With the Washington Nationals muddling along with a record of 15-14, it’s safe to assume the team’s record could be even worse without the early-season surge from Bryce Harper.
The sample size is obviously small, but aside from riding an unlikely to be sustained 61-homer pace and not running very often (just three stolen base attempts so far), what stands out in looking at Harper’s batting line are his improved strikeout and walk rates.
Harper is also the current National League leader in OPS (1.150), which may be a direct correlation to his improved strikeout and walk rates.
Adding to his impressive April numbers, Harper comes in at second in slugging percentage (.720), second in home runs (nine) and fourth in batting average (.344) in the NL. He also ranks amongst the top three in the entire league in WAR (1.8).
No other Nationals player in history has registered as many home runs or RBI (18) as Harper during the month of April. This impressive start to the season makes Harper a unanimous decision as the team’s April MVP.
Throughout his early-season success, Harper remains humble, knowing there is always room for improvement somewhere in his overall game.
"It's not how you start. It's how you finish. I really believe that," Harper said. "I try to stay as even keel as I can, not get too high, not get too low—and improve on everything that I can, whether that's hitting or baserunning or playing defense. The only thing I can do to help my team win is get better, succeed on the field and try to make things good for our team."
Harper posted phenomenal April numbers that trounce the majority of the league (aside from Justin Upton), and despite the Nationals' slow start, the stat line that he produced is obviously needed to keep the team afloat.
The future already looks like now for Harper, and if he keeps up this pace, he will undoubtedly be in the middle of all MVP discussions not only at the end of April, but the entire season.
April Stat Line: .344 BA, 9 HR, 18 RBI, 19 Runs Scored, .720 SLG, 1.150 OPS, 1.8 WAR
Jordan Zimmermann also ended the month of April red hot. He capped off an impressive month with a complete-game one-hit shutout of the Cincinnati Reds. Zimmermann finished the month with five wins and also (like Harper) helped keep the Nationals afloat after a slow start. While Zimmermann is often overshadowed by teammates Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez, he has the ability to emerge as one of the National League's best starting pitchers.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.com