Guest blogger Mathew Brown returns to recap Bryce Harper’s arrival.
Bryce Harper made his Major League debut over the weekend. He collected two hits, one RBI, a walk, a sac fly and a K. He also made two memorable defensive plays. He was even better than I could have hoped for. In case you missed the action, here are three strikes for each of the games.
Saturday, April 28: Nats 3, Dodgers 4
1. It’s been discussed, but I gotta chime in about the hair:
When I saw that for the first time, I was sitting in an empty room and I yelled out to no one, “That is the worst haircut in the Major Leagues.” But swag is as swag does, and before you get too far into making fun of him, consider: He’s a rich and famous professional athlete, and he’s 19. When you were 19 you weren’t playing for the Nationals, you were trying to get your older sister to buy you beer. Trust me, your haircut wasn’t cool either.
2. He has a better plate approach than I thought he would. His first hit was a laser of a double that short-hopped the centerfield wall. More surprising than the power was that he did it on a 3-2 count. Most rookies don’t work 3-2 counts. They’re too eager or too nervous to work through reading pitches and taking pitches.
What kills rookies are the at-bats they just give away because they’re up and down in four pitches, and three of them weren’t in the zone. Bryce is already showing some discipline, which is going to take him very far.
3. DAT ARM
Sunday, April 29: Nats 0, Dodgers 2
1. Eye black. Glorious eye black. Not exactly war paint, but combined with the hair and the stirrups, he’s like something out of a video game, hopefully with numbers to accompany the swagger.
2. The leaping catch into the wall. It showed two things. First, he’s an incredible athlete. He ran down a well-hit ball, tracked it into his glove, stayed with it through the contact with the wall, bounced up and fired to first to hold the runner. Check out this awesome Photoshop by ktkyletaylor:
Second, that was not a polished center field play. He takes a long route to the ball as you can see on the video. With a better read and jump, this is an easy run to the ball instead of a violent collision with the fence. Yes, he made the play, and yes, this is nitpicking, but it’s just a reminder of how much better he can get.
3. He walked in the ninth on a full count to get the tying run aboard. I will keep driving this home all season, but taking walks as a rookie is so much more telling than smashing doubles. It’s a skill much more dependent on learning and discipline (which is subtle) than talent and athleticism (which isn’t, not on Bryce Harper). So when the kid manages to extend the game with a base on balls, I just swelled up with pride.
Important note: Pitch number 4 here was called a ball. He’s already getting umpire help like a veteran (via Brooks Baseball’s Pitch F/X tool).
Harper and the Nats come home to D.C. tonight to face off against the Diamondbacks. If you’re in the area, I highly recommend attending. Stephen Strasburg’s debut game was the greatest live sporting event I’ve ever seen, and I imagine the atmosphere around this one will be just as intense. Go, keep score, and save it for your kids one day.
(Video taken with love from Big League Stew’s Harper debut coverage.)