Maybe this week’s break from baseball will turn out to be just what Bryce Harper needed to overcome his first-half slump.
The 2012 NL Rookie of the Year was a .272 hitter over the first two seasons of his career. But as the team gets back to work Friday after the All-Star break, Harper has a .244 batting average, .316 on-base percentage and .366 slugging percentage.
The 21-year-old outfielder has played only 34 games because of injuries and has just six multihit games and two home runs this season.
Harper has struck out 27 percent of the time, indicating he’s having trouble locating the ball in the batter’s box.
According to brooksbaseball.net, Harper’s whiffing on breaking balls 40 percent of the time and is swinging and missing on 45 percent of the offspeed pitches he’s seen. He struggled before the thumb injury, and the trend has continued since his return June 30.
“I’m still trying to see where my swing is at and get in shape for left field,” said Harper, who has gone 6-for-40 (.150 batting average) since coming off the disabled list.
Manager Matt Williams has been around the game long enough to know it’s a process getting out of these kind of struggles.
“Everybody goes through slumps,” Williams said. “Everybody has injuries. Everyone that comes back from a long layoff has timing issues and needs to get back in the flow of the game. But I think with Bryce, especially, that spotlight shines brighter than most.”
The good news for Harper is that he hasn’t had to carry the Nationals since his return from the DL. Despite his absence over a month of action, the Nationals are coming out of the break tied for first place with the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
“It’s going to take some time,” Williams said. “He’s starting to see the ball better too, he can feel that. So it’s a question of continuing to go out and work, continuing to play. But it does take time.”
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