Fantasy Slant: Explaining Away Bryce Harper's Hot Start

By Vincent Frank on Thursday, April 20th 2017
Fantasy Slant: Explaining Away Bryce Harper's Hot Start

He can hit a baseball. He can hit a baseball real far. Is that explanation enough for what Bryce Harper has done for the Washington Nationals in just over two weeks of regular season action? 

Never mind, here's more. 

Harper hit a solo homer and a grand slam against Atlanta Braves starter Julio Teheran on Wednesday evening. It was part of a 4-for-4, five RBI performance for the All-Star outfielder. 

Now, through the first 14 games of the 2016 season, Harper is hitting at a .404 clip with six homers, 18 RBI and 21 runs scored. He's also posted a .516 OBP, 1.362 OPS and .500 BABip in those 14 games. That's about as absurd as it gets for a two-week stretch in today's baseball world. 

Harper has gone just three games without reaching base, has posted six multiple hit games and is on absolute fire over the past few days. In fact, the talented outfielder has put up four homers and 10 RBI while scoring six runs and recording nine hits over the past three games. My gosh. 

Remember, this is the same player who struggled to the tune of a .243 average with 24 homers and 86 RBI last season. While we know it was a down year for Harper, the level of improvement we've seen thus far in 2017 has been absurd. 

There's one major difference this year. And in reality,it has very little to do with Harper. Simply put, he's receiving a ton of protection in the Nationals' lineup. Despite hitting just .243 last season, Harper boasted a tremendous .373 OBP. That's a sign that teams were pitching around him in a big way. Of course, that's not even an option thus far this season. 

Batting third in Washington's lineup, the level of support he's received from those behind him has been off the charts. 

Ryan Zimmermann is hitting at .380 with four homers and 11 RBI. Daniel Murphy boasts a .344 average with two homers and 10 RBI. Meanwhile, both Matt Wieters and Adam Eaton are hitting over .300 with OBPs of .400 plus. 

None of this is really sustainable over the long term. Much like Harper, these other bats will quiet down here soon. Still, that's the primary explanation for Harper's outrageous start to the season.

And short of these other hitters falling completely off the map, we can continue to expect an MVP-caliber performance form the man who took home that award after leading the NL in runs scored, homers, OBP and OPS that season. 

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