Jason Heyward on his struggles: 'What can I do but keep working and stay the course?'

It has been a frustrating season for Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward, who is hitting .208 in July. Photo by Jon Durr/Getty Images

CHICAGO -- Chicago Cubs outfielder Jason Heyward insists he’s doing everything he can to turn his season around, but he continues to claim bad luck has been as responsible for his sagging numbers as much as bad at-bats have been.

"Going into the All-Star break, I was feeling good in Pittsburgh," Heyward said Tuesday afternoon. "Had three lineouts. It started going down from there. Then had some more lineouts right after the break. It’s tough. What can I do but keep working and stay the course?"

Staying the course has brought Heyward to a .228 batting average after going 1-for-4 on Tuesday night against the White Sox in a 3-0 loss. The Cubs have been slumping at the plate lately, and Heyward is once again right in the middle of it all. He’s hitting .208 in July, and overall his .630 OPS ranks 73rd in the National League and 154th out of 160 qualified players. He’s aware of the numbers, but he's trying to ignore them.

"It is what it is," Heyward said. "It’s too late to worry about numbers. That’s not to say I’m not going to try and finish strong. When you do it right and don’t get results, you keep doing it. I feel like I’ve done it but not gotten the results.

"If you’re hitting the ball hard and not getting results, what else can you do?"

Manager Joe Maddon has called Heyward the "unluckiest" lefthander in the league, but do the numbers bear that out? Maybe a little bit, as this is where the statistics get tricky and the eye test might be worth more. His much-talked-about and well-documented swing path is also at issue here as we take a look at some of Heyward’s numbers, beginning with his line-drive percentage. Hitting the ball hard is every hitter’s goal:

  • According to Inside Edge, Heyward’s 22.9 percent line-drive percentage this season is the highest of his career. Baseball Reference has it even higher, at 27 percent.

  • According to ESPN Stats and Information, Heyward is hitting .563 when he hits a line drive, a career low, and 156th out of 159 qualified hitters. For comparison, last year he hit .686 on line drives, a previous career low.

  • Heyward’s batting average on balls in play is just .273. That ranks 135th in baseball. The league average is .311.

Those numbers portray a hitter extremely unlucky, and he has been at times, but they don’t paint the whole picture, beginning with his unique launch angle on balls -- as in his swing doesn’t provide for much launch. So are line drives caught in the outfield, even near the warning track, bad luck considering they might be balls that leave the park with more elevation? What about the hard hit ground balls right into the shift? A decade ago they were hits, now they’re outs.

"I don’t want to get into the technical stuff that we’re working on," Heyward said. "If I’m pressing on anything, it’s having what I’m working on off the field show up in the game. Right now, I feel like off the field it’s automatic.

"Some games, like that last game in Milwaukee [on Sunday], I’m hitting the ball hard right at people. You’ve seen that ... I’m trying not to think too much about it. Trying to keep it simple and keep working every day."

The bigger issue at this point might be what Maddon does with Heyward if his struggles continue. Could he really find himself on the bench during a postseason run? The answer, more than likely, is no. Heyward still brings his gold glove to the outfield, and every day there is that hope things will start to turn for him. That is if they can turn. If a swing overhaul is finally going to happen for him, it has to come in the offseason, not this late in a season.

"Naturally, there is more of a spotlight when you don’t come through," Heyward said. "There is more of a spotlight, because you’re one of the highest-paid players in the game. All that stuff is natural. That’s not saying fair or unfair. It is what it is. I can’t control that. If I hit the ball hard three times a game, if it’s a hit it’s a hit. If it’s not and it’s right at somebody, what am I going to do? Don’t keep working hard? Don’t keep hitting in the cage? I’ll find ways to help the team win."