Breaking Down How Bryce Harper Matches Up Against Possible Opponents' Staffs
Bryce Harper has had a very interesting rookie season, and it could get even more interesting once we see the type of postseason performer that he is.
Much of his performance will have to do with the pitchers that he ends up facing, as only each team's best will be taking the mound each night.
In all likelihood, the possible teams that the Washington Nationals could face at any point in the National League Division Series or Championship Series are the Cincinnati Reds, San Francisco Giants, Atlanta Braves or St. Louis Cardinals.
Each of those teams have very strong staffs, thus making it a very interesting matchup between themselves and the big-swinging Harper.
The Cincinnati Reds will likely throw out Mat Latos, Johnny Cueto and Bronson Arroyo in a five-game series, but would likely add Homer Bailey to the rotation in a seven-game series.
Harper has minimal experience against Latos, as he's hitless in just three at-bats against him. Latos has been exceptional since the All-Star break (2.89 ERA), and he'll likely be a great matchup against the young left-hander.
Lefties are hitting .252 against him, though, so Harper may have a slight advantage there.
Harper has never faced Cueto before, so it'll be interesting to see which player makes adjustments first. If Harper gets on base in his first plate appearance, Cueto will have to learn from the at-bat and change it up. If he's incapable of doing so, Harper could capitalize.
Arroyo had problems with Harper when they faced each other earlier this season. Harper singled twice in three at-bats, and there's plenty of reason to expect more of the same if they face off in the playoffs. Harper is scorching hot as of late, and he'll have the upper hand in this matchup going into a potential series with the Reds.
Bailey, like Cueto, has never faced Harper. Bailey is having a fine season for the Reds, pitching over 200 innings with a sub-4.00 ERA. That being said, he doesn't have much experience pitching in big games in the postseason—he's thrown just 2.0 innings in his career in the playoffs.
Harper versus Bailey is a matchup that I'm particularly excited to see, as these two young stars could both be the faces of their respective franchises for the next several seasons.
San Francisco Giants
The Giants probably have the best four pitchers that Harper would have to go up against, as they will likely roll out Madison Bumgarner, Tim Lincecum, Matt Cain and Ryan Vogelsong this October.
2-6, 1 K
Harper has hit Bumgarner pretty well in two games against him, tallying two singles compared to just one strike out.
That's still a small sample-size, though. Being that Bumgarner is a lefty, he should give Harper problems in the postseason.
1-6, 1 2B
Harper has had less success against Lincecum, though his lone hit did go for extra bases. Lincecum has not been himself this season, so Harper may be able to take advantage of that during the playoffs.
This will be one of the more interesting matchups to watch. Lincecum's power-pitching tendencies and Harper's swing-for-the-fences mentality will make for some great baseball.
Cain has been one of the most under-recognized pitchers in the National League this season. He sports a 16-5 record to go along with a 2.77 ERA in 214.1 innings.
Cain versus Harper will be a good matchup, but one that I fully expect Cain to come out on top in.
1-2, 1 K
Vogelsong has been solid again this season, and Harper has one hit in just two at-bats against him. That's not enough of a sample-size to make any fair predictions, but I think this will be a pretty balanced matchup.
Vogelsong throws a lot of strikes, and Harper loves swinging early on in the count. It'll be interesting to see who wins this battle.
The Nationals won't have an opportunity to face the Braves until the National League Championship Series, so here's who the Braves would likely throw out there in the seven-game series—Kris Medlen, Tim Hudson, Mike Minor and Paul Maholm (Tommy Hanson has all but pitched himself out of a playoff start at this point).
2-6, 1 HR, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
Medlen has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball since the All-Star break, and the Braves have won a major league record 23 straight games that he has started.
Needless to say, Medlen wins this battle.
3-9, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Harper has hit Hudson pretty well in nine at-bats, but it's still hard to judge as to who as the upper hand in this matchup.
Hudson pitches to contact at this point in his career, and Harper absolutely loves hitting pitches near the plate. I could be wrong, but I give this one to Harper.
2-8, 1 2B, 1 BB
Most of August and September have been very kind to Minor, as he has delivered solid performance after solid performance for Atlanta. Being that he is a lefty, he should give Harper some trouble in a potential matchup.
0-3, 3 K
Maholm absolutely owned Harper in their previous matchup, striking him out three times in three at-bats. I'm not sure that the same dominance will occur in the playoffs, but look for Maholm to keep Harper off-balance and uneasy at the plate.
St. Louis Cardinals
The St. Louis Cardinals currently have six starters and only four spots in the playoff rotation, so there's a good chance that Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn will be demoted to the bullpen. Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Kyle Lohse and Jaime Garcia would then comprise the rotation.
Harper and Carpenter have never faced off, as Carpenter was on the shelf for most of this season with an injury.
When they do finally go against each other, expect Carpenter to have the advantage. His veteran know-how will trump Harper's free-swinging tendencies and lead to a couple of strikeouts for the rookie.
3-5, 1 2B, 1 BB
Harper has owned Wainwright in six plate appearances against him. Some of those hits came at a time when Wainwright was not really himself, however. Earlier this season, he was struggling to get back to his pre-Tommy John surgery form.
Now that he's nearly back to his normal self, look for the tides to turn a bit.
3-6, 1 2B, 1 K
Lohse has been great for the Cardinals this season, so it's probably safe to discount the few times he has surrendered base hits to Harper.
A veteran pitcher like himself should know how to handle Harper in the playoffs. If he makes a mistake, though, look out.
1-3, 1 HR, 2 RBI
In terms of run production, Harper has fared the best against Garcia out of all the other pitchers listed in this slideshow.
That's only after one game, though. Being a lefty, Garcia could feasibly give Harper some trouble in the playoffs. This will be an interesting matchup to watch.
Combined against the pitchers touched upon in this slideshow, Harper is 20-63 with two home runs, four RBI, four doubles, four walks and seven strikeouts.
If that's any indication of how Harper will fare this postseason, then it's safe to say that he'll be on base quite often. He won't, however, be driving in as many runs as the Nationals would like him to.
These are just previous encounters with these pitchers, though. Anything can happen in the postseason.
When you factor in how hot Harper has been of late, it'll be very interesting to see how all of these matchups unfold within the upcoming weeks.