5 Early Predictions for Bryce Harper in His First MLB Postseason
Through 104 games, he is hitting .248 with 12 home runs and 37 RBI. He has a .320 OBP with 13 stolen bases. But he also has 94 strikeouts.
And with the Nationals leading the NL East by 4.5 games, Bryce Harper should get to play postseason baseball as a rookie.
But will he be good? Or will he be great?
Here are five early predictions for Bryce Harper in his first MLB postseason.
5. Buster Posey Imitation
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The Mid-Atlantic Sports Network (MASN) has been running a commercial for the Washington Nationals this season in which Bryce Harper discusses how he sees his role with the team:
"I want to be that game-changer, that guy who can come in as a rookie and jump start his team."
Bryce Harper is referring to Buster Posey (pictured), who won the 2010 NL Rookie of the Year award as he sparked the San Francisco Giants to a berth in the playoffs. The Giants would eventually win the franchise's first World Series title since 1954.
Posey finished the regular season hitting .305 with 18 home runs and 67 RBI, and batted .288 with one home run and five RBIs in the playoffs. His one home run came in the World Series, where he hit .300.
Bryce Harper has already sparked the Washington Nationals so far this regular season, and will do the same in the postseason.
4. A Pete Rose Moment
Bryce Harper has been compared to Pete Rose for the reckless abandon with which he plays the game of baseball. And Harper counts "Charlie Hustle" as one of his baseball heroes. Perhaps in his first postseason, Harper will emulate Pete Rose in another way.
In the fifth inning of Game 3 of the 1973 NLCS against the New York Mets, Pete Rose slid hard into second base to break up a double play. Mets shortstop Bud Harrelson took exception with the slide and that's all Rose needed. A fight broke out (pictured), and the benches cleared.
So far this season, Bryce Harper has controlled himself, including when he calmly walked to first base after being plunked by Cole Hamels.
But expect the pressure and intensity of the playoffs to bring out another side of this fiercely competitive rookie.
3. Base Running Exhibition
Aggressive base running often takes center stage in the postseason.
Dave Roberts kept the Boston Red Sox on life support with his narrow steal of second base in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS against the New York Yankees. He would score the game-tying run on a single, and the Red Sox would win the game to begin the biggest comeback in baseball history, ultimately winning their first World Series in 86 years.
Jackie Robinson stole home plate during Game 1 of the 1955 World Series against the New York Yankees, on a play Yogi Berra still disputes to this day. The Dodgers would beat the Yankees in seven games to claim their first championship, despite Robinson's larceny being the only steal of home in a World Series game that came in a losing effort.
And Enos Slaughter (pictured) of the St. Louis Cardinals scored the game-winning run in Game 7 of the 1946 World Series against the Boston Red Sox with a "mad dash" from first base on a single to left-center field. Slaughter scored only by ignoring his third base coach, who was trying to hold him up.
Bryce Harper runs the bases like these three players. And he will use his aggressiveness on the base paths to his team's advantage this postseason.
2. A Walk-off to Remember
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A walk-off home run in the postseason can turn an ordinary player into a baseball legend.
Just last season, St. Louis Cardinals third baseman David Freese (pictured), in the third year of what was to that point an unremarkable MLB career, cemented himself as a Cardinals hero with his performance in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series against the Texas Rangers.
In the ninth inning, Freese hit a game-tying two-run triple to save the Cards in the first of two last-strike situations for St. Louis. Then, Freese won the wild game in the 11th with a walk-off solo home run. The Missouri native is now a St. Louis legend at both the high school and professional levels.
Another St. Louis Cardinal had the most memorable moment of his career at the plate, despite being known for his stellar play in the field throughout his career. Ozzie Smith had never before hit a home run while batting left-handed but he did just that as he walked off Game 5 of the 1985 NLCS with a solo shot, prompting the late great Jack Buck to implore Cardinals fans to "Go crazy, folks!".
But the "Wizard of Oz" wasn't the only light-hitting middle infielder to author the signature moment of his solid career with a game-winning home run in October. Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Bill Mazeroski beat the New York Yankees in the 1960 World Series with the only Game 7 walk-off home run in World Series history.
When "Maz" was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001, some argued that he earned the honor on the strength of his memorable home run, and not simply for his career statistics.
Now, Bryce Harper is not an ordinary player. But overall, his statistics this season have been just that. A walk-off home run in the playoffs will erase the regular season memories and help him live up to his enormous expectations.
1. NLCS MVP
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Bryce Harper has been streaky this season, to say the least.
The hot-and-cold nature of his play can actually work to his advantage during the postseason. All it would take is for Bryce to catch fire for a five-to-seven game span and he could propel the Washington Nationals to the next round of the playoffs.
Expect Harper to work out his playoff jitters during the NLDS only to explode during the NLCS, where he will win the MVP of the National League Championship Series.
After that, anything is possible.