For those not already aware, Jason Heyward has recently been residing at the top of the Atlanta Braves lineup and performing at the top of his game. The two transitions have coincided with one another. Heyward may not physically look like the prototypical lead-off hitter, but the Atlanta Braves box scores paint a different picture.
On July 27, the Braves took to the field at the Ted for a Saturday game with St. Louis. After picking up the victory in-game one of the series, they had climbed over the .500 mark for the month, at 8-7. Although they were managing to hold on to a decent lead in the division over the fledgling Nationals and Phillies, the team had become somewhat stagnant and uninspiring with their inconsistent play. That changed in the bottom of the first inning that afternoon. The Atlanta crowd witnessed something only seen twice before, as Heyward was the first to step into the batters box.
Going Into that game, the Gold Glove right-fielder had managed only one hit and no walks, in eight career plate appearances, from the first spot in the order. Just a little over two weeks later, Heyward now has a lifetime .344/.429/.508 stat line as a lead-off hitter. The Braves have posted an incredible 14-1 record since the change. After Sunday’s four hit performance, Heyward’s first such game this season, this lineup may be here longer than anyone may have expected.
Fredi Gonzalez possibly made the most important move of the season, by placing Heyward at the top. He has watched his team gain six games, on second place Washington, over the last 16 days. During this stretch, Heyward has crossed the plate 18 times, while cruising to the tune of a .363 batting average.
The Braves are now rolling towards their first division title since 2005. With a 14.5 game lead in the NL East after August 11, there is absolutely no telling where they would be had this adjustment been made earlier.
Standing 6’5″ tall and weighing in at 240lbs, there is little argument that the J-Hey Kid has made himself the NL’s most intimidating lead-off man. It will be interesting to see just how long Fredi sticks with him in this role. Based on the way things have gone lately, this may just be the start of Heyward redefining the outlook of his career. Why mess with success?