Washington Nationals’ hitting coach Kevin Long talked to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal last month about what thought was behind Bryce Harper’s resurgence over the last couple of months after a rough stretch for the 25-year-old, soon-to-be-free agent.
Long said he believed Harper’s struggles in the first half showed the Nats’ outfielder his true value and would benefit him in the long run.
“His value is not in trying to hit home runs. His value is putting together good at bats and hitting line drives, and some of those line drives will end up home runs. He really thought he could elevate his game by hitting more home runs. He has hit 40, and he thought he could elevate to 55 to 60. He found that wasn’t the case — the hard way.”
Harper has hit eight of his 31 home runs on the season since July 20th, and he’s also hit 14 of his 28 doubles on the season in 184 plate appearances over that 44-game stretch, after hitting 14 in 414 PAs in the first half of the 2018 campaign.
Nats’ skipper Davey Martinez talked before last night’s game about the run Harper’s been on since the All-Star Break, with a .322/.429/.572 line in the second-half after his .214/.365/.468 first half, noting that the outfielder is approaching 100 runs scored (89) and driven in (89).
“Having 100 runs scored, 100 RBIs, that’s significant for a player today,” Martinez said, “and the batting average that seems to be — not of significance — it’s just more about your OPS and he’s had an unbelievable second-half, he really has, he’s turned things around.
“He’s going to approach 100 RBIs hopefully soon and 100 runs, so he’s done great.”
A reporter noted how Harper’s hit more doubles in the second-half, when he’s posted a 25.2% line drive percentage, up from 20.9% in the first-half and a 21.1% career average.
“I think it has a combination of a lot of things,” Martinez said. “The way they’re pitching him, and him actually making an adjustment to how they’re pitching him. Here’s a guy that could probably walk 200 times, so he’s trying to make adjustments and trying to really stay on the ball and hit the ball the other way and he’s done well with that and like you said, his doubles are up because he’s doing that.”
On the year, Harper, who went 0 for 4 with a walk last night, now has a .248/.385/.501 line on the season, with 105 walks total.
Harper is back in the lineup tonight, looking to keep things rolling in the second of four with the Cubs...