Nationals Baseball: A day off for Bryce

Thursday, August 09, 2012

A day off for Bryce

Maybe.  We'll see.   It's no secret Bryce Harper is struggling mightily even when Angel Hernandez isn't behind the plate trying to draw attention to himself by screwing over a popular player with terrible calls.  Not only has he hit .176 / .276 / .541 in the second half, his monthly trending has been straight down since he started playing:

May: .271 /.355 /.505
June: .274 / .336 / .443
July: .222 / .306 / .313
August: .188 / .297 / .281

Hidden is that is a drop in power along with the average.  isoSLG that went from .234 (for a season that'd skirt the Top 25) to .169 to settling in the .090s in July and August (for a season that'd be among the worst for everyday players).

The comparisons with Trout, who's hitting nearly .100 pts higher, are over and done; and what once seemed like a slam dunk ROY case is now up for grabs.  Bryce needs something and a day off is as good as any place to start.

Davey had been avoiding this like the plague.  Bryce's started pretty much every game for the Nats since he's been called up and in the rare ones he hasn't started he's been used to pinch hit.  Unless I messed up (always a possibility) there are only two games he didn't participate in, one-half of a double header and a game where he was scratched due to a stomach bug.  I'm in the "let good players play out of slumps" camp so it's hard for me to say this, but I think Davey is a couple weeks late on trying this.

What's gone wrong with Bryce?  It's hard to say.  Sure he's striking out a bit more now than in May, but he struck out the most in June and that month was ok. you might say he's getting unlucky with BABIP (.212 so far in August) but he's also hit 0 line drives so far this month. The nearest I can tell it's two things, the same two things you've heard before, he's getting no fastballs to hit and he's getting no strikes to hit.  Based on the numbers Kilgore put out and where they stand now he's been getting even fewer fastballs (that percentage is down to 45.1%) but a few more balls in the zone (up to 39.2%), so the key seems to be the lack of fastballs. He's seeing junk, junk and more junk and even seeing it more in the zone now and he can't hit it. Take a look at this daily graph of GB/FB/LD.  Bryce relied a lot on crushing deep flyballs early on, now he's hitting everything into the ground. Anything with a break he's getting over top of.

Would I be worried about this? Hell no.  He's NINETEEN. It's his rookie year. Sorry he's not perfect. Worry about this... I don't know... in 2015, when he's 22? There will be growing pains but everyone is buying into the kid. Better yet the Nats have proved they don't need Bryce to be a stud to win. The pitching is that good.

What would I do? Last night marked Bryce's 110th game of this season (combined minors and majors).  Last year he played 109 and THAT was the most he played in a single year. The Nats don't need Bryce to win so every 10 games or so, give the kid a breather, a full day off.  No PH.  No defensive replacement. Let the kid rest.


As for the team, they are still winning ugly games. They aren't scoring as many runs vs the Astros as you'd like but you'll trade W's for runs anytime. I'm sure they'll face SF next week and win three straight 13-12 slugfests just because it's been that kind of year. Anyway, pitching is still that good. Rinse. Repeat. Pennant.

18 comments:

Anonymous said...

Five runs tonight and they'll have 40 for the Marlins-Astros set. Even though they're in a slump right now (when they can afford to be) they're still on track overall for your original pace.

WiredHK said...

Point well taken, I agree. And I'd add it seems like the frustration at the plate is creeping into his play everywhere. I feel like I've seen some mental mistakes in the field in the past few weeks, as well (i.e. the horrendous "hero" throw in the 9th inning last night that gifted the winning run into scoring position). I absolutely love Bryce and the way he plays the game, but right now, he needs a breather. Looks like he is thinking way too much at the plate instead of just reacting, like he was earlier. He'll come around, though. Everyone has these periods, especially rookies.

PS - He was absolutely jobbed at the plate last night, without any doubt at all (and it directly cost the Nats a run, maybe more).

Todd Boss said...

I think he's tired. Baseball is a grind; these guys need days off here and there. And, he's clearly pressing. The Harper of the early season wouldn't chase these breaking balls; he showed amazingly good plate discipline. That discipline has gone out the window as he's getting fewer and fewer fastballs, and he's giving away at-bats by virtue of turning over on curveballs and making them into easy grounders to 2nd base. That's why his BABIP is so low lately.

