Jason Heyward thriving in new leading role

11 Comments

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.

Tigers, Royals to play a regular season game in Omaha next year

Getty Images
1 Comment

Major League Baseball announced today that the Kansas City Royals and the Detroit Tigers will play a regular season game in Omaha, Nebraska next year to open the festivities for the College World Series.

The game will be played on Thursday, June 13, 2019 at TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha two days before the first game of the Series. It will be televised nationally by ESPN. TD Ameritrade Park has a seating capacity of 24,000, with the ability to expand to 35,000 spectators. Which, um, probably means this will be one of the larger crowds for the Royals next year if the club’s current trajectory continues.

This will be the fourth small-park, special occasion regular season game for Major League Baseball in recent years. hIn July 2016 the Atlanta Braves and the Miami Marlins played at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for service members. Last August the Pittsburgh Pirates and the St. Louis Cardinals played in the inaugural Little League Classic, which took place at Bowman Field in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. There will be a second Little League Classic in Williamsport this August between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets.