Tag Archives: Bryce Harper

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I remembered to submit my DC-IBWA 2014 Nats predictions

Every year, the DC Internet Baseball Writers Association sends out questionaires for the Natmosphere about the state of the Washington Nationals. Some years I get to them, some years I don’t. This year, I got to it. Fire away:

1) Who will lead the Nats in home runs in 2014? – Bryce Harper
2) Who will lead the Nats in RBI? – Bryce Harper
3) Who will lead the Nats in stolen bases? – Denard Span
4) Who will lead the staff in wins? – Stephen Strasburg
5) How many games will Ryan Zimmerman play first base? – 11
6) Who starts more games: Ross Detwiler, Taylor Jordan, Tanner Roark, Ross Ohlendorf? – Taylor Roark
7) Who will get more at bats for the Nats this season: Danny Espinosa or Jamey Carroll? – Danny Espinosa
8) Which minor leaguer are you most interested in keeping tabs on this season? – Lucas Giolito
9) Who will reach majors first: Sammy Solis, A.J. Cole, Lucas Giolito or Matt Purke? – Matt Purke
10) How many all-stars will the Nats have? Who? – 3 – Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Wilson Ramos
11) Total wins and what place in the division? 92, 1st

Essay: What should be the single most important development for the Nats this season?

The Nationals single biggest development should be playing smarter. The talent is there, as we saw in 2012, but last season they had a tendency towards defensive lapses that extended innings and wore down pitchers. Another part of playing smarter is not playing with serious injuries. Harper played hurt for the bulk of the season and Espinosa played his way out of the majors. In the outfield at least, an improved bench should make it easier for manager Matt Williams to give Jayson Werth, Span and Harper some days off with Nate McLouth as the fourth outfielder, so nagging injuries may bee mitigated somewhat. In the infield, Espinosa is a big question mark as the utility man coming off of injuries to both arms.

Strasburg also faces a big year at the top of the rotation after an “off” year in 2013. A recent Post article suggests he had an epiphany about his approach. Strasburg has always come off as intelligent, but very sensitive at the same time. If he has overcome his perfectionist tendencies and self-flagellation, he could dominate with more regularity. Simply put, a focused Strasburg, more comfortable with being an ace and all that entails could be devastating to NL hitters.

Lastly, I believe that Williams approach to defense and hiring of a “defensive coordinator” could help address defensive lapses. Not necessarily because shifts in and of themselves can anticipate where batted balls are going, but also keeping the fielders a little more focused. The question will be whether this will help overcome the learning curve that Williams will face as a rookie manager. Thus far, the tone he is setting for the team is refreshing after Davey Johnson’s casual approach in 2013.

I’ll be surprised if the Nats win 98 games like they did in 2012 — I think that was the peak year in the regular season at least, but I don’t see the Braves winning 96 again either. I believe the Braves will challenge to for the NL East title and probably make the play-in game. After that, it’s all about matchups in the playoffs, so, who knows?

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wall-dunk-over-g-man-screengrab

Wizards: John Wall becomes latest DC #1 overall to win an All-Star competition

In keeping with D.C. sports tradition, one-time #1 overall pick John Wall (2010) of the Washington Wizards won an All-Star skills competition (The Post). Wall’s dunk over Wiz mascot G-Man sealed the deal for the East and the Wizards guard.

If there is one thing DC’s #1 overall picks know how to do, it’s perform well in All-Star skills competitions. Five (!) years ago, Alex Ovechkin (#1 overall, 2005) won the Breakaway Competition at the All-Star Game.

Last summer, Bryce Harper (#1 overall, 2010) came in second in the Home Run Derby: Bryce Harper hits 24 in Home Run Derby for 2nd place.


Best viewed on mute

You move, Stephen Strasburg (#1 overall, 2009)

This is fun, but what I’d really like to see is one all of these All-Stars get past the second round of the playoffs.

