Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Atlanta Braves right fielder Jason Heyward is finally out of the hole.
The 24-year-old has been trying to dig himself out since early June, and while he got closer to the surface by hitting .277/.356/.445 from June 2 to July 25, he hasn't been able to fully pull both legs out until this month.
Heyward had an extremely difficult April and May -- he hit .142/.283/.236 with two homers and eight RBI in his first 31 games and missed nearly a month following an emergency appendectomy.
But Heyward has his season average up to .257 with 13 homers and a .780 OPS heading into play on Tuesday.
Since moving to the leadoff spot on July 27, Heyward has hit .370 with six doubles, five home runs, 15 RBI, 23 runs and a 1.063 OPS over his last 21 games.
The biggest development in that span is Heyward reducing his flyball rate in favor of more grounders and line drives. The right fielder has struggled massively on flyballs this season, hitting a paltry .170 with a 17 percent extra-base hit rate. He batted .261 with a 25 percent extra-base hit rate on flyballs last season.
He has cut down his flyball rate to 24 percent in August, his lowest of any month this season by more than six percentage points. In turn, his groundball rate for the month is 52 percent.
After posting a .251 batting average on balls in play (BABIP) over his first 71 games this season, he has a a .391 BABIP over the last 22 games and his BABIP for the season is up to .285, which is still down 34 points from 2012 but on the upswing.
With reduced flyballs and better luck on grounders his average should continue to rise, especially because he has slashed his strikeout rate from 23.3 percent to 16.6 percent since last season.
Here's the kicker: while Heyward has hit fewer flyballs lately, the right fielder is actually hitting for more power than he has all season. His extra- base hit rate is 12.8 percent over his last 94 plate appearances, up from 6.9 percent over his first 303 plate appearances.
It's been a long climb back to respectability, but Heyward can finally put the shovel away ... for now.
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