In each of his at-bats in Friday’s game against the Reds, Bryce Harper had a slight variation on his batting stance. In his first at-bat, he returned to his old stance, knees bent and the bat high near his shoulder. In his second at-bat, however, his stance looked like a cross between his old stance and the newer one he had been using when he returned from the all-star break. His third at-bat featured the full new stance, nicknamed “stack and jack,” where Harper stands upright and holds the bat lower near his chest.
Harper went 1 for 4 with a single, a walk and two strikeouts. He is tinkering with his stance because he is trying to pin down what works best. He used the new stance for the first six games after the all-star break and went 7 for 17, but that stretch was capped by an 0 for 4 game with three strikeouts on Wednesday.
“He’s searching,” Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu said. “A lot of hitting is feel and when you’re not feeling good sometimes you make changes. He’s that guy. You see him go up there in different at-bats with different stances and hopefully something clicks for him so he can stick with it.”
Before Saturday’s game, Harper and Schu watched video of Harper’s stance and home runs in 2012. Schu gave Harper tips but urged him, more than anything, to find his most comfortable position.
“He’s just trying too hard,” Schu said. “[Ryan Zimmerman] goes down and he’s like our guys who try to do it all and put the team on their back. He just needs to go out and barrel balls.”
Players make minor tweaks to their swings and stances throughout the season but Harper, according to Manager Matt Williams, gets more attention for his changes because of who he is. When healthy and in a groove, Harper is perhaps the team’s most dynamic hitter. But he has yet to find a comfortable and consistent rhythm since he returned from the disabled list on June 30.
“It’s feel,” Williams said. “Often times you make adjustments within an at-bat. Depends on how you’re seeing it and what the guy is throwing you, how you feel at the plate, how your batting practice went that day, what success you’ve had over the last three or four days. The good thing is that he’s thinking about the adjustments he needs to make.”