April does not a season make, for baseball teams or for players. However, Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper is making a serious case as the best hitter in all of Major League Baseball in just the first few weeks of the season.
Tuesday night was just the latest example of the already-dangerous hitter getting to that elusive next level, the level that makes other hitters envious and opposing pitchers wish they were never born.
This time it happened to Marlins reliever Chris Narveson, who was on the mound with the Nationals up 2-0 and the bases loaded for Harper. Three pitches later and the bases were cleared as Harper jacked a home run that landed a modest 413 feet away.
— MLB (@MLB) April 20, 2016
That blast was just the latest example of how dialed in Harper is. It was the second grand slam of the season (and career) in his only two opportunities to make it happen. It also gave him a ridiculous 20 RBIs in just 13 games so far this season. He also happens to have five home runs in his last six games and seven on this season.
Harper’s 2015 season was a thing of beauty to watch from the outside, blasting 42 home runs and hitting .340 en route to the NL MVP award. The man may simply be hitting on a whole different level already in 2016.
Bryce has even upped his ability to make contact, as if that were feasible after last season. According to ESPN.com’s David Schoenfield’s research, Harper has upped his contact rate when swinging, from 73.1 percent in 2015 to 81.1 percent in 2016.
It has all added up to a ridiculous slash line of .333/.429/.867, all while drawing more walks (9) and home runs (7) than strikeouts (6) on the season.
His hot start isn’t just some fluke of pitchers not being able to figure out how to pitch to the guy either — as this slugging map shows us:
I guess you can try and get him down and in or up in, but this is pretty good plate coverage: pic.twitter.com/jDsaO3NYX5
— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) April 20, 2016
Many didn’t think that Mike Trout and his awe-inspiring bombs coupled with extreme patience and efficiency at the plate could be topped. It may be very hard now to argue that Harper’s current pace won’t, assuming he keeps it up.