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Bryce is Seeing Some Filthy Heat

The Man, The Myth, The Legend.  It’s quite apparent that teenage superstar Bryce Harper’s mediocre AA/AAA numbers were not indicative of his true MLB talent.  With a triple slash line of .286/.367/.497, Bryce is performing at All-Star caliber levels as a 19 year-old.  With so few professional at-bats, it’s quite impressive that Bryce continues to exhibit plate discipline above league-averages (K%, BB%): Bryce – 18.6, 11.2, and the MLB – 19.6, 8.2, respectively.

With Bryce’s skill set and much-deserved hype, this really isn’t much of a suprise – even though he is as old young as some freshmen in college.  One particular piece of data that I find interesting is the average fastball velocity Bryce sees relative to the rest of the league.  The table below depicts the hitters who are pitched with the fastest average fastball velocity. Here, one can see  just how hyped pitchers are to either brush back or throw heat by the phenom:

Player Fastball % Avg. Fastball Velocity
Alex Rodriguez 59.4 92.5
A.J. Pierzynski 55.3 92.4
Jose Bautista 53.0 92.2
Paul Konerko 53.5 92.2
Derek Jeter 66.6 92.2
Miguel Cabrera 59.4 92.2
Bryce Harper 45.8 92.2
Curtis Granderson 52.9 92.1
Adrian Gonzalez 60.2 92.0
Prince Fielder 51.4 92.0

First of note are the names we see squaring off against the fastest average fastballs by opposing pitchers: A-Rod, Joey Bats, Konerko, Jeter, Miggy, Granderson, A-Gone, Prince.  We know A.J. Pierzynski isn’t exactly BFF’s with most players, so the extra juice on fastballs that he sees isn’t much of a surprise.  In fact, #blameAJ has trended on twitter on a couple occasions.

And then there’s Bryce.  The 2nd most glaring feature of the table is how significantly fewer fastballs Bryce sees compared to the other hitters facing elite heat.  This is likely due to his inexperience seeing MLB off-speed pitches, which are far more advanced than those that a hitter might see in the minor leagues – even at AAA.  That being said, when opposing pitchers do throw him fastballs, it is evident they reach for a little something extra.

Case in point: Cole Hamels’ drilling of Bryce in early May this season.  Hamels intentionally pummeled Harper with a 93-mph fastball in the lower half of Harper’s back.  Per Pitchf/x data, Hamels’ average fastball is clocked at 91.5-mph – and, yes, this does exclude his cutter, which he throws frequently and slower – so the average isn’t diluted with his slightly slower cutter.

Hamels Drills Harper      (Note: apparently MTV has moved from playing music to editing sports GIFs.)

 

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