Analysis

The Pitch That Changed Jason Heyward’s Career

No one likes it, but Jason Heyward hate getting hit by pitch more than most.


August 21, 2013. The 77–49 Atlanta Braves were taking on the 58–67 New York Mets in New York in a game of little importance. Well, sort of.

Down 1–0 in the top of the sixth with two outs, nobody on, Jason Heyward stepped into the batter’s box to face Jon Niese. With a 1–2 count, this happened:

Ouch.

Jason Heyward missed an entire month. He didn’t return until September 20. I’d argue the pitch changed his entire career. J-Hey hasn’t the same since that pitch hit him in the face.

The first thing I’ll show you guys is how Heyward has been performing on inside pitches (via Baseball Savant):

2010 to 2013: .263 BA, .406 SLG.

2014 to present: .247 BA, .336 SLG.

Yup. See that split after getting beaned? I think Jason Heyward is afraid of the ball. Yeah, it’s not Little League anymore. But you saw the video of that pitch that broke his jaw. You don’t just forget about that. And I don’t think he has, which is a major source of his struggles recently.

Let’s dive deeper. Since the game Heyward returned from his injury, he has played 37 games following a game where he was hit by a pitch.

Slash line after a HBP in previous game: .207/.324/.331 in 142 plate appearances.

After no HBP in previous game: .264/.347/.418 in 3,879 plate appearance.

That could just be a small sample size, so let’s expand it a little. What if hit by pitches have a longer lasting effect than just one game?

Slash line after a HBP in previous three games: .223/.343/.376 in 442 plate appearances.

After no HBP in previous three games: .267/.346/.420 in 3,579 plate appearances.

This looks like an actual thing. Jason Heyward does measurably worse after getting hit by a pitch. Again, is it a small sample size? Well it’s 107 games worth of data now, so the effects of a small sample size should be pretty low.

Maybe he gets hurt every time he gets hit and it takes a toll on his numbers? That doesn’t sound very realistic. I think Jason Heyward is afraid of getting hit in the face again, and after getting hit he thinks about it. Just a theory of mine, but the numbers are in support of it. It’s weird, too weird to ignore.

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