Apr 14, 2014, 6:00 AM EDT
ATLANTA — Ever since declaring himself “pretty lost right now” at the plate nine days ago, Bryce Harper has been reluctant to say much of anything about himself. Even though the results of the last week suggest he’s anything but lost anymore.
“I feel pretty good,” was the extent of Harper’s self-evaluation Sunday evening after another impressive offensive performance (2-for-2 with a double and two walks).
Perhaps the Nationals’ overall weekend struggles against the Braves left the 21-year-old outfielder shying away from touting any personal accolades. Whatever the case, he has been on a remarkably productive streak at the plate.
When Harper stepped to the plate Wednesday night against the Marlins, his batting average stood at .160, his on-base percentage at .192. He had yet to produce an extra-base on the season, nor had he driven in a single run. He had 11 strikeouts to only one walk.
And then Harper launched a ball into the third deck at Nationals Park, and flipped the entire script.
Since that titanic homer against Miami, he is hitting .529 (9-for-17) with four walks, giving him a .619 on-base percentage during the streak. Look at his overall season numbers now and he’s boasting a .310 batting average, .383 OBP and .788 OPS.
So what’s been the difference? Is Harper seeing the ball better? Is his timing at the plate better?
“I think it’s all of it,” manager Matt Williams said. “His swing is shorter. He’s seeing the ball better. He’s not pulling off the ball like he was, staying through it. And taking his walks, too, when they’re giving it to him. That’s good.”
Indeed, perhaps the best sign of Harper’s progress has been his penchant for not chasing balls out of the zone, for going the other way with pitches on the outside corner and drawing walks when he doesn’t get anything good to hit.
It’s a long season, and there will be more ups and downs along the way. But for now, Harper is performing like the player the Nationals believed he’d be all along, playing relaxed and reaping the benefits of it only a week after declaring himself “pretty lost.”
“You always look more relaxed when you’re seeing the ball better, so is it chicken or the egg?” Williams said. “But he seems to be seeing it better. He’s swinging at better strikes and taking the walk when they’re giving it to him. He’s doing well.”
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