Will Bryce Harper Lead the Nationals to the Playoffs?
Thursday May 3, 2012
Ryan Ritchey: The next big phenom Bryce Harper has made his way to big leagues. In the first four games he has played he has shown why he was a number one overall pick in the 2010 draft. If you have been watching recent Nationals games, you would have seen his amazing catch against the wall and his phenomenal throw to the plate. Harper may struggle a bit at the plate for a couple of weeks just getting used to the pitching, but the fielding has been there from day one for Harper. He isn’t the type of player you expect from a rookie. He has confidence through the roof and isn’t afraid to show it. A mo-hawk and eye-black smeared down his face he is the one player in the big leagues that looks like he is playing college ball.
In his first game in the big leagues he was booed by the Dodger faithful. This didn’t change the way he felt about the game and the way he played. Hitting a double off the wall to get his first hit is a memory he will never forget. Does he keep this pace and become the phenom that everyone expects him to be? I believe that the offensive side will hurt him throughout the season putting him in major slumps. On the other side of the coin is his defense, which I believe will help this Nationals team tremendously.
The best at-bat I have seen so far from Harper was his at bat in the ninth inning against the Dodgers with him being the tying run. Down 1-2 he fought his way back to draw a walk, giving Flores a chance. It didn’t turn out well for the Nationals on that day, but that at-bat in my opinion will boost Harper into having better at bats in the majors.
The fourth game of his career has been his best no doubt. With a diving catch in the outfield and a double in the ninth inning shows he can be a clutch player. With that double, Harper gave Ian Desmond a shot to come to the plate. Desmond didn’t disappoint and hit a walk off homer to win. Harper might not have a home run yet, but neither does Pujols. All he has to do is keep having good at-bats and he will do fine.
With Harper making it to the big leagues and joining Stephen Strasburg, the Nationals fans should be at Nationals Park every game they are both on the field. The most disappointing thing I saw was that Harper made his home debut and there were only 22,000 fans in the seats. Every fan in Washington D.C has been waiting for this day to happen and only 22,000 showed up. This is not a good start for the new era of Nationals baseball.
Will the Nationals keep us this pace and become the playoff team they can be? If the pitching stays the way it is right now, they very well could win the National League East. With Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez the Nationals could have the best one, two punch in the National League. Yes the Phillies have great pitching but they are not winning games. The best pickup this offseason for the Nationals was Edwin Jackson. He isn’t an ace, but he the best number three in the National League no doubt. In his last start he went 6 and 2/3 with 0 earned runs and 6 strikeouts. Pitchers are also going to run into slumps but they only toe the rubber once every five days. Then add Ryan Zimmerman to the mix and you really have a top-end pitching rotation.
If everything goes right for the Nationals and the pitching stays hot and Harper becomes the player they believe he can be, the Nationals will be a playoff team. Now let’s think about injuries and other things that could happen. The one big thing that IS going to happen is that the Nationals are going to shut down Strasburg at 150 innings. We will see if this stays true or not depending on if they are fighting for a playoff spot, but the team has to think of the long term health of their ace vs. short term team goals.
If they do shut down Strasburg at 150 innings, the Nationals will not likely make the playoffs. But the team will have given Harper an almost full season to face major league pitching. As a result, Harper will come back next season on a mission. This mission will end with a playoff spot and a possible World Series berth in the future, with many more of the Washington fans showing up at Nationals Park.
Ryan Ritchey is a Baseball Writer for MLB reports. I am a high school senior, play second base and plan on studying sports journalism in college. I am a huge fan of Barry Larkin and Brandon Phillips. Have been a baseball fan my whole life and have been writing about baseball since freshman year. You can reach me on Twitter (@Ryan13Ritchey)
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Posted on May 3, 2012, in MLB Player Profiles, MLB Teams: Articles and Analysis and tagged baseball, bryce harper, edwin jackson, gio gonzalez, ian desmond, Mike Trout, mlb, stephen strasburg, washington nationals. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.