clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Nationals' slugger Bryce Harper, the nation's capital's new "Walking Man"

New, comments

Bryce Harper took down the Nationals' single-season walk record (2005-present) this week, and he's about to set the franchise mark. He'll likely fall short of the record by a D.C.-based player, but he might do something no other Washington walk leader did.

Rob Carr/Getty Images

The second of three free passes Bryce Harper took in the series opener of Washington's three-game set with the visiting Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday night, gave the Nationals' 22-year-old slugger 117 walks total on the year, one more than the Nats' previous single-season record holder, Adam Dunn, took back in 2009.

In the first of his two seasons in the nation's capital, Dunn, then 29 years old, put up a .267/.398/.529 line on the year, with 29 doubles, 38 home runs, 116 walks and 177 Ks in 159 games and 668 plate appearances.

"We've seen the progression of how his [approach] at the plate [has] improved as he gets more mature as a hitter, as he knows the league a little bit better..." - Mike Rizzo on Bryce Harper on MLB Network Radio

Harper took two walks on Wednesday and two more on Thursday afternoon in the series finale with the O's, leaving him 0 for 5 with seven walks in the series.

He finished the series with a .339/.471/.665 line, 35 doubles, 41 HRs, 122 walks and 122 Ks in 145 games and 620 plate appearances thus far this season.

Harper is currently one walk shy of the franchise record set by Montreal outfielder Ken Singleton, who walked 123 times in his second season with the Expos in 1973.

Singleton, then 26, was acquired along with infielder Tim Foli and 1B/OF Mike Jorgensen in a trade that sent Rusty Staub to the New York Mets in 1972. Singleton played a full 162 games in '73, putting up a .302/.425/.479 line, 26 doubles, 23 home runs, 123 walks and 91 Ks in 692 PAs.

One more will give Harper the franchise mark for walks in a season, but he's currently 29 short of the single season record by a D.C.-based player set by a then-29-year-old Eddie Yost in 1956.

Yost, nicknamed "The Walking Man", took 151 walks that season, striking out just 82 times in 155 games and 686 PAs, over which he had a .231/.412/.336 line, 17 doubles, two triples and 11 home runs.

Yost made a run at Babe Ruth's record of 170 walks in a season (1929) that year, but fell short as Mickey Mantle chased and fell short of Ruth's home run record that summer.

Ruth's walk record stood until 2001 when Barry Bonds surpassed it with 177.

Bonds walks 198 times the next year and 232 times in 2004, setting the current mark for walks in a single campaign.

"I look at it as the evolution of Bryce. We can look back twelve months and see the evolution that he's made over that span." -Matt Williams on Bryce Harper on MLB Network Radio

Harper won't approach Ruthian or Bondsian (?) walk totals this season, but GM Mike Rizzo talked in an MLB Network Radio interview this past weekend about the development at the plate that's turned Harper into one of the more patient hitters in the game.

"We've seen the progression of how his [approach] at the plate [has] improved as he gets more mature as a hitter, as he knows the league a little bit better," Rizzo told MLB Network Radio hosts Jim Bowden and Jim Duquette.

"But he really has taken it to the next level as far as being patient and laying off of pitcher's pitches and really getting pitches in his zone that he can attack and he's been marvelous at it."

In his own MLB Network Radio interview on Wednesday morning, Matt Williams was asked if he'd prefer Harper take a swing at some of the pitches that are close instead of just getting on base by walking and counting on his teammates to come through?

"I look at it as the evolution of Bryce," Williams said.

"We can look back twelve months and see the evolution that he's made over that span. He has in the past tried to hit that ball and his season, his particular season, wasn't as good as this one.

"So he's made a conscious effort to be as patient as he can, to hit the balls that he can actually do some damage with -- it's one thing to swing at it, it's another thing to do what he wants to do with that baseball and he's understanding as he's gone through this season and he will understand it even more as he goes -- that if he's patient enough to get a good pitch to hit then he's going to do well."

Harper has done plenty of damage with the pitches he gets that he can actually do something with this season, and he'll also likely set the franchise mark any day now though he'll fall short of Yost's record for D.C.-based players.

He might, however, do something that neither Dunn, Singleton or Yost was able to do in their own record-setting seasons... win an MVP award.