Bryce Harper Hitting 3rd Is Best Option for Struggling Nationals Offense

Chris StephensCorrespondent IIJuly 1, 2013

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 01:  Bryce Harper #34 of the Washington Nationals celebrates after hitting a solo home run in the first inning during a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Nationals Park on July 1, 2013 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Bryce Harper is back in the Washington Nationals lineup and is hitting in the best spot for him—the No. 3 hole.

Harper has batted third in 38 of his 43 games with a .290 average, 11 home runs and 22 RBI.

The rest of the Nationals hitting in the No. 3 hole are a combined 46-for-161, with seven home runs and 23 RBI.

That's not a horrific stat line, but the Nats need more out of the No. 3 hole.

So, why is Harper the best fit at No. 3 for a struggling Nats offense?


Righty, Lefty, Righty, Lefty, Righty

When you slot in Harper into the No. 3 spot, the lineup is much more balanced.

From No. 1 to No. 6, it alternates between lefties and righties.

You start with Denard Span (lefty), then go to Jayson Werth (righty), Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond to round out the top six.

Pitchers can't get as comfortable against a balanced lineup, especially in late-game situations when lefty or righty specialists are null and void.

Not to mention when half of those six are on their games, there can be dangerous consequences.



Although he doesn't have a long history at hitting third (just this season), Harper is already showing he can put up better numbers there.

From the No. 2 hole, where he batted during the majority of last year, Harper has batted .270 with a .340 on-base percentage. Batting third, he's batting .285 with a .392 on-base percentage. He's also drawing more walks, which allows teammates behind him to do more damage.

In turn, Zimmerman is having a little more success batting behind Harper, batting 267 with two home runs and 19 RBI.

His average is 10 points less compared to batting third and he has five less home runs, but he's getting more opportunities to do damage.

We can't be certain on the affect Harper has on teammates in other parts of the lineup. But it's clear he is the key if the Nationals are going to catch the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.


Example in First Game Back

In the first game back Monday, the Nationals had a lot of success with the first six.

The Nationals were 8-for-25 with 10 RBI in a 10-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Werth had five RBI from the No. 2 hole, while Harper hit a home run in his first at-bat.

So far, things are looking good for the Nationals.

As long as Harper stays healthy and in the No. 3 hole, the Nationals will be there come September.