Los Angeles, CA, USA; Washington Nationals right fielder Bryce Harper (34) doubles during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE
Bryce Harper made his debut on Saturday. You might have heard about it. Here's a look at his four plate appearances.
There's a pretty good chance that you're already sick of the Bryce Harper hype. You've already got into a fight with your friends while debating whether "Hype Harper" or "Bryce Hyped-er" sounds better (answer: "Brype", one word, like Ichiro).
But the guy is a freaky, preternatural talent. This isn't the first hyped debut of a teenager, but it's the first from a kid who made his debut on the cover of Sports Illustrated when he was 15. This is a hype that's been building, building, building for almost four years now. Even better: Harper seems like an interesting character, in which the word "interesting" can be defined in both a positive and negative context depending on who's doing the defining. He isn't going to be boring.
His first game was on Saturday night against the Dodgers. Here's a look a the first four at-bats of Harper's career, broken down into a few categories:
Pitches seen: Four
Action pitch: 2-1 outside fastball
Most impressive part of the at-bat: When the 19-year-old spit on the second and third pitches he ever saw in the majors, inside fastballs with good location that were designed to punish an overanxious hitter.
Note: They tossed the first pitch of the at-bat into the dugout for safekeeping. I don't remember the Mets doing that for Jordany Valdespin earlier in the week, but maybe I missed it.
Another note: This is Bryce Harper's pre-at-bat routine. It's executed effortlessly, with a smoothness that suggests R&B artists like Keith Sweat or Three Times One Minus One. Get used to it.
One last note: Dude runs like Pete Rose up the line, and I'm pretty sure that's a comparison we'll hear a lot:
Baseball Reference similarity scores take lots of things into account -- "hustle", "begrudging admiration", "how much you want to hit him in the face with a pie" -- not just stats. So once Harper has enough at-bats, you can bet that his #1 comp will be Rose.
Vin Scully talked about: How Bryce Harper usually wears #7 because of a Mickey Mantle fascination, but Mark DeRosa had dibs on the number, so Harper chose #34 because "3+4=7." Also in play: #16, #25, #43, #52, #61, and #9(-2).
Pitches seen: Four
Action pitch: 2-1 outside change
Most impressive part of the at-bat: How Harper waited on a first-pitch, get-it-in curve and ripped it foul
Note: Billingley's pitch sequence was impressive. After getting Harper on an outside fastball in a 2-1 count in the first at-bat, he changed up in a similar location in the same count. Harper was fooled enough to make weak contact
Vin Scully talked about: How Harper's mom is a paralegal and his dad is a steelworker, and both were at the game with Scott Boras.
Pitches seen: Seven
Action pitch: 3-2 high fastball, ripped to center for a double
Most impressive part of the at-bat: The part where he ripped the pitch for a double. To give you an idea of how quick his bat is, here's a still frame:
Just based on that still, what would you think the result of that at-bat would be? A broken bat? An embarrassingly late swing? It was a double that went over the head of the center fielder.
Note: By now you've probably heard about the goobers mooning the camera during Harper's first hit. I can't decide if they're history's greatest monsters or brilliant poets. Three things of interest:
a. They were practicing throughout the at-bat
b. They were timing their moonings because of a wave that was going around the stadium, not because of Harper's at-bat
c. The parties involved looked to be two teenagers and a grown-ass man:
Yep. A goatee. The youth of today are in the tail-end of an '80s retro thing, they're not going for '90s retro yet. That means the person in the picture was something close to an adult when Singles was released, which would put him in his 30s or 40s by now. This is clearly the greatest moment of his life.
Part of a conversation that will take place in three weeks: "But mooooommmmmm, why can't I go to the game with Uncle Skazz? He has his great seats again! But mooooooowwwwmmmmmm!"
Another note: Harper did this as he rounded the bases.
I'll give him a pass. New uniform, new helmet. Might have been distracting him, bobbing up and down, and he just wanted to get the thing the hell off his head. But there's at least a six-percent chance that he said to himself, "This is Bryce Harper's first major-league hit. Damn straight they're going to see Bryce's hair."
Vin Scully talked about: "That's a great name for a novelist, or a character … Bryce Harper. Mmmm-mmm."
Pitches seen: One
Action pitch: 0-0 fastball, sacrifice fly to left
Most impressive part of the at-bat: The smooth opposite-field swing that you're going to see until your first ride in a flying car.
Vin Scully talked about: He didn't have enough time to talk about much -- the at-bat was over that quickly. But he did lead into the at-bat with a little discussion of the throw that wasn't in the top-half of the seventh.
Some context for that .gif:
That's how the outfield was aligned before the pitch. It was a slow chopper that got through, which meant that Harper had to go a long way. A long, long way. And it's not like it was a Molina running -- it was a Hairston (the only known enemy of Molinas in the wild).
It wasn't a perfect debut for the discerning Harperite -- no dingers! -- but it was close. You saw him make adjustments, rope a ball, rifle a perfect throw to home, speed down the line like Pete Rose on meth, and do something to make you wonder if he's really that much of a jackass. It was the Bryce Harper game we expected. I, for one, can't wait for the next two decades.