The Flow Needs Some Confidence...
Bryce Harper, outfielder for the Washington Nationals, is having a disappointing season overall. With a 0.214 batting average, 0.365 on base percentage and 23 home runs, there is room for improvement. The power is there, but the batting average and on base percentage are not. With a spot in the starting lineup of the all-star game (which is a surprise to many), and a homerun derby trophy to bring home, hopefully he will come back from the all-star break with confidence. What I wanted to do what see where his struggles may be coming from, so he can bring up his numbers in the second half of the season.
Let’s start with the pitches he is encountering when he gets out. Harper is a lefty, and it looks like he is having trouble with balls on the outside of the plate. He needs to keep his eyes on balls within the strike zone and lay off those outside the strike zone. He seems to be chasing out of the strike zone, since there are 32 balls high outside and 30 balls low outside that he chases. The problem could lie in his impatience, maybe he is too anxious to get a hit, or maybe he just isn’t seeing the ball like he has in previous years. Both possible issues can be fixed. He either needs to work on patience, and know that he will hit his pitch, but must wait, or he needs to work on watching the balls spin and knowing where it will end up. He has had good plate discipline in the past, he needs to learn what worked for him to eliminate swinging at bad pitches.
The map below is a heatmap of where the ball is hit when Harper gets an out. As a lefty, he seems to be pulling the ball unsuccessfully. Some players are successful with pulling the ball, but not Harper. Harper is successful driving down the middle. Harper needs to work on not being too anxious, just like I said previously. He is getting to excited and hitting the ball to soon. He needs to let the ball (a good pitch) get deeper in his zone and drive it up the middle.
Below is a radial chart of outs for Harper. It shows the angle off the bat as well as what kind of contact he gets on the ball. It looks like many of his outs come from topped contact. This could be because he is pulling balls, and rolling over his hands, which would result in a topped ball. It also looks like he has many hits under balls as well, which could be because he is dropping his shoulder and trying to put power on the ball that way. Dropping a shoulder or rolling hands over aren’t ways to get hits, which we can see from this graph. Harper needs to focus on solid contact and believing in the fundamentals.
From the above graphs, we can see that there are some holes in Bryce Harper’s batting this season. He needs to focus on hitting up the middle, and not chasing outside the zone. He needs to have confident in himself to know which balls are inside/outside of the strike zone, know not to pull a ball and to know not to drop his shoulder. These are all easy fixes, that we know he can do. I hope that the success of the all-star break can help him make the necessary changes to lead the Nationals to a play-off run.
MLB Advanced Media, LP. Statcast Search. n.d. https://baseballsavant.mlb.com/statcast_search.
Sports Reference LLC. Bryce Harper. 2000-2018. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/h/harpebr03.shtml.