RELATED

Hope for DC sports from…Secaucus?June 7, 2010

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Bryce Harper's Bitchin' Camaro - used with permission of Forgeline

Bryce Harper’s Bitchin’ Camaro and other NatsFest notes

Bryce Harper’s Bitchin’ Camaro – used with permission of Forgeline
Third year Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper just got a customized 1969 Camaro. I don’t normally post that sort of thing, but I’m making the exception because when a player for a team I like gives me a chance to reference the Dead Milkmen, I do that every time. The same can’t be said for other blogs.

Perhaps I’m a bigger Dead Milkmen fan than most, but isn’t Bitchin’ Camaro shared cultural capital?


Might be a few naughty words in there

Lots of Harper coverage came out of NatsFest, including references to Babe Ruth instead of Mickey Mantle.

Pretty funny, Harper.

Even the Ombudsman, a soulless Phillies fan, has to appreciate this:

Then there were seperate ESPN ads featuring Harper and Strasburg:

Stephen Strasburg, Bryce Harper, and Tyler Clippard
Photo by Scott Abelman used under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic license

NatsFest had 8,400 fans apparently. There was apparently a Wheel of Fortune Game played amongst some players and Let Teddy Win’s Harper photo went viral.

If there was an after-party like last year’s with Charlie Slowes, it’s been kept on the DL. Or maybe it was on the DL and didn’t happen. Don’t know, but that would have been the part most worthy of attention.

Oh and LIVAN! was back and is probably headed to spring training. Are his possible legal troubles over?

Opening Day is 62 days away…

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Nats still a lock to miss even play-in game

That .700 streak was fun, but season died in July

The Washington Nationals, losers of 3 out of 4, are not making the playoffs or even the play-in game (officially the Wild Card, but let’s be realistic here, it’s a play-in game and should occur in Dayton, Ohio, just like college basketball) despite that recent 14-5 run. They stand 7 ½ back of the Cincinnati Reds for the second spot. There just isn’t time. Nor, it seems, is there enough hitting or health.

Bryce Harper’s playing on a bad hip. Davey Johnson doesn’t know what’s going on (Federal Baseball). Adam LaRoche is terrible. Dan Haren is Dan Haren again. Thomas Boswell is moving on.

Last week, implausible scenarios were abound in the Natmosphere and the MSM. The “easy” schedule ahead isn’t that easy with so little hitting.

The season was over a month ago. There is no way to climb out.

Like I said a few weeks ago, enjoy what you can out of this lost season. Jayson Werth is playing better than ever in D.C. (The Post). It isn’t in vain, but it isn’t in pursuit of something bigger and that’s unfortunate.

Ten home games remain — four on weekends, two on Fridays. Go out and take one in. You’ll miss them when they are gone for the winter.

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So, I guess Bryce Harper has “heart” maybe not much else

But you got to have heart. That’s the biggest thing right now. You got to play with heart. – Bryce Harper

Indeed

“We just need to be a family again,” Harper said. “That’s the biggest thing. It all starts with having good camaraderie in the clubhouse. Having an upbeat clubhouse every single day. Having an upbeat manager and staff, every single day, no matter what. We could be 10 games out, but we got two more months. We got two more months of baseball, and if we play like we’re capable of playing, we will win this. We will do it. I know that for a fact, because we have a great team and a great organization. And we have guys on this team that are unbelievable. We just need to keep going, keep grinding, and do the things we need to do.”

Bryce Harper wants Nationals to show ‘heart’ and ‘play like a family’The Post

The season is already dead, but I like his spirit, I guess.

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For posterity, Ryan Zimmerman’s walk off

I was on vacation, off the grid, etc. last week, so I missed Ryan Zimmerman‘s latest walk-off home run, to beat the New York Mets, his first since 2011. I was getting concerned — he was overdue.

Zimmerman earned the nickname Mr. Walkoff on Opening Night 2008 when he christened Nationals Park and I came up the the nickname on the spot. Friday night’s was his 9th game winning home run of his career. The all-time record is 12 with has tied the all-time record for walk-off home runs with Babe Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Mickey Mantle, Stan Musial, Frank Robinson and Jim Thome all sharing the record. Zimmerman is 28 years old. Zimmerman has also beaten every NL East team via walkoff now.

