In four not-so-fun days in Chicago last May, Bryce Harper batted 19 times and got 13 free passes. Incredibly, the long weekend of walks took a toll on his entire season.
THE THEORY GOES that everything that ailed Bryce Harper last season — ground zero for his grounding — can be traced back to the first weekend in May, when the Washington Nationals visited Wrigley Field for a four-game series against the Chicago Cubs.
Limited Mens Quincy Enunwa Jersey It was about as important as May baseball gets — a potential National League Championship Series preview between the teams with the two best records in the majors, featuring Harper, the reigning player of the month. At least, that was the billing. Instead, the series featured Chicago skipper Joe Maddon totally neutralizing the slugger.
Over a span of four days against the Cubs, Harper stepped to the plate 19 times and received 13 free passes. Four of them were intentional, including three in the finale, when he tied a major league record by walking six times and became the first player ever to reach safely in all seven plate appearances of a game without recording a hit (he got plunked in his other PA).
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Of the 27 pitches Harper saw in the finale, he swung at exactly zero. Only two were even in the strike zone. Overall for the series, of the 83 pitches that came his way, only 18 were in the zone, for a rate of 22 percent. For comparison, that’s about half as many strikes as Harper saw during his MVP year (41 percent zone rate), when he was pitched around more often than anyone not named Joey Votto. In other words, Maddon wasn’t about to let Harper beat him or his team. And it worked. The Cubs swept the Nats right out of Chicago. In the process, they stole Harper’s soul.