Can Ryne Harper Continue His Early-Season Success?
Image courtesy of © Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY SportsOne of Harper’s first pieces of success has been his ability to limit hard contact. Out of the 22 batted balls against him this season, none have been barreled up. This has helped his 89.8 exit velocity to be right around the league average. By not giving up hard contact, there have been few hits recorded against him.
Harper has been successful by relying on two pitches. His curveball has averaged 72.5 mph, but batters still can’t seem to figure it out. So far this season, men stepping in the box have only been able to muster up a .286 slugging percentage when seeing his curveball. However, his curveball hasn’t been his only weapon.
Because of the threat of his curveball, his fastball has been even better. He’s thrown almost the same number of both pitches, but he has yet to allow an extra-base hit off of his fastball. Opponents have only two hits off his heater and heater is a loose term for an 87.8 mph pitch.
Batters are averaging a 19.6 degree launch angle against Harper, which is higher than the league average of 11.0. That being said, players still aren’t able to make solid contact against his two-pitch delivery. His weighted OBP ranks in the top 5% in the entire league.
He’s also been avoiding walks, but this trend follows from his minor league career. As a professional, he has averaged 2.7 BB/9 and he has two walks in 8 1/3 innings so far this season. Harper hasn’t shown a high strikeout rate at the big-league level, but he averaged over 11 SO/9 in the minors. He needs to limit base runners and he has been able to do that throughout his career.
If you want to have some fun, go and check out Harper’s Baseball Savant page from MLB.com. You can see video of every one of his pitches from this season. He’s thrown one cutter this season and it came against another Haper from Philadelphia. Yes, the man that signed for more than $300 million this off-season. Spoiler alert… Minnesota’s Harper is able to retire Philadelphia’s Harper.
There are some signs of trouble in Harper’s numbers. Players might not be barreling up the ball, but he is giving up hard hit balls over 40% of the time. That’s almost 7% higher than the league average. Some of these hard-hit balls are because of his low velocity. There’s still room for him to get closer to his minor league strikeout numbers.
Minnesota’s bullpen still has flaws but Harper seems to have found his niche. The league might be able to make some adjustments but his change in speeds separates him from the pack at this point. Batters have to guess if the fastball or the curveball is coming.
So far, they haven’t been very lucky.
Do you think Harper will be able to continue his success? Leave a COMMENT and start the discussion.
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