Bryce Harper Just Keeps Getting Better by Travis Sawchik July 27, 2017 Earlier this month I set out to explore an adjustment Bryce Harper has been working on, a sort of lower gear, to ostensibly better allow him to compete against elite velocity and with two strikes. As of July 26th, the leg-kick-less swing remains, and it continues to get results. It has helped Harper become the best two-strike hitter in baseball this season and it is not particularly close as you can see via FanGraphs leaderboards. Two two-strike wRC+ Name OPS ISO wRC+ 1 Bryce Harper 0.931 0.264 139 2 Zack Cozart 0.860 0.197 123 3 Mike Trout 0.827 0.252 123 4 Justin Turner 0.801 0.080 120 5 Jose Ramirez 0.832 0.214 118 6 Anthony Rendon 0.819 0.181 116 7 Joey Votto 0.777 0.123 111 8 Mikie Mahtook 0.813 0.208 111 9 Scooter Gennett 0.824 0.256 109 10 Aaron Judge 0.779 0.224 109 11 George Springer 0.756 0.212 102 12 Eric Sogard 0.728 0.070 102 13 Denard Span 0.748 0.163 100 14 Robinson Cano 0.727 0.181 99 15 Buster Posey 0.735 0.117 99 16 Marwin Gonzalez 0.730 0.216 99 And it’s not just helping Harper with two strikes, it has allowed him to be the top hitter in NL the over the last month (237 wRC+) — and second in all of baseball only to the otherworldly run Jose Altuve is enjoying. Let’s consider an at bat from Saturday night against the Arizona Diamondbacks when Harper rained on the parade that was the MLB debut of Anthony Banda. Earlier in the at bat, when Harper had the advantage, his leg kick — his 100 percent swing — was still present. With a 2-0 count … And a 3-1 count … But with two strikes, Harper changed. The leg kick was toned down. And if you ever wanted to see the reaction of a father witnessing his son allowing a 460-foot home run in his MLB debut, the following video footage is for you. (And, again, note the lack of leg kick and power generated:) The home run Bryce Harper obliterated, by the way? No leg kick for it. Front foot never left the ground. He's getting better with it. Scary. pic.twitter.com/86sKrAsoaQ — David Adler (@_dadler) July 23, 2017 This is a frightening development for the rest of baseball. This adjustment is of interest to this author for a variety of reasons. For starters, the amount of power Harper is generating without the jump start that is a leg kick is interesting. And also of note is that this is a 24-year-old superstar not satisfied with his performance or swing, he is looking to improve. A better Harper is a scary thought for opponents but he should get better. He is not yet in his prime years and perhaps this adjustment is evidence of aptitude and willingness to adjust. MLB.com’s Jamal Collier asked Harper about his swing adjustment after Saturday’s game. He did not extract much from Harper. “Not even trying to think about it at all,” Harper said said. “I don’t know, sometimes I [stride], sometimes I don’t. Sometimes I swing, sometimes I miss, and it’s part of the game.” Harper told me he “hates stats” earlier this year when I approached him to ask about some areas in the zone where he has improved. I kind of doubt he “hates” information that could help him. I suspect he’s not willing discuss much of his secrets and methods and he did not seem particularly interested in discussing his B-swing. But Washington Nationals hitting coach Rick Schu did talk about the new swing Harper has worked on. “It just kind of simplifies things,” Shu said.”He usually does it when he gets to two strikes now, or he gets like a really tough matchup with a lefty. Just kind of keeps it simple, kind of like a B hack.” Later in the game, Harper continued to use the modified approach with two strikes: In a contributing piece for The Athletic, I asked Corey Kluber about his strikeout jump this season despite not enjoying any apparent skill growth in the form of velocity or movement increases. “Guys a lot of times don’t really make adjustments,” Kluber said. “They go up there swinging for the fences. More times more than not [the breaking ball] is the best pitch to take advantage of that.” But a few hitters, including some of the game’s best hitters — have you seen Joey Votto choking up seemingly a foot on the bat? — are making adjustments. And Harper is perhaps the best, young hitter making a very visible adjustment. While this is just one adjustment in what figures to be a long, productive career, it might speak to the ability of Harper to adapt and adjust and get the most out of his considerable abilities. When one of the game’s most powerful and effective hitters is also its best two-strike hitter, that seems to say something about the player’s aptitude and ability. It means we haven’t yet perhaps seen the best of Harper.