The day before, Bryce Harper hit his first walkoff homer to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates:

I can’t say I was surprised to return to BeltwayLand to see the Nats under .500. While I was out, Rick Eckstein got fired, Drew Storen got demoted and Steve McCatty was hospitalized. It is probably for the best I was out to sea for the week.

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Will we still be happy that the All-Star Break is over during/after Nats game tonight?

A co-worker asked me this morning about the Washington Nationals. He’s a casual fan going to the Sunday game against the Los Angeles Dodgers, whom he expected to be a better opponent. I suggested that the Dodgers were better than their record now that Yasiel Puig was on the team. I also suggested that the Nats were less than the sum of their parts thus far this season. The lineup, incomplete for so long, is finally healthy so perhaps the players can start hitting around their statistical norms. Even Bryce Harper is slumping a little bit, but who knows, maybe finishing 2nd in the Home Run Derby will get him going. The lack of situational hitting is the biggest problem, a relapse to the 2005-2011 Nats that seemed to lead the NL in runners left on base annually. Well, maybe not in 2008 and 2009.

We are also really overdue for a Ryan Zimmerman walk-off.

On the pitching front, Stephen Strasburg is having an “off year” while sporting an ERA of 2.99. Gio Gonzalez has settled into a groove after a mediocre start while Jordan Zimmermann is an All-Star (and rural American!) who hasn’t been quite as good of late, but clearly the leader on the staff. The backend hasn’t been good with Ross Detwiler on the DL twice and having trouble getting through the order a third time. Dan Haren, on the other hand, has had trouble getting through the order once, though has shown signs of improvement.

The Nats are six games back of the Atlanta Braves and catching them over the next 67 games is certainly possible, some even say probable. But it probably won’t happen all at once if it does — read Nats Pennant Push for more as you watch games while breathing into a paper bab. and September scheduling favors the Braves.

They can win the NL East, but it will likely be a slog. I thought that some of the preseason predictions of greater than 98 wins was wishful thinking, but 48-47 at the break was not something I anticipated. On Opening Day, I predicted 94 wins and I think that’s optimistic at this point.

Of course, if the Nats just wear their red caps and the Braves don’t wear their alternate jerseys, it’ll all work out!

MSM PREVIEWS

Washington Nationals have their work cut out for themThe Post

Washington Nationals storylines to watch in second halfThe Wash. Times

2nd half storylinesCSN Washington

FIRST HALF HIGHLIGHTS

They found a few!

It starts up again at 7:05 tonight — 11 game homestand. Time to get going.

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Bryce Harper hits 24 in Home Run Derby for 2nd place


Best viewed on mute

Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper finished in 2nd place in the Home Run Derby (which still has a broken countdown). Harper was pitched to by his dad which was a dream come true (The Wash. Times). His spiked hair and his brother Bryan’s mustache (Nats Enquirer) was a topic of conversation.

The best part of the Derby — Harper outhit DC sports media darling, Chris Davis. If I cared about Baltimore players, I’d follow Baltimore media.

Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland Athletics won the Derby.

I am not going to miss seeing Harper in orange and blue.

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Bryce Harper in 2013 Home Run Derby; Harmon Killebrew vs. Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays in the 1960 TV version

Bryce Harper in the cage
Tonight is annual Home Run Derby as part of the All-Star Game festivities at Citi Field New Shea Stadium in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.,. Bryce Harper will be the first Washington Nationals representative in the Derby and his father, Ron, is pitching to him (The Wash. Times).

Err, let’s hope not. I’ll have more to contribute to the Nats’ 1st half later in the week.

