Bryce Harper’s offensive struggles continued on Monday evening, as the Washington Nationals dropped Game 2 of the best-of-five series against the St. Louis Cardinals, 12-4. The 19-year-old finished the game 1-for-5, with four strikeouts (yes, the dreaded golden sombrero) and a double. The hit marked the youngster’s first of the postseason. Overall, Harper is 1-for-10 with six strikeouts through two NLDS contests.
For the most part, he’s appeared to see the ball well in both games, tracking it deep into the zone—an especially difficult task given the problematic shadows.
In Game 1, Harper exhibited a patient approach despite having nothing to show for it in five at-bats. Overall, the left-handed hitter saw 21 pitches, or 4.2 per at-bat.
Similarly, Harper saw 29 pitches over five at-bats in Game 2, which translates to an impressive 5.8 per at-bat. Therefore, there’s clearly nothing wrong with his approach, as he’s seen an average of five pitches per at-bat this postseason.
Clearly, just seeing a ton of pitches hasn’t made Harper any more successful, though, as his struggles actually stem from his swing. On a majority of his hacks, he appears as though he’s reaching and feeling for contact rather than swinging to drive the ball. It’s almost like he’s testing his own strike-zone parameters, getting an idea of what he can work with rather than trusting his instincts.
And while he’s seeing the ball well and tracking it deep—which didn’t look like fun with the series of shadows—Harper has struggled to keep his weight back. The result has been a slew of semi-awkward swings, where, from the center-field camera, it looks as though all his weight is on his front foot well before his hands have cleared the zone—hence the inordinate number of flare foul balls to the left side.
Although I consider the 1-for-10 to still be rather impressive given the overall quality of his at-bats, he’s not firing on all cylinders as a hitter right now. With the series tied, 1-1, and now shifting to Washington D.C., hopefully Harper will thrive off the comfort of his home ballpark. Once he begins to swing as he has all season—with authority—Harper will presumably regain the form that has made him a sensation this year, as well as a main cog in the Nationals' potent lineup.