Sarris: Talking with Bryce Harper on his breakout

From SABR member Eno Sarris at FanGraphs on May 28, 2015:

“Lots of people say I’ve changed, and that I’ve done that or done this, but I’ve done this my whole life,” Bryce Harper said when I approached him about his breakout season so far. To some extent, he’s right. He’s just doing what he’s done, more often. Even the things he’s changed have been a return to his roots, to an extent.

“I’ve walked my whole life,” he pointed out. His walk rate in the minors was 13.3%, and before this year, he had a 10.4% walk rate in the majors. So he’s right, and as a young player — at 22, he’d still be two years younger than the average Double-A player, and he has yet to face a pitcher younger than him in the big leagues — he was destined to get better. Batters swing and reach less at the steepest rate before they turn 24, and Harper has improved in both cases by about five percentage points so far this year. Even if his current walk rate is double his career rate.

“Staying in the lineup, being healthy, being in the lineup every day no matter what”: that’s what Bryce Harper thought led to this start. “Not taking breaks. When I’m hurt, I’ll take a two month break and I’m not quite the same when I come back, it’s like going back to Spring Training. In September and October, I rake again.”

 And though looking at seasonal splits doesn’t tell you a lot about what’s going to happen in the future, it can tell you that his memory of events is right.

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Originally published: May 28, 2015. Last Updated: May 28, 2015.