MLB

Bryce Harper’s 2018 is off to a great start

Bryce Harper is off to an excellent start so far in 2018 and is showing no signs of slowing down.

There are a lot of stats you could point to that show that Bryce Harper is off to a hot start offensively this year.

You could point to the fact that he has four home runs in the first six games. You might point to the fact that he is walking at over a 30 percent clip, a feat Barry Bonds achieved only twice in his illustrious career. You could point to the .333 batting average or the .517 OBP or the neat .1000 SLG percent. If you were statistically inclined you could point to the 247 wRC+, which means he has been 147 percent better than league average so far this year. Yet, perhaps the most impressive stat is his strikeout rate, which sits under seven percent.

Going into Wednesday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Harper had yet to strike out in 24 plate appearances. While he did strike out twice in five trips to the plate on Wednesday, he did walk twice as well, and the fact that Harper had 24 plate appearances and had yet to strikeout is notable. After all, just a few weeks ago Mike Trout’s streak of 44 consecutive plate appearances without a strikeout in spring training was a hot topic of conversation.

“Bryce is a great hitter. He’s getting even better. It seems like the plate discipline becoming even more.”    – Howie Kendrick

While this is an extremely small sample size, strikeout and walk rates tend to normalize faster than many other stats. According to FanGraphs, while home run rate takes 170 plate appearances to stabilize, strikeout rate stabilizes in just 60 plate appearances. So while 29 plate appearances is a small sample size, it’s possible that his low strikeout rate will continue to be low as the season progresses, if not quite at this level.

Also encouraging is his high walk rate, which while unlikely to stay over 30 percent could be a sign that we could see a career high walk rate for Harper this year. Whether this is just an effect of his hot start offensively (pitchers tend to pitch around hot batters) or an indication of a keener eye at the plate remains to be seen.

All of these stats point to the fact that Harper may be due for a big 2018 season. After struggling with injuries the last two seasons, Harper could be in for a great season this year. This being his free agent walk year and the with a narrowing window of contention for the Nationals, early signs are showing that Harper might be on track for an MVP caliber season.

Don’t read too much into it, but don’t be surprised if he keeps this up either.

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Michael Daalder
Michael Daalder is a student at Northwestern University and writes about the Washington Nationals for Fox Sports Radio 1340 and TalkNats.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Daalder