August 8, 2012
The Platoon Advantage
Who is Jason Heyward?
There needs to be a catchy two-word phrase, along the lines of “gambler’s fallacy” or “winner’s curse,” for the understandable but generally ill-advised thought pattern that gets applied to guys like Jason Heyward. The rule underlying the fallacy is something like: the more hype a prospect receives upon his debut, the more overlooked and underrated he will become as soon as (inevitably) it turns out that he can’t immediately become Willie Mays or Albert Pujols.
It’s an exceptionally clunkily-worded rule, which is why we need the title phrase.
Heyward’s rookie campaign wasn’t all smooth sailing—he peaked at .301/.421/.596 on May 30, after which, hampered for much of the summer by an injury, he hit just .266/.381/.396—but on the year, he put up a .306 TAv and 4.1 WARP. The WARP was good for 23rd best in the National League, from a guy who played most of the season as a 20-year-old. He’d shown speed, defense, an ability to hit for average and power (both hampered by his mid-summer thumb injury), and an uncanny eye at the plate. He was no Mike Trout, but it was a thrilling debut performance, the kind you can dream a whole Hall of Fame career off of.
Then 2011 happened, and that was bad. That was all it took, really—not that you give up all hope for a young kid after a season like that, but with Harper and Trout coming in and Strasburg coming back, it’s pretty easy to just kind of forget about him.
Then the first two months of 2012 happened, and those weren’t necessarily bad, but they weren’t exactly dream-inspiring, either: on the morning of June 11, Heyward was hitting .245/.329/.440—just slightly above an average line for a 2012 National League hitter, and, as our own Sam Miller noted, strangely similar to the cumulative line created by his great 2010 and horrid 2011 (.255/.362/.427). Sam went on to note: