By all accounts, Bryce Harper should be raking against the St. Louis Cardinals. The stage seemed set for a dynamic postseason debut by the 19-year-old, as he entered the series with a career 1.234 OPS against the Cardinals over seven games this year. Similarly, the he saw the ball well at Busch Stadium this year with six hits in 11 at-bats.
However, Harper had an ominous start to the postseason, going 1-for-10 with six strikeouts over two games. But as I noted yesterday, his performance isn’t as poor as it may seem. Through those 10 at-bats, the left-handed hitter is averaging five pitches per at-bat, though his swing as been inconsistent.
But now, as the best-of-five Division Series heads home to Washington, Harper is poised to finally break out at the plate.
Scheduled to face right-hander Chris Carpenter on Wednesday afternoon (1 p.m. ET start time), Harper has thrived against pitchers of a similar ilk. According to BaseballReference.com, he’s posted an .838 OPS with 21 extra-base hits against pitchers who combine a power and finesse approach.
However, still recovering from surgery for thoracic outlet syndrome, Carpenter doesn’t possess the same velocity or effectiveness that he did in 2011.
Although it’s a small sample, the right-hander’s velocity is lower across the board this season (understandably), with every offering down 1-to-3 mph against left-handed hitting relative to the previous year, according to Baseball Prospectus and Brooks Baseball. Harper will also have the advantage of hitting in his home ballpark, where his OPS was exactly .30 higher during the regular season.
Combine all of those factors and there’s reason to believe that Harper’s postseason is just beginning, as he hopes to jump-start the Nats’ offense in Game 3 on Wednesday afternoon.
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