The Cubs go back to Wrigley with a 3-2 lead against the Dodgers this weekend; after consecutive shutouts that briefly panicked fans, they put up 18 runs in two games. Games 6 and 7 will be difficult matchups, against Clayton Kershaw and likely Rich Hill, two of the best pitchers in baseball in 2016 (and, in Kershaw’s case, one of the best ever).
But the Cubs can come in with the confidence that the scoreless Games 3 and 4 were not indicative of any deep problems with the lineup … except in the case of Jason Heyward.
He’s now 2-for-28 during the playoffs with one walk and eight strikeouts, a walk to strikeout ratio that’s unusual for a patient hitter who’s been selective during even a terrible 2016.
In mid-July, August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs looked into Heyward’s struggles, and discovered that he simply ceased to hit balls low in the strike zone, formerly one of his strengths.
In the past month and a half, it’s just gotten worse. Here’s how Heyward hit in September and October last year, via Brooks Baseball.
And this year:
He’s hit the ball pretty well in two places. And that’s about it.
Fortunately, the Cubs have options. Albert Almora is a right-handed hitter and defender who, while not yet a good hitter, at least hit better than Heyward with not-terrible platoon splits. Chris Coghlan hits respectably from the left side of the plate, and has made considerable strides as a defender by paying close attention to the numbers.
Heyward’s on a big, long contract and the Cubs will have a lot to work on with him in the offseason. But for now they just need five more wins, and have a lot of ways to get there.