He needs a day off, then perhaps a re-evaluation of his approach at the plate.

Harper said...

Anon - Yep, though it did take a couple extra inning games or else they'd need 7. The Marlins series was better, but you'll take 4 wins over 3 regardless of the runs scored.

WiredHK - Last night was more about Angel frustration than his general hitting I think. Bryce has a motor that doesn't stop in the field so maybe the team does need to sit him down.

Bryce - he's actually not all that different in his patience and strike recognition. Walk rate has been fine. I think he's not hitting junk even in the zone and until he does that he can't move to the next level of taking those strikes he can hit while waiting for strikes he can hit well.

JonQuest said...

Bryce is a kid and Davey is of the opinion that kids have boundless energy. I think he wants to give him as many at bats as possible in preparation for the playoffs. All of this, even the frustrating whiffs, are experience he can build on.

That said, he's definitely stuck in a rut and a day off for mental rest and re-evaluating his approach may be more useful than an extra 4 at bats. We don't need him to be hot now, but we need him to catch that spark again when it's go time.

Anonymous said...

He actually needs to be sent down but it won't happen. Corey Brown is major league ready. Harper never really was...and now the Nats have painted themselves in a corner by anointing him a superstar too early and he was put in an All Star game he didn't deserve. It would be a PR nightmare to send him down.

Anonymous said...

what's his average with RISP? I feel like hes still had some big hits (mets in the 10th, etc.). Last night he gets robbed, but is he still having any success when it matters?

Anonymous said...

He's 19. Trout batted 220. last year. Harper has never seen these guys.

blovy8 said...

I bet Harper adjusts eventually, but it doesn't hurt to throw Bernadina a start after that nice catch. A day off here and there won't hurt anything, the guy is way too cocky to worry about his confidence.

WiredHK said...

On cue, it's being reported that Bryce will get a game off tonight. So, there you have it....

Evan said...

Looks like Davey read your post and decided it made sense: Harper's out tonight. Of course, he'll still probably get a PH AB

Froggy said...

Yup, he needed a day off. He does look like he is pressing a bit. It has got to be a grind for anyone let alone a 19 yo.

Regardless, I thought he showed some great discipline by not swinging at out of the strike zone pitches, just like you are taught in little league.

But as expected, Angel Hernandez made it 'The Angel Hernandez Show' as at least two of those SO's were on 3-2 counts that were clearly balls down and away.

Nattydread said...

Long long season for the kid.

Turns out that once in a hundred year players only come around once in a hundred years.

B Harper can be a superstar without being the best player of all time. The early comparisons with Ty Cobb, Al Kaline et al are millstones. Let him be Bryce Harper, major leaguer, first.

He said it himself, he doesn't pay any attention to his stats --- he just tries to have good at bats. In general, he does. Now that the league has the book on him, he needs to adjust his approach.

Not a crisis. If he gets hot when Morse cools off, that'd be nice.

Donald said...

The next 6 games are going to be very important. DeMarco has an article outlining the relatively difficulties in schedule the contending teams have, and the Nats have one of the harder. But that's skewed a lot by having 6 games on the road against contending teams. After this, they are at home for 27 of the final 44 games. The Braves are at NY and then home against the Padres during that stretch, so you have to figure they are hoping to go 5-1 or 4-2 at the worst. If the Nats go 3-3, they might slip a game or two but will still lead the Braves by 2.5. 2-4 would be a bit bad but we'd still be in first. 1-5 or 0-6 would be a disaster.

emshakes said...

I totally agree. He's only 19 and he didn't spend a huge amount of time in Triple-A before his call-up. I think it's a combination of being tired, intensely competitive (which only serves to frustrate him when he doesn't play well, seeing crappy pitches, and being (at times) a little over-aggressive at the plate. I think he just needs a day to calm down, relax, and get his head together. He should be thinking about stats, awards, or Mike Trout comparisons. Just get out there and use his ability to play ball, that's what got him to the majors at 19 anyway.

Anonymous said...

He's stiff up at the plate. Compare his lack of movement to Zimmerman up next. Harper is white knuckled, Zimmerman is moving purposefully. Bryce needs to relax the body, the hands and get a little rythym.

Angels12 said...

Perhaps he needs to wear a garter and learn to breathe thru his eyelids like the Galapagos lizards....

Anonymous said...

Ur fucking stupid...