Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Scouting Report: Bryce Harper

To catch up on the Scouting Report series, click here for the introduction and check out the first scouting report on Denard Span by clicking here. Today, we break down the scouting report on Bryce Harper.

While some may still view Harper as a bust, pitchers certainly don’t treat him like a bust. In 2014, he saw a below average number of fastballs and a high rate of off speed pitches, especially when he was finally healthy in the second half of the season. He got only 30% four seam fastballs from both righties and lefties, and that was pretty consistent no matter the count. From lefties, he got a lot of sliders, 26% overall and a surprising 32% first pitch. from right handed pitchers, he got equal amounts curves and change-ups at rates around 15% each. This indicates pitchers do fear Harper’s power (Hunter Strickland can console himself with a World Series ring, although I’m sure one of these moon shots will still haunt him for a while) as they stay away from the straight, hard stuff and stick to off-speed pitches against Harper.

When Harper does see fastballs, it’s no surprise to see that pitchers do their best to keep the ball outside to him. Here are the fastballs Harper faced in the second half of 2014 from lefties and righties respectively:


Lefties are a little more comfortable coming inside to Harper than righties, but they really do keep the ball low and away. The same is true of right handed pitchers as they stay away and are more willing to miss out of the zone away then righties. Harper has had his troubles against lefties, so it’s not surprising to see that they are more confident in challenging Harper with heat inside than their right handed throwing peers.

The biggest adjustment Harper had to make, and in all honestly needs to still work on, is dealing with quality off speed offerings from left handed pitchers. Below is the second half of 2014 and all breaking balls Harper faced from lefties:

As you can see, they cluster low and away, as you would expect. Until Harper proves he can lay off breaking balls away and out of the zone or stay on the breaking ball from lefties and hit it to the opposite field consistently, I wouldn’t expect this strategy against Harper to change much.

Interestingly, right handed pitchers’ off speed pitches also show a clear focus, but not where I would expect:

Right handed pitchers show a clear tendency to throw their breaking pitches down and even inside, breaking right into Harper’s swing. This is something that right handed pitchers usually avoid as the stereotype of power hitting left handed hitters is the ability to crush balls down and in. Clearly, teams see a weakness in Harper’s approach or his swing to right handed off speed pitches down and in.

As we saw with Span, Harper sees few changeups from left handed pitchers and the changeups he faces from right handed pitchers are all low and away as you see below:

In this regard, Harper is no different than any left handed hitting player in MLB.

So to sum up the scouting report on Harper in a few sentences: more off speed pitches than average and fewer fastballs. Fastballs low and away, although lefties have the ability to mix it up a little more and challenge Harper inside. Lefties will keep their breaking pitches low and away to induce a swing and miss or weak contact. Righties, interestingly, will look to throw their breaking pitches low and/or low and inside and will work their change-ups away.

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