Throughout the playoffs, we’ll take a look at some of the smaller matchups that make baseball so much fun. Here is what we’re looking at today.
It’s no secret that when a team plays the Phillies, one of the players they feel that cannot beat them is Bryce Harper. He’s a generational player and has shown why during the last two playoff runs for the team. In his first two at bats last night, he showed why. His first plate appearance ended well,
as did his second.
The biggest thing you notice about the first at bat is the location because, well, my goodness is it bad. You cannot miss in the middle of the plate with anything that is under 98 miles per hour, especially to a hitter like Harper. The second pitch isn’t in a bad location, but again, if you’re going to throw a cutter inside to Harper, you better bury it further in on his hands.
In his third at bat, Gallen wanted no part of giving him anything hard, offering up two changeups, two sliders and a cutter to walk him. Facing Kyle Nelson in the sixth, Harper saw some fastballs, but only one of them was a competitive fastball and he juuuuuuuuuuust missed it.
We could sit here and argue which player is the hottest on the team hitting-wise, but Harper is at least in the discussion. Facing right-handed pitching, he’s going to be someone the Diamondbacks will gameplan around. Now that he has taken Arizona’s best pitcher deep int the night, it is likely that Harper will start to see fewer and fewer fastballs as this series moves forward, continuing what has been a trend over the past few seasons with pitchers around the league.
Harper’s numbers this year against breaking pitches haven’t been that bad (.249 AVG/.463 SLG), but he has also showed more of a penchant for chasing breaking pitches than he has in the past.
Some of this chase rate could be attributed to his swinging from his heels early in the count to try and hit a ball back towards Camden, but that feels more subjective in thinking. But it does feel like the Diamondbacks could be far more successful if each pitcher that faces Harper leans on their secondary stuff a little more than on the fastball. It’ll be fine if they do use the heater; just don’t put it over the plate unless you have a family member in the stands that desires a souvenir.