Before becoming part of the All-Star experience, “Home Run Derby” was a 1960 television show hosted by Mark Scott. Sluggers from both leagues played against each other, though not necessarily interleague. The venue was Los Angeles Wrigley Field, long-time Pacific Coast League home of the Los Angeles Angels and for 1961, the expansion A.L. Angels’ home. From the Wikipedia entry:

The rules were similar to modern home run derbies, with two notable exceptions. If a batter did not swing at a pitch that was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out. Also, the contests were conducted in a more similar fashion to a baseball game than the modern home run derbies, where a player has a set number of outs before his turn is over.

Batters were given three outs per inning, and the player with the most home runs after nine innings won. The defending champion had the advantage of batting last; his opponent batted first. Any ball not hit for a home run was an out. The player did not have to swing at every pitch, but if he did not swing at it, and the pitch was in the strike zone, that also constituted an out, as did a swing and a miss, but these rarely happened as the pitcher was supposed to be giving the batters good balls to hit. If the players were tied after nine innings, the Derby would go into extra innings as per regular baseball.

Harmon Killebrew was featured on the show twice. The first was against Mickey Mantle, a returning champion.

Killebrew unseated Mantle and won the next week, beating out Rocky Colavito. Ken Boyer ended Killebrew’s first run.

Later in the series, Killer returned and lost to Willie Mays of the San Francisco Giants.

Jim Lemon, another Senators outfielder, appeared on the show twice but lost to Hank Aaron and Mays, respectively.

Back to the present, I got to see Harper take batting practice last year. He tends to hit line drives about 200 MPH more than he hits towering fly balls. I hope he approaches it that way. If he wins great, but I’m not too concerned. Just don’t mess up the swing and don’t get hurt, pretty much my hopes for any Nats All-Star.

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Let’s interupt this Harper coverage (that’s missing the point) to remind you Strasburg is pitching in his hometown tonight

Lost in all the coverage of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper running into a wall (still a bad route from an inexperience outfielder everybody!) and getting his beard knocked off to remind you that Stephen Strasburg makes his hometown San Diego MLB debut. The Union-Tribune has a story about how he evolved from a lazy, fat kid into a disciplined gym rat: He wasn’t always THIS Stephen Strasburg.

2013 is supposed to be the first full season of Strasburg in the majors after his rookie year, Tommy John surgery and last year’s much discussed shutdown. It hasn’t gone well for him at all – he’s 1-5, despite a respectable 3.10 and averaging over a strike out an inning. He’s had trouble getting out of the first inning cleanly and has collapsed under the weight of defensive errors behind him, last Saturday evening’s 5th inning as the prime example. Eight of his 25 runs allowed have been unearned. Strasburg has looked dominate at times (like the first four innings on Saturday) but the root problem is that he’s regressed emotionally. It seemed last year whenever some misfortune would come the Nats way, he’d get extremely focused and strike hitters out in bunches. He hasn’t been able to flip the switch this year.

Tonight’s game against the Padres presents an interesting challenge for Strasburg. It will be his first start in his hometown since entering the majors. Given his tendency to have rough first innings, how he handles all of this will be quite interesting and I’m surprised there is not much attention out of DC media. Maybe it is just because they are on West Coast time, but perhaps it works out for the best for Strarsburg. While Harper enjoys being the center of attention, Strasburg resents it, perhaps so much that the shutdown and being a #1 pick has hurt his game.

I don’t know if it will be tonight or later in the season, but I think Strasburg figures it out and returns to dominance. It is better for him and the Nats that he get this out of his way in the first half of the season and gets ready for the stretch run. Even with all the misfortune the Nats are dealing with — injuries, some bad series and bad luck, the Nats are still a mere game out of first place. The schedule eases up soon too, so without the emotion tied to all of this, the Nats are doing fine. It may not always feel like it though.

By the way, the Nats lost last night, the second in a row, costing them the series with Los Angeles Dodgers: Zack Greinke latest Dodgers pitcher to quiet Nationals bats in 3-1 loss at Los Angeles (The Post). Wilson Ramos is hurt again too. Remember when the Nats had a surplus of catchers? Ross Dewiler may miss a start or two as well. Remember when the Nats had a surplus of pitchers?

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