez moved Heyward up a spot in the lineup and it has been just what the doctor ordered. In 18 games since, Heyward is hitting .382/.455/.603. He has had multiple hits in six out of his last seven games. The Braves, meanwhile, have won 16 of those games (89%), averaging 5.4 runs per game. Their first place lead in the NL East has increased from 8.5 games to 14.5 games.

Because of his size and power potential, Heyward was never really thought of as a lead-off hitter, but he has the second-best walk-to-strikeout ratio on the team (0.67). He trails Simmons, but has reached base overall nearly seven percent more often, which is what really matters. Designating Heyward as the lead-off man was certainly not an obvious move, but considering how well things have gone for the Braves since, it was a necessary move.

Happy one-year anniversary of the Bryce Harper signing

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Last night Bill talked about how different this past offseason was than the one before as far as free agents go. This year all the big guys signed well before spring training and, Yasiel Puig aside, there aren’t many significant players left out on the market. It’s sort of how the hot stove season is supposed to go.

Last year, of course, was crazy. The two biggest free agents — Bryce Harper and Manny Machado — didn’t sign until February. In fact, Harper didn’t officially sign with Philly until March 2. One year ago today, however — February 28, 2019 — was the day the news of the impeding signing broke.

Over at NBC Sports Philly, they put together a video talking to Harper, Scott Boras, Matt Klentak and others who put the massive deal together. It gives you a sense of how the moving parts move in the runup to the biggest contract in baseball history.

It also gives you a sense of how much trouble Harper might’ve had had he gone with the other team who was in the bidding for him at the last minute: the Giants. Specifically, he keeps calling them “San Fran,” and if you know anyone from the Bay Area, you know just how much they hate it when people say “San Fran.” Don’t do that, folks.

Anyway here — apart from the tendering of a $330 million contract — is how Bryce Harper became a Phillie: