Results tagged ‘ Mike Trout ’

Year of the Rookie

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

When Bryce Harper was called up to the Major Leagues on April 27, he became the favorite in many eyes to win the National League Rookie of the Year Award, well before he ever stepped on the field. The hype that has surrounded Harper since his appearance on the cover of Sports Illustrated as a 16 year-old has been entirely overwhelming and unprecedented in the sport’s history. But they don’t give awards for hype – such honors have to be earned. And, whether Reds and Diamondbacks fans agree or not, Bryce Harper earned the 2012 NL Rookie of the Year.

Bryce Harper fought off a strong field to win 2012 NL Rookie of the Year.

First, some respect for his competition. Todd Frazier was very impressive, coming out of relative obscurity when Joey Votto was injured to post a .273/.331/.498 line, slugging 19 home runs and notching 51 total extra-base hits. Wade Miley, the Arizona hurler, came up huge with 16 wins and nearly a 3.9/1 strikeout-to-walk rate over almost 200 innings in his first full campaign. Both are worthy candidates, and either could have been Rookie of the Year, had it not been for Harper.

To start, there are the now-20 year-old’s overall numbers. He collected more home runs (22) and extra-base hits (57) than Frazier, while also stealing six times as many bases (18/3). His .270/.340/.477 overall line was slightly weaker, but he ripped through September and October at a .330/.400/.643 clip, finishing far stronger in the season’s final month than either Frazier (.176/.235/.257) or Miley (2-2, 5.40 ERA). And perhaps the biggest difference was that Harper did all of this while playing above average defense at one of the game’s toughest positions.

While Frazier actually compiled a negative dWAR (defensive wins above replacement) of -0.2 at first base, third base and left field (according to Baseball Reference), Harper notched a dWAR of 1.4, leading to an overall WAR of 5.0, nearly twice Frazier’s 2.7 total. And while measuring pitcher WAR against position player WAR is a bit of an apples to oranges comparison, Miley’s was 3.2, just for frame of reference. The point is, Harper’s all-around excellence defined his season as being greater than a simple look at his slash line.

But if you love raw offensive stats, he led in plenty of categories there, too. Harper paced all NL rookies with 98 runs scored, 17 more than his next closest competitor and 43 more than Frazier. His nine triples were also best, even one more than AL Rookie of the Year winner Mike Trout. Even if you discount the intangibles and individual moments – like his steal of home off Cole Hamels on national television – Harper had an impact on the game in 2012 that few, if any, could match.

All that’s left now is to wonder just how much better he might be next year.

Teenage Dream

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

Today, October 16, 2012, Bryce Harper turns 20. Really think about that for a moment. While you’ve heard “teenage this” and “teenage that” all season long, it is truly remarkable to step away from the list of facts and figures and just appreciate everything Harper was able to do at the highest level of the professional game before his 20th birthday. We’ll save the inevitable Mike Trout comparisons for later in the offseason, but for now, take a look back at some of the highlights and vote at the bottom of the post for the one that most impressed you during Harper’s tenure as a Major League teenager.

4/29 @ LAD: Welcome to the Show

Harper didn’t take very long to announce his presence to the Major League world, scalding a double to the wall in his first game in Los Angeles. But perhaps his most memorable play from that first series came in his second game, as he ranged deep into center field and snagged a ball off the bat of Juan Uribe right before slamming into the wall. He held on, and gunned the ball back to the infield, nearly doubling the runner off first base. The catch would set the tone for the all-out, aggressive style Nationals fans would come to know and love throughout the year.

5/6 vs. PHI: Harper Steals Home

Big-time players always seem to shine the brightest on the biggest stages. In his first early test, against the division-rival Phillies on national television, Harper was plunked on the first pitch he saw from Cole Hamels. Some forget that on Chad Tracy’s two out single to left, the rookie went first-to-third, right in front of Phillies outfielder Juan Pierre. That set up the play that everyone remembers, as Harper took advantage of a lazy pick-off attempt by Hamels and sprinted home. He slid under the tag of Carlos Ruiz, swiping home for his first Major League stolen base.

6/5 vs. NYM: Teenage Walk-off

In an epic game that featured three game-tying RBI by Ian Desmond, it was Harper who finally delivered the coup de gras. With the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the 12th, he laced a single the other way, handing the Nationals a walk-off win over the Mets. It marked the first Major League walk-off by a teenager since Gary Sheffield’s game-winning hit in 1988, four years before Harper was born.

6/12 @ TOR: Border Crossing

One of Harper’s calling cards on his scouting report was his prodigious power. And while he hit some big home runs in 2012, perhaps none had the awe factor of the one he teed up in Toronto, as the Nationals were busy sweeping a 6-0 road trip. His moon shot, appropriately, drew “oohs” and “ahs” from the crowd, and dented the Blackberry ad hanging from the second deck in right-center field at Rogers Centre, punctuating the sign’s slogan: Be Bold. Be bold, indeed.

8/29 @ MIA – 9/5 vs. CHC: A Pair of Two-homer Games in a Week

One of the big early-season questions was whether or not Harper would hit 20 home runs in his rookie campaign. While he was behind pace for a while, he caught fire near season’s end, homering twice on August 29 in Miami, then turning the trick again a week later against the Cubs in Washington. He finished with 22 longballs, fourth on the team behind only Desmond, Adam LaRoche and Ryan Zimmerman.

9/7 vs. MIA: Don’t Run on Bryce

Even by late in the season, word of Harper’s arm was slow to spread throughout the league. Teams continued to test him, and he continued to come up with huge defensive plays. His eight outfield assists tied him for the lead among National League rookie outfielders, and included this gem, where his bullet home beat Greg Dobbs by 20 feet.

9/21 vs. MIL: Bryce Over Braun

In a 2-1 game against a Milwaukee team still clinging to postseason dreams, reigning NL MVP Ryan Braun stood at second base with one out in the fourth inning. When Aramis Ramirez singled to center Braun sped around third and chugged towards home, and was a mere 50 feet from the plate by the time Harper unleashed the ball towards Jesus Flores. No matter, though, as the rookie delivered a strike and Flores applied the swipe tag on a stunned Braun for the out to keep the Nationals in front.

10/12 vs. STL: Welcome to the Postseason

In the final game of the 2012 campaign, Harper tripled in his first at-bat, then sent this rocket into the right-center field seats at Nationals Park for his first-ever postseason home run. We get the feeling it won’t be his last.

 

The Case for Catch of the Year

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

The Washington Nationals and Houston Astros opened their second and final series of the season with a pair of extra-inning games Monday and Tuesday night, and a pair of Nationals wins. But despite the apparent similarities, the defining plays of these two contests could not have been more different. We have already chronicled Houston’s defensive lapse from the 11th inning on Monday night that led to the game-winning run. However, to fairly and accurately chronicle the importance of Roger Bernadina’s jaw-dropping, game-saving catch for the final out of Tuesday night’s contest, we must look at it in the larger context – as a frontrunner for catch of the year in Major League Baseball.

Humor us, if you will. Watch the video below, no matter how many times you’ve already seen it, just so the play is fresh in your mind. Then, as we take you through our five reasons, we encourage you to read through each point individually, then watch the video again. By the end, you can tell us if you also believe that what the Shark reeled in last night was more impressive than any other catch made this season, including Mike Trout’s now legendary leap (video also below, for comparison).

Catch of the Year…Roger Bernadina

Or Mike Trout

1. The Amount of Ground Covered

Well positioned before the pitch, just to the left side of second base, Bernadina nevertheless had to run full tilt deep into the left-center field gap and leap, arms extended into the awkwardly shaped façade in front of the Nationals bullpen. But it’s not like he had time to set himself underneath the ball and try to time his leap – it was all on the run.

2. The Ballpark

Minute Maid Park is…unique. From the notoriously easy-to-reach Crawford Boxes in left field to Tal’s Hill in center field that rises behind the warning track and includes a foul pole in play, it is easy to forget the minefield that awaits outfielders in left-center. As you can see in the photo to the right, the angle of the wall changes every few feet, often causing awkward caroms and general confusion for visiting players trying to decide how to pursue fly balls in the area. Bernadina disregarded all of that, threw caution to the wind, and literally threw himself into one of the recesses of the wall, emerging with the ball.

3. The Game Situation

This cannot be overstated. After Washington had finally broken through in the top of the 12th with the first run scored by either team since the second inning, the Astros had the tying run at second and the winning run at first with two outs in the bottom of the frame. If Bernadina does not come up with that ball, the Astros not only tie it, they likely win the game on that play, with the runner on the move in the two-out situation. It’s that simple – the catch was literally the difference between a win and a loss. When is the last time you’ve seen that in a game?

4. Steve Pearce/Craig Stammen

You can tell the significance of any play in the game as much as anything by the reaction of the other players on the field. Steve Pearce was the runner at second on the final play Tuesday night, representing the tying run. Check him out on the replay (0:57), fist raised in triumph as he heads towards third base, confident he is watching a game-ending play of an entirely different nature.

Meanwhile, Craig Stammen stood in the Nationals bullpen, just on the other side of the chain link fence from where Bernadina came crashing into the cutout. After the Shark came away with the ball, watch Stammen (at 0:11 and again at 1:03) jumping around, fists raised like a kid in the stands. Sure, Tyler Clippard’s primal scream and Jayson Werth’s bear hug speak volumes as well, but nothing matches Stammen’s unbridled joy from the ‘pen.

5. The Pennant Race

Oh yeah, the pennant race. As hot as the Nationals have been since the All-Star break, winning 14 of their last 18 games (including last night), the Atlanta Braves have kept pace. Washington held a four-game lead at the break, a mark that had not been matched until they were stymied by Cole Hamels and, some time later, Brett Wallace’s walk-off bid came to rest in Bernadina’s mitt. For the second time in four days, the Nationals have added to their division lead, and once again own the best record in baseball at 67-43. None of these things would be true if not for Bernadina’s catch.

Still want more on the Shark’s heroics? The Washington Post’s Dan Steinberg also did a great job of capturing some of the initial reactions – on the field, in the clubhouse and around the Twitter-sphere.

Twelve Reasons To Vote #BryceIn12

Follow @Nationals on Twitter | Like the Nationals on Facebook

As you know by now, Bryce Harper is a Final Vote candidate for the 2012 National League All-Star Team. Make sure you vote #BryceIn12 before Thursday’s 4:00 p.m. EDT deadline. You can vote as many times as you’d like, so to get you fired up to get those clicking fingers moving, we’ve compiled 12 reasons why our 19 year-old phenom belongs in the Mid-Summer Classic:

1. He’s got pop. Everyone has heard the legend of the 502-foot home run at Tropicana Field when he was still in high school. Indeed, Harper’s homers are never cheapies. That includes his first Major League blast, to straightaway center at Nats Park on May 14.

2. He always hustles. In the third inning on June 24 in Baltimore, Harper grounded into the first double play of his Major League career. How did he respond? By hitting a chopper up the middle… and turning it into a double.

3. He doesn’t take his at-bats into the field. Despite having one of the worst days of his career at the plate on June 16 against the Yankees, Harper came up with this huge catch in the 13th inning.

4. He’s got a flair for the dramatic. In a game against the New York Mets on June 5 that featured just about everything – including three game-tying RBI from newly minted All-Star Ian Desmond from the eighth inning on – Harper finally ended it, becoming the first teenager to hit a walk-off since Gary Sheffield in 1988.

5. He woke up early in the morning after an extra-inning walk-off to read to children. Where was Harper the morning after that historic event? At Bonnie Brae Elementary School in Burke, VA, reading to third graders.

Walk-offs and school visits, all a part of a day in the life of Bryce Harper.

6. He’s a fast learner. Crafty vet and former Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez struck Harper out on a slow, slurving eephus pitch the first time the two met in Atlanta on May 27. Livo tried the same trick again in the next at-bat, but this time, Harper was ready.

7. One great young player deserves another. Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels 20 year-old outfield phenom, has already been selected to the game. Trout and Harper have become nearly synonymous in the weeks leading up to the game. For one to be there without the other just feels… Wrong.

Harper and Trout were teammates in the Arizona Fall League last year.

8. He’s clutch. After rallying from a 7-0 deficit, the Nationals trailed 10-9 entering the ninth inning in Colorado last week. They didn’t trail for long.

9. He’s charitable. When a Colorado brewery tried to capitalize on his “clown question, bro” phrase by naming a new offering after it in time for the Nationals recent visit to Colorado, Harper asked that they donate proceeds from sales to the family of Celena Hollis, a Denver police officer who was killed in the line of duty.

 10. He’s not content getting just one out. Always looking for a chance to stretch his talents, Harper gunned down the speedy Juan Pierre on May 23 in Philadelphia, turning a failed hit and run into a double play.

11. He’s got swag. After getting intentionally plunked by Cole Hamels, Harper went first to third on a single to left field, then took off for home on Hamels pick-off throw to first base, swiping home for his first Major League steal.

 

12. He’s a genuine superstar. At age 19, he’s already a national attraction. He plays the game right, and has become one of the most popular players in the sport. Isn’t that what the All-Star Game is all about?

- VOTE BRYCE IN ’12 -

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 550 other followers