See, that .265 batting average isn’t, maybe, capturing everything that’s going on here. All those feats within 10 games don’t even count his violent batting practice, which sounds like an evening thunderstorm. Asked if he had ever seen anybody swing so hard in BP (while maintaining balance and mechanics), Davey Johnson said, “Mantle.”
Harper has made more adjustments, at-bat to at-bat, within one game than I’ve seen other young Nats player do at 23 to 26. Harper, so far, hasn’t chased many bad pitches, a telltale sign, and has more walks (six) than strikeouts (four). The only other man who played 100 games as a teenager who had more walks than strikeouts in his first 10 games was Rusty Staub (2,716 hits).
A few pitches around his letters have lured Harper. And low change-ups can be troublesome. But Harper looks like he’s jotting notes in his “book” just as fast as the pitchers are scribbling in theirs.
Once in a great while, a player makes our imaginations behave irresponsibly. Stephen Strasburg has already taken us there in the pitching realm. Now it’s Harper, too. We hear ourselves say silly things. As my wife admired Captain America in “The Avengers,” I whispered, “That’s how Bryce Harper is put together — well, if Captain America were about 30 pounds bigger.”
We know, eventually, his strengths and limits will be measured. In time, some air of professionalism will replace his wolfish open-grin ebullience. Why, before too many years pass, Harper will even learn what is impossible for him on a baseball field.
Right now, he honestly doesn’t know. But he’s trying to find out. We get to watch. It’s hard to imagine how baseball could be much more fun.
For Thomas Boswell’s previous columns, visit washingtonpost.