The struggling Philadelphia Phillies are trying some new methods to get going, but that doesn’t mean Bryce Harper will be taking part in all of them.
Manager Gabe Kapler said he planned to bring in a pitching machine that throws curveballs, with the team having scored just 15 runs over the course of their seven-game losing streak. Harper, though, didn’t seem particularly enthusiastic about it.
Phillies manager Gabe Kapler says he will bring out a curve ball pitching machine for his hitters to practice hitting curve balls before the Mets series today but it does NOT sound like Bryce Harper is a fan and does NOT plan to use it@6abc#Phillies#BryceHarper pic.twitter.com/bjBGasbAfA
— Jeff Skversky 6abc (@JeffSkversky) June 24, 2019
It actually makes some sense that Harper wouldn’t bother with this. Strangely, it’s been a different pitch that has given Harper major issues this season. Perhaps this will help Philadelphia, but their issues run deep right now.
The Washington Nationals are not afraid to be petty when it comes to Bryce Harper.
The Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies 7-4 on Thursday, finishing off a three-game sweep of their division rivals. On Friday, the Nationals posted a “condensed” version of the highlights from the game, which was simply a cut of Nationals pitchers striking Harper out three times.
— Washington Nationals (@Nationals) June 21, 2019
The Nationals’ Twitter account has been trolling Harper every chance they’ve gotten since he left for the Phillies. It’s quite clear that the bad feelings over his departure are still lingering, though at this point, some in Washington probably feel that they’ve dodged a bullet. Harper is hitting just .243, and he’s posted an NL-leading 94 strikeouts thus far.
We’re over two months into the MLB season, and things are really starting to take shape across the league. While we’ve been delighted by the performances of numerous star players, there are also some big names that have, for whatever reason, simply failed to launch in 2019 and have actually turned out to be detrimental to their teams.
Which key players aren’t doing enough this season? Here are eight who have disappointed so far.
8. Manny Machado, 3B, Padres
What Machado has meant to the Padres in terms of legitimacy makes up for a lot of on-field struggles, but he hasn’t really delivered at the plate so far for San Diego. The power has been there — he’s into double-digit homers — but his sub-.250 average would be the worst of his career to date. He’s adjusting to a new league and a ballpark that isn’t exactly hitter-friendly, so a bit of a learning curve was to be expected, but this is not what the Padres paid for.
Bryce Harper has encountered a unique problem in his first season with the Philadelphia Phillies: he’s not hitting fastballs.
Harper struck out three times on fastballs in Sunday’s game against the Milwaukee Brewers. That means 39 of his league-leading 73 strikeouts have come from whiffing on fastballs, a big factor in his .227 average on the season.
Fastballs are normally the easier pitch to deal with as opposed to offspeed pitches for established MLB hitters, and Harper didn’t hide the fact that he has to improve against them.
“Yeah, all-around it’s not good right now,” Harper said, via Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia. “I’ve got to get better. I’ve got to be better. Turn the page from today and take the day off tomorrow and turn in to St. Louis.”
Harper has hit some mightily impressive home runs for the Phillies this season, but his overall numbers simply are not what they expected of him. It’s a bit surprising that it’s at least somewhat down to trouble with the fastball, but that’s where he’s at right now.
Bryce Harper hasn’t had the start to his Philadelphia Phillies career that he would’ve hoped for, but sometimes he offers up a reminder of the massive power he possesses.
That was certainly true on Saturday, when he hit the second-longest home run he has ever hit since Statcast tracking began in 2015, according to Paul Casella of MLB.com. The first inning shot off Colorado Rockies starter Antonio Senzatela went a projected 466 feet, clearing the center field batter’s eye and landing on Ashburn Alley. The exit velocity was a cool 114.1 MPH.
Harper has definitely turned in some signature moments since joining the Phillies, and this will go down as one of them. Philadelphia fans will simply want to see him do things like this a bit more consistently, as he came into the day hitting just .222 with a league-worst 60 strikeouts.
Like other famous professional athletes and celebrities, Bryce Harper has likely grown used to having fans seek his attention through any means necessary. But if you’re looking for affection from a married person, sending their spouse a message on social media does not seem like the way to go.
Harper’s wife Kayla shared a screenshot on Instagram recently of a direct message she received from a woman who called Harper “handsome” and offered to be his “stress reliever.” The message was obviously intended for Bryce, but it went to Kayla.
Someone chick tried to slide in Bryce Harper’s DMs but accidentally sent it to his wife I AM DEAD pic.twitter.com/qMQ94QBFA0
— JF (@Jferrie23) May 4, 2019
Of course, the message Mrs. Harper received could very well have been spam. There are a lot of social media accounts that send out automated messages like that, so it may not have been an actual person who made the embarrassing mistake. Either way, Kayla’s response was pretty funny.
This isn’t the first example we’ve seen of Kayla Harper’s sense of humor. If you remember, she also had a great reaction to Bryce being involved in a brawl two seasons ago.
The Philadelphia Phillies did not pay Bryce Harper a ton of money to have him miss games.
Even though Harper is going through somewhat of a slump, Phillies manager Gabe Kapler said on Wednesday that he is not planning to give the outfielder any days off. In fact, he said there is a chance Harper plays in all 162 games this season.
“There’s a very real chance that Bryce will play 162 games this year,” Kapler said Wednesday, via Philly.com’s Scott Lauber. “If we discover he needs a blow at some point, it’s going to be something that he and I work on together.”
Harper was batting .302 on April 13. His averaged has dropped over 70 points since then as he’s now down to .231 after an 0-fer on Wednesday. His strikeouts are up since then too as he’s averaging 1.3 per game.
Harper has long been a streaky hitter — the kind who can carry his team when hot or leave lots of runners on when he’s cold. Sometimes managers like to give players a day off during a slump to mentally refresh, but Kapler clearly prefers to let Harper work his way out of it.
Despite the slump, Harper still has eight doubles, six home runs and 23 walks and has done enough damage to have an OPS at .848.