Bryce Harper: A swing of beauty

From Adam Kilgore at The Washington Post on May 11, 2013, with mention of SABR member Alan Nathan:

The realization came to Rick Schu this spring as he sat in front of a screen, collecting baseball swings. All winter, Schu, the Washington Nationals’ hitting coordinator, had been watching “Baseball” by Ken Burns, a Christmas gift from his wife. He burned clips from the DVD and compiled classic swings — Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth. As he watched Ruth, Schu paused the video and asked himself a question: Didn’t Bryce Harper have a swing just like that?

Schu scanned through video and found film of Harper hitting. He arranged clips of Harper and Ruth side-by-side on the monitor and stopped at the moment each hitter’s bat connected with a pitch. In each still picture, he saw a stiff front leg, an uncoiling torso and a back foot lifting off the ground. “Wow,” he thought. “That’s identical.”

“They’ve got that exact same swing at contact point,” Schu said later.

Harper, at 20 years old, has grasped every skill necessary on a Major League Baseball diamond. He tracked down flyballs in center field as a 19-year-old rookie at an elite rate. His throws from left rocket to the infield as if propelled by jet fuel. He runs the bases with such aggression his helmet routinely flies off. At the center of Harper’s soaring talent, though, is an exquisitely ferocious swing that has made him one of the best hitters in the world before his 21st birthday. He can hit for power and average: Through Thursday his ten homers rank third (tie), and his .302 batting average ranks 35th. He hits all pitch types with proficiency — he performs above the league average against fastballs, cutters, curveballs, sliders, change-ups and splitters. If it can be thrown, his swing can hit it.

Read the full article and view the video here:

Originally published: May 12, 2013. Last Updated: May 12, 2013.