Washington Nationals' right fielder Bryce Harper took home the NL MVP award after his .330/.460/.649, 38 double, 42 HR, 9.5 fWAR campaign in the nation's capital in 2015. He walked (124 BB, including 15 IBB) almost as much as he struck out (131 Ks), took what opposing pitchers gave him all season and did what he could to help the injury-plagued Nationals stay competitive in an ultimately disappointing season.
He didn't, however, want to talk too much about his mature approach at the plate throughout the 153 games he played and the 654 plate appearances he made last season when asked what was different from previous seasons in an MLB Network Radio interview last night.
"Don't make me think too much right now," Harper sort-of joked. "If you think too much you don't hit well."
"I just tried to go up there and do everything I could," he explained. "I've always been patient, throughout my whole life, I guess you could say, but this year I was able to stay healthy. I had no breaks, so I was able to go in day in and day out, know what I needed to do in the cage, know what I needed to do to get ready for the game and just stayed within myself. Doesn't matter if I was 0 for 4 or 4 for 4, that was the thing. I just wanted to stay even keel and do everything I could to help my team win on a daily basis. And if that was getting on base for a walk, or if that was hitting a homer or a double in the gap, that's all I wanted to do. I just wanted to play this game, have fun, not take it too seriously and that's what I do on a daily basis. It's just going out there, playing hard, playing fun and that's what I try to do."
Staying healthy was a key for the 23-year-old, 2010 no.1 overall pick, who put up career highs in games played and plate appearances in his fourth major league campaign, avoided the sort of injuries that limited him in his first three seasons in the majors and finished the year with the NL's highest On-Base Percentage, Slugging Percentage, Wins Above Replacement, runs scored (118), Weighted On-Base Average (.461) and Weighted Runs Created Plus (198).
As he explained last night, he did it all without poring over film of opposing pitchers, without obsessing over scouting reports and taking advantage of all the information that is available to major league hitters these days.
"I don't watch video," Harper said. "I don't want to know what the speeds are or anything like that. I don't look at charts, I don't look at what he's done, how he's done it, because everything can change that night. They're always flipping the book, they're always trying to do something different.
"What I want to know is if he's throwing a fastball, curveball, changeup, slider, knuckleball, something like that. Just try to see rotation, hit it and that's what I do, I just go up there and try see it and hit it, and make everything simple. I was able to go in this year and just stay within myself, and stay simple as I could and that's what I'm meaning to do. It didn't matter if I lined out to a guy or hit a homer. If you line out to a guy, you're still out, if you strike out, you're still out. It's the same game you've been playing your whole life and it's a feel game.
"Derek Jeter always used to say that guys lose feel when they start looking at video, start looking at certain things like that. So I was able to just go in this year and do what I could to feel the game every single day. That's what I wanted to do."
Though he said he plans on continuing to do what he did last season as far as his approach and preparation, there will be some changes around him this year, with a new manager and coaching staff in place, but Harper told MLB Network Radio hosts Jeff Joyce and Mike Stanton that he's excited about working with the Nationals' new skipper and the folks he's brought on to help the Nats try to bounce back after a disappointing run.
"I've talked to [Dusty Baker] a couple times," Harper said. "I was able to talk to him in person at Nats [WinterFest] this year. Such a great guy. Such a player's manager. Being able to talk to him, he's got that enthusiasm, that demeanor that you want your manager to have. We're all very excited about it, but being able to add a guy like Davey Lopes and Mike Maddux as well, [Chris] Speier, we have such an All-Star staff now and we're very excited about that, very excited to get going this year and we can't wait."
Harper and his teammates don't have to wait long to get back at it. Pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training next weekend and position players report on February 23rd.
Listen to some of Harper's MLB Network Radio interview below:
NL MVP Bryce Harper: "(Dusty Baker) has that enthusiasm, that demeanor you want your manager to have..." AUDIO: https://t.co/3iLv1bJYdZ— MLB Network Radio (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 12, 2016