We have all been waiting as patiently as possible for Bryce Harper to make adjustments and go back to his old self.
In Harper’s final 40 at-bats before the All-Star break, he tallied just six hits. In the first half of the season, he had little impact on games and was visibly frustrated after many plate appearances—and rightfully so. His average was all the way down to .240, and had just 12 RBI’s. For a guy who came into the season as a possible MVP candidate, this was subpar (to say the least)—even with the injury he had.
But then, on Friday night after a nice four-day break, Harper looked like a changed man—and I don’t just mean his haircut. Harper was sporting a brand new batting stance that was as clean and cool as his commercials. It has already made an impact.
Since changing his stance, Harper is 4-7 with a home run, a double, a walk and three runs scored. It may be a small sample, but he is already doing nearly as well as the previous tw0 weeks combined. Here is why:
The stance has undergone two key changes from the previous one. The first is that he is now standing almost completely upright, as opposed to his knees bent over with a wide-foot stance. This change allows him to see the ball better and reach the higher pitches in the zone. Jayson Werth made a similar change just a few weeks ago and has been a wrecking ball ever since.
Secondly, he has dropped his hands from above his head to chest level with his bat pointing up to the sky.
This change compares most similarly to Anthony Rendon’s approach at the plate. Harper’s new hand placement allows him to keep his head and body still, while also letting his hands go straight to the ball. It’s a more fluid movement that doesn’t require as strenuous a swing. This is exactly what “Tony Quick Hands” has done with the Nationals.
Harper’s old stance, while exciting and power producing, just had too many moving parts. His head was flying, legs rising, and weight shifting more than anyone else in the majors. What Harper’s adjustment does is slow it all down. He can still produce the same power, as shown by his home run in the 9th inning on Friday, but everything is much simpler.
This is key for Bryce. For a guy who is so emotional and competitive, it is important for him to be relaxed. The simplicity and quietness of the new stance does exactly that. It is no longer about knocking the cover off the baseball. He still will swing hard, but does not have the same cork, and has a shorter distance for his hands to travel to the baseball, which will make up for the timing he lacked in the two weeks prior. Now he can just focus on putting the ball in play.
If the Nationals want to play in October, they are going to need production from Harper. They have played well so far this year, but Harper brings another level of excitement with his energy level on the field. If he can be productive, it makes the Nationals lineup go from top-five in the National League to one of the best in all of baseball. His adjustment, no matter how long it lasts, shows maturity and a willingness to adjust to improve his game. Harper, who has had very little positive on and off the field so far this year, may have finally turned a corner.