Nationals Baseball: Could Bryce Harper be tired?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Could Bryce Harper be tired?

The Nats offense is terrible. Maybe it shouldn't be, but it is. Zimmerman is playing through an injury.  Morse doesn't seem back from his yet. LaRoche has come back down from the heights of his first 30+ games (hitting .150 since May 18th).  Espy and Desmond haven't progressed from being average. Flores hasn't played everyday at the major league level this long since 2008.  Given all this, Nats fans are already counting on their young super prospect Bryce Harper to carry the day.  Early on it looked like he might just be able to do that, but lately even he seems to be failing.

There are two schools of thoughts with young players.  The first, and less popular one, is that they are less likely to get tired over the course of a season because "Hey, they're young". Anecdotally, this makes sense.  I remember what I could do at 19 and it was a lot more than I can do now. But the more popular theory is that the are more likely to get tired over the course of a season because they simply aren't used to the length of the baseball year yet.  Their bodies, while willing, haven't been trained for such a long haul. Perhaps more importantly, their minds haven't been trained for it either.  It's one thing when you reach 60 games into a season and you see the stretch run to the post-season unfold in front of you.  It's another when you reach 60 games into the season and you see a slog of 60 more games in the heat of summer before you get to anything interesting.

Two years ago Bryce Harper played 66 games in his college season.  Last year, he played 109 and after the first 72, when he was called up to AA, he struggled mightily.  .256 / .329 / .395 over the last 37 games.  Perhaps he was overmatched, though from what we've seen this year I find that hard to believe. Perhaps he was bored, which is possible but I think a call-up would excite anyone for at least a few weeks. Perhaps though, perhaps he was worn out.

We've all seen that Bryce doesn't have an off switch, he doesn't have a lower gear.  He plays hard, maybe overly so, every play, every day. That has to wear on a body, even a 19yr old one. This year he's already played 71 games. That's maybe a week ahead of the pace he played last year. That's not a big deal and it's still 30 less than he played last year. In that context it's easy to see his recent slump (.186 / .255 / .256 with 14K in his last 11 games) as just a slump and expect a bounce back sometime soon*  But sometime in early August he'll reach the most number of games he's played in a year and he'll have 50+ ahead of him, not counting any playoff games.

I tried to do some quick analysis here but my usual roots failed me. Looking at ROYs isn't right because I'm sure part of the reason that these guys end up winning the award is because they don't slump as much in the 2nd half.  Just general rookie performance can be difficult because a guy called up in September isn't the same as a guy playing in the majors all year.  I know what people say "Yes, rookies wear down" but backing it up with numbers is what I'm looking for. I'll keep seeing if I can get something more concrete.

Bryce Harper is a great player.  Nothing we've seen from him this season lessens the "future Hall of Famer" vibe that everyone gets watching him play. But counting on him to carry this team down the stretch might be asking too much. 

*though maybe not during this road trip.  If you didn't see my tweet, this is a brutal away stretch weather wise. 100 degrees at game time last night. Daytime high for their next 6 games: 103, 94, 96, 95, 95, 95.  Three of those games are afternoon games. The Nats have had no days off since last Tuesday and none to come until this is done. I'm getting tired just typing about this. 


DezoPenguin said...

Whether he wears down or not, he definitely can't do it alone. I'm certainly hoping that this slump is only a slump, but it hurts like heck to have everyone significant slumping or injured or both at the same time.

Given the Nats' pitching, five runs of offense basically guarantees a win, and most nights four will. But in the current slump, even when we're winning games it becomes a gut-punch every time the opposition scores a second run. Some of these people need to wake up and hit.

Anonymous said...

Stupid idea.

Marc said...

I think the trouble right now isn't that he's tired so much as it is that he's trying to carry the whole offense - he's trying to drive every pitch he sees, so he looks terrible on pitches low-and-away. That's not a symptom of fatigue, it's a symptom of being a 19-year-old kid trying to carry 7 other MLB starters who all have seemingly forgotten how to hit a baseball.

Lee said...

Everyone is playing in heat right now, so I'm not sure how much you can blame it. But...I will say that arriving tired in Denver really sucks. It takes me a full day to adjust when I go out there. They've been on the east coast at low altitudes for a month. If anyone was tired, a 8:40 (EST) start time didn't help. Nor did being in Denver. I'm sure they all slept pretty well last night.

It's probably just a slump though. I doubt he's feeling pressure to carry the team. If anyone is thinking that way, it's gotta be Zim. He showed some flash last night. Hopefully he can break his season long slump.

Harper said...

Dezo - this is an especially bad run recently where it seems like every starter has to hold the other team to 3 runs or less. It'll get better , when they do "wake up and hit" but only so much.

Anon - possibly. Which is why I said I needed to gather more info. Offense tends to tick upwards in the 2nd half, do first year players trend in the opposite direction? How big a role does previous experience play - like 3 120 game minor league seasons as opposed to one? Surely there's SOMETHING to this - but is there enough to feel right generalizing it to every young player?

Marc - Maybe, it's hard to tell if pitchers are pitching around him or pitching away because that's what gets him. Is he swinging at bad pitches is it because he's young or because like you said, he feels pressure to do better? The only way these can be answered is if the offense picks up around him.

Lee - yeah everyone is playing in heat but really only Denver and Texas are ridiculously hot right now (it's heading east) and the combo - playing away, non-domed stadiums, no days off - is what gets ya.

Jeff Hayes said...

I was very disappointed last night, but this lack of offensive production will not last. It simply isn't possible. I agree that Bryce might be tired. Hell, all of them are probably tired. But I remained convinced that this offense will rebound - and soon. It's never going to lead the league in any offensive category. But it undoubtedly will improve.

Anonymous said...

What's more amazing.. Our pitching or the fact we cant score more then 2 runs a game and still are 3.5 games up.

Harper said...

Anon - they are both amazing and go hand in hand. It's been a historically good staff so far and it's needed to be.

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