Nationals: Why Bryce Harper Is The Key Bat For Stretch Run

rickinator555
Jul 27, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) breaks his bat on a fly out in the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 27, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) breaks his bat on a fly out in the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field. Mandatory Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Washington Nationals didn’t trade for a bat at the deadline, but the missing piece to the offense just might be Bryce Harper

It’s been a rough season for the reigning NL MVP, Bryce Harper. Ever since the month of April, Harper has struggled at the plate for the Washington Nationals. He has not hit higher than .286 in any given month since April and his slugging percentage has not been over .419 since April (.714).

Before the non-waiver trade deadline, fans were wondering whether the Washington Nationals would add a bat to an offense that was last in the National League in batting average in the month of July. They didn’t make a deal, but that doesn’t mean they could get production from a player already in the lineup that has underachieved this season in some ways.

In the 61 at-bats that he’s had since the All-Star Break, Harper is hitting a mere .131 (8-for-61) with one home run and four RBI’s. He hit the ball hard in yesterday’s win, but only had one hit to show for it (double in the first inning).

Tuesday afternoon, on MLB Network Radio, Washington Nationals general manager Mike Rizzo was talking with Casey Stern and Cliff Floyd about whether or not he is concerned about the All-Star’s struggles this season:

More from District on Deck

The Washington Nationals have been fortunate to get great hitting from Daniel Murphy and Wilson Ramos to make up for the lack of production from Harper. However, while the home runs and RBI’s haven’t been there, Harper has contributed in other ways.

Despite his struggles, he continues to show great plate discipline, just like he did a season ago. His 82 walks are 32 more than the next highest total on the Washington Nationals (Anthony Rendon – 50). Plus, he is third on the team in on-base percentage (.378), and he has shown some speed with a team-high 15 stolen bases.

When it comes to his defense, Harper is still providing above average defense in right field. According to Fangraphs, Harper’s four runs saved are tied for the fourth most of any National League right fielder.

Right now, I agree with Rizzo in that Harper needs to stay where he is in the batting lineup. Even though I liked when he hit second behind Trea Turner, hitting third will allow him to see more fastballs since he has the player with the best batting average in baseball behind him in Murphy on most nights.

During a week where the Washington Nationals scored 32 runs in three games against the Diamondbacks, 12 different players drove in a run, including two pitchers (Stephen Strasburg and Max Scherzer). That is a good sign for the offense considering Harper wasn’t one of those players.

Next: Nationals July 2016 Month In Review

One of the main problems for Harper this season has been hitting the fastball. According to Brooks Baseball, Harper is hitting .165 with eight home runs and he has struck out 32 times in 115 at-bats when he sees a fastball. Since the All-Star Break, he is hitting .091 against fastballs, which is alarming.

Right now, there is reason to be concerned about Harper’s season. But, with two months left in the year, the Washington Nationals will need Harper to turn it around if they want to make a deep run into October. They didn’t get a bat at the deadline, but a turnaround from Harper would be an equivalent of adding that power bat back into the lineup.

facebooktwitterreddit