Jason Heyward was used as a leadoff hitter an awful lot by the Braves last year. He tells Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that that limited him as a hitter:
When describing how stymied he felt at times batting leadoff for the Atlanta Braves, Gold Glove-winning outfielder Jason Heyward borrowed an analogy from the field. It’s playing long toss and really wanting to cut loose with a full-strength throw but having to hit a target 90 feet away.
“You feel like there’s a governor on you and you’re not letting it ride,” Heyward said. “You have to think of other ways.”
I find this interesting because, in Heyward’s first couple of seasons, the Braves were often reported to be frustrated that he was as selective as he was and they wanted him to be more aggressive at the plate. For them to suggest to him — explicitly or otherwise — that he shouldn’t do that would therefore be quite a switch, even once you account for his move to the leadoff position. I mean, the Braves haven’t often been accused of going overboard in preaching patience at the plate. They’ve put B.J/Melvin Upton in the leadoff an AWFUL lot for crying out loud.
Poor communication, maybe? Heyward thinking that it was his job to cut down on his swing while the Braves not being clear to him about what they wanted? Heyward and/or the Braves forgetting that home runs are welcome from leadoff hitters too? Post-hoc explanation of a situation with which no one was happy?
I love Heyward and I’m frequently hard on the Braves, particular when it involves what we hear about what they expect from hitters’ approach at the plate. But in this case I’d be inclined to want to hear Atlanta’s side of the story before totally buying into the notion that the team limited him somehow, intentionally and specifically or otherwise.
Either way, Heyward won’t be batting leadoff in St. Louis.