How to deal with Bryce Harper
Pitchers looking for the best ways to approach the teenage phenom
It's probably not fair to say "long awaited" regarding anything having to do with Bryce Harper, but the Washington Nationals outfielder made his somewhat long-awaited major league debut last April 28, in Los Angeles. In his first at-bat, facing Chad Billingsley, the first pitch was right on the outer edge. The second pitch was off the plate. The third pitch was off the plate. The fourth pitch was right on the outer edge, and Harper grounded out. In one at-bat, Harper got a sneak peek of how he would end up getting pitched all season.
Last year, 302 different players batted at least 250 times. According to FanGraphs' plate-discipline data, less than 42 percent of pitches thrown to Harper were in the strike zone, ranking third lowest in baseball. Additionally, according to Baseball Info Solutions, less than 46 percent of pitches thrown to Harper were fastballs, ranking fourth lowest in baseball. You might expect numbers like this for an undisciplined hacker, but that doesn't describe Harper's profile.
To get a better understanding of what was going on, it's worthwhile to break down Harper's numbers month-by-month (ignoring his two-game April).