Bryce Harper is hurt.
We've guessed about this before but it's almost certainly true. If it isn't true here is what you believe :
The year after generational prospect Bryce Harper broke out and had one of the greatest offensive seasons of all time, he had the 3rd worst and worst months of his career so far. That after slugging 44 doubles and 51 homers in a season and a month he would regress to the point of having the worst isoSLG of his career*
But why would this be? All those walks (NOT STARTED BY JOE MADDON) got in his head? Maybe but he'd have a decent June and a good August after that. Adjustments by the pitcher or by him? Hard to believe that 5 years into a career. Natural variation? That's a little tough to believe but I won't rule it out if that makes you happy. I'd need to look more into it.
But power should be sort of stable right? Let's see what we see when we look at his isoSLG monthly after his last struggling rookie month
.213 .313 .376 .175
Wait! What happened there? Well that corresponds to May 2013. On April 29th he crashed into the wall and might have hurt his hip. On May 13th he crashed into the wall and did hurt his knee.
-- .178 .208 .091
Woah woah I thought he was getting better! If you are going to hang your hat on something I guess this month - September of 2013 looks to be one. (he didn't play in June if you are counting up months that's the "--") He seems to be getting better then he struggled. Accumulation of injuries? Perhaps but nothing immediate. We move on.
.133 -- -- .114
Hold it again - ok the .133 suggests lingering issues but the .114? Well that's the month after came back from breaking his hand.
At this point we're at the end of 2014 and Bryce is either (1) not that great or (2) pretty injured. Those last rookie months into his 2nd year and a smattering of back from injury months suggest (2) but a couple months in there suggest (1) might be the case. What does 2015 hold?
.259 .524 .321 .275 .122 .414
That should help rule out (1), but .122, there's your second hat hanger. Just a ill-timed slump. Started pretty much Day 1 of August. He still hit well - just no pop. He did hurt himself a little in August but was actually better after that. So even on his game Bryce can have some short periods of no power. Now 2016
.428 .163 .139 .143 .226 .087
So here we are. I think you could write off May as an affect of the walk strategy. It seemed to throw him off for a couple weeks. June or July could be a slump, maaaybe even both, but it would be his first extended slump like that. And then there's the .087? I suppose it could be another ill-timed slump (it did happen to start Day 2 of September) but now your saying Bryce just happened to have three slumps, including his worst ever, in the same season. A season where age and recent success suggest he should be in his prime. It just doesn't make a lot of sense. Coupled with the other low numbers, the general history of slugging issues when injured. I think injury is just the more reasonable guess.
Now if we were just guessing, like before, it's easier to rule out. Fans being fans. But now that we have a source and a credible reporter saying the same, it seems more foolish to not buy into it. They have no good reason to tell us that he's injured either, unless they plan for him to sit. So don't expect any news until the off-season but right now I think it's foolish to think he's working through anything other than an injury.
Daniel Murphy is injured.
They don't know what it is. He has been able to pinch hit twice so there is that. But that first PH seems like he's grimacing, no? The 2nd one didn't inspire confidence either - weak reaching ground ball on an almost one-handed swing - but looking at other GBs he hit on pitches like that it's not different enough for me to point it out.
This is a big deal. Bigger than Bryce, honestly. If Bryce is hurt - well then Bryce has been hurt most of the year and he's battled through it and the team's been ok because they've had other guys they can rely on. If Murphy's hurt - he's carried the team all year. Early with Bryce, mostly with Ramos, lately with Turner and Rendon, but he's been there all year. If he can't hit like he has that's the heart of the 2016 Nats line-up cut out.
Let's hope he plays today and this can be just unecessary concern. If he doesn't play I'd even accept a diagnosis because honestly all that matters is that he's healthy enough to get a few good swings in before the seasons end and how us that he'll be ok for the playoffs.
*if you recall this is SLG with batting average pulled out. It helps adjust for BA fueled SLG percentage highs and lows. For example when Bryce was getting walked all the time in May and only hit .200 his SLG of .363 looked hideous. However the isoSLG of .163 was merely bad. It wasn't that he wasn't hitting for power - he was just slumped.