What Is Actually Wrong with BRYCE HARPER
I am not the biggest Bryce Harper fan. I think he is overrated. People continually put him in the same sentence as Mike Trout but he isn’t in the same class. Nevertheless Harper is still a good player. People don’t win MVP’s playing like garbage.
The Washington Nationals right fielder has had his share of success, like winning that MVP award I mentioned, but 2018 has not been great to him. Harper is currently hitting .219, including a June in which he has only hit 1 homer with a .181 average while striking out a whopping 36% of the time.
So what is wrong with the former phenom turned all-star? Well, looking at the stats, Harper’s struggles are a result of a combination of things. First of all, his batting average on balls in play is only slightly above the Mendoza line at .220. That means that number 34’s lackluster stats could partially be due to bad luck, but it could also be a result of teams deciding to shift on him more frequently.
Harper has been shifted on in 153 of his 265 at bats this season while he was only shifted on in 163 of his AB’s last year (fangraphs). Kind of crazy, no? Still, if you are THAT great of a player and plan on asking teams for $400 million then you should be able to overcome the shift by hitting to all fields.
Another issue with Harper’s lack of success in 2018 is due to him simply missing the ball. His contact rate is the lowest of his career at 69.7% (fangraphs). That number is 5% lower than last year, and 3% lower than his career low in 2014. Like I already said, Harper is a good player regardless of what he is doing this season.
It is still worrisome to see his average so low but he is still hitting the ball hard when he makes contact, so the issue may be that Harper is in his own head. He could be pressing himself at the dish.
If you have ever played sports you know that more than half the game is mental; especially when it comes to baseball. In Harper’s case, this is probably one of the only times he has struggled playing the game. He raked in high school. He went to junior college and raked. In the minors he was solid and in the majors, you know the story.
Harper is going to get paid this offseason despite his lack of production in 2018, but he is currently playing himself out of the money figure him and his agent Scott Boras are expecting.
At some point the Nationals right fielder will get out of his slump. He is too good not to. Last night was an encouraging sign for a potential breakthrough as he had three extra base hits against the Phillies. However, Harper has to start going the other way and make more contact like he has in the past . If he cuts down on his nearly 45% pull rate, teams will have to stop using the shift on him, effectively opening more holes for base hits.
It remains to be seen whether or not Harper will actually start hitting again. I can’t tell the future, but Harper is an MVP, Rookie of the Year, All-Star, and Silver Slugger. He has shown the ability to hit throughout his life. It is hard to imagine that the superstar ends the year with this sour of a stat line.
-Jarrod Ribaudo (@Jribs53)