Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
The Nationals own Bryce Harper is one of the most fascinating players to watch in all of Major League Baseball. Not only does he play the game hard every single pitch but he does it the right way. Harper was overly aggressive in his rookie season, but has since calmed it down just a bit. Not all the way calmed down, but Nats fans should be happy with the way he has played. This past season Nats fans saw him run straight into a wall at Dodger Stadium that put him on the shelf for five weeks. Let’s all hope that he has learned his lesson and that he can become a better player.
Matt Williams, the new manager of the Nationals, will only help him in calming down a bit, but also not losing his aggressive side. Williams wants Harper to stay aggressive but know when is the right time to do so. Williams is a big believer of playing the game hard and doing it the right way. If you ever saw him play, he was Bryce Harper, before Bryce Harper. Williams didn’t have as much hype as Harper but he now has the chance to turn Harper’s hype into a reality.
"“I’m here to help him. I’m here to help him become the MVP and a Hall of Fame player. I want that for him. I want him to be that guy. I want him to be our leader. I want him to be the star that everybody wants him to be.” — Matt Williams"
Williams has said that he believes in the sabermetrics of the game. That being said we won’t be able to tell this until about a month or two into the 2014 season. This will give us as fans plenty of time to decide if he will stick to his guns and be aggressive in all parts of the game. This type of play will play right into the hands of Harper.
Harper loves to take extra bases and Williams will give him the ability to do that. Taking the extra base gives you the ability to score more runs, if you do it the right way. Harper will need to be smart when taking the extra base and I’m sure Williams will explain that to him. Williams is a former third base coach who is known for getting runners thrown out. Harper will get thrown out with the best of them but more than likely he will be safe and help out the Nationals.
In even just a season Harper became a more patient hitter as he drew more walks in 100 less plate appearances. In doing so this gives him the chance to steal more bases. The name of the game is on-base percentage and Harper has done a nice job of doing that. Harper played in 21 less games in 2013 than in 2012, but his OBP% went up 28 points. That is a significant increase from one season to another.
Harper could end up leading off but most likely will be in the two spot in the order, so on-base percentage will be huge for him. Getting on base in front of Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth will be his job. If he gets on he can steal bases and put himself in scoring position. Williams will also help him understand that.
The 2014 season will be huge for Harper. This is a season that can put him into MVP talks or he can again just be the player that got a lot of hype but was just a good player. The Nationals don’t want him to just be a good player, they want the MVP candidate. Williams will be the guy that gives him that chance.