Here Is Every Pitch That the Cubs Threw to Bryce Harper

Buckle up, because this is going to be exhausting. Bryce Harper just batted 19 times during a four-game series between the Nationals and Cubs in Chicago. Harper batted a meager .250, and he slugged a meager .250, but he came away with an OBP of .789, thanks in large part to literally 13 walks. Joe Maddon acknowledged that the Cubs were pitching around him, but he didn’t really need to do so for us to get the message, given what was taking place. How did Harper get pitched? Here are all the final locations:

harper-total

The expression of the day is “the Bonds treatment.” For one four-game series, Bryce Harper was getting pitched like the greatest hitter any of us have ever seen. What’s kind of funny is that Harper has recently been in a slump — he has five hits in 34 official at-bats over the past couple weeks. The Cubs didn’t care, seemingly preferring to go about their business with Ryan Zimmerman and one extra baserunner. At least, much of the time.

Just to what extent did Harper get pitched around? Below, you may behold all 19 plate appearances. For each, I’ll show the sequence, and I’ll assign a 1-to-10 grade indicating how little interest I think the Cubs had in attacking. The grade is entirely subjective and meaningless, but to give it the illusion of meaning, let’s say 1 is pure attack mode, and 10 is unabashed threat avoidance. Here come the Cubs, Bryce Harper, and the Pitching Terrified Index.

PA No. 1

  • Score: 0-0
  • Leverage: 0.39
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 3

harper1

You’re Kyle Hendricks. It’s the first inning of the first game of the series, and there are two out with nobody on, and Bryce Harper has been in a little slump. But you’re also Kyle Hendricks, and everyone knows you top out at 74 miles per hour. Of course you’re going to be careful. Every pitcher is careful with Bryce Harper at the plate. Hendricks didn’t completely work around Harper here — notice the vaguely hittable 3-and-1 pitch. Even the full-count pitch was competitive, if out of the zone. Hendricks gave this an honest effort.

PA No. 2

  • Score: 0-0
  • Leverage: 1.08
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 3

harper2

Not a bad job by Hendricks here, leading off the fourth. You can’t see the fourth pitch, but it was a swinging strike, buried right behind the first and sixth pitches. By some measures, Hendricks didn’t throw a single pitch here in the zone, but everything was close to the zone, and the last pitch very nearly froze Harper for a punch-out. He walked, but Hendricks gave himself a chance. Bold!

PA No. 3

  • Score: 2-0 Cubs
  • Leverage: 0.47
  • Outcome: single
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 2

harper3

Hendricks again, with two out and none on. He did go first-pitch offspeed, but you see that second pitch? That probably wasn’t supposed to be there, but alternatively, maybe Hendricks had a sense Harper wasn’t ready to hit a strike, having been dulled into passivity.

This is the hard part for a hitter of not seeing many strikes — you have to stay prepared for the strikes that you get. Could be that pitch woke Harper up. He was all over the fifth offering.

PA No. 4

  • Score: 5-0 Cubs
  • Leverage: 0.14
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 5

harper4

I spent way too long deciding on how to grade this at-bat. It doesn’t matter! This was Harper leading off the ninth, against a fresh lefty, in a five-run game. If you’re the lefty, you don’t just want to groove everything, but there’s no excuse for not throwing a damned strike in the zone. Coward.

PA No. 5

  • Score: 1-0 Nationals
  • Leverage: 0.55
  • Outcome: groundout
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 1

harper5

I don’t think John Lackey was afraid of Bryce Harper. For added context, I should tell you the wind was blowing straight out to center. For more added context, on the previous pitch, Anthony Rendon had taken John Lackey deep.

PA No. 6

  • Score: 2-2
  • Leverage: 0.71
  • Outcome: strikeout
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 3

harper6

Lackey took a little care here. The pitch that got the most of the zone was a curveball diving out of it. There were four fastballs, but maybe only one of them brushed a zone border. Yet Harper couldn’t help himself. Maybe he wanted to take advantage of the wind, but he chased up high, and Lackey was more than willing to go there again for the punch-out.

PA No. 7

  • Score: 4-2 Cubs
  • Leverage: 1.50
  • Outcome: strikeout
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 3

harper7

Here is the perfect Bryce Harper at-bat, for an opposing pitcher. Harper will mostly concede the inside edge, figuring pitchers can’t reliably hit it. When they do, it’s a job well done, and Lackey got himself ahead 0-and-2 with his precision. The third pitch was an excellent changeup, and an excellent take on Harper’s part. The fourth pitch was a fastball up that blew Harper away. Two straight Harper strikeouts against Lackey on high fastballs. Perhaps the Cubs wanted Lackey to work around Harper, but as far as Lackey was concerned, that wasn’t happening.

PA No. 8

  • Score: 8-2 Cubs
  • Leverage: 0.05
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 2

harper8

Clayton Richard tried. There was no reason not to. Even threw five fastballs. He didn’t get any favors, but I’m not sure Clayton Richard has earned them.

PA No. 9

  • Score: 0-0
  • Leverage: 0.39
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 4

harper9

Pretty good execution here by Jason Hammel. It didn’t work out for him, unless his entire goal was to not allow a home run, in which case, mission accomplished! Four of the five pitches were breaking balls, the only exception being pitch No. 2, and that’s why I put the grade at 4, but this was all Harper’s discipline. All those pitches looked tempting on TV.

PA No. 10

  • Score: 0-0
  • Leverage: 1.63
  • Outcome: sac fly
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 3

harper10

Based on how the rest of the series went, you would’ve expected the Cubs to walk Harper here, with a man on third and one out. But Hammel wasn’t having it, giving Harper a first-pitch curve in the zone, then a low slider that got a foul. On the third pitch, which was a curve, maybe Hammel was trying to steal a surprising strike. What he actually accomplished was just about coughing up a dinger, but you can’t say Hammel backed down.

PA No. 11

  • Score: 2-2
  • Leverage: 1.11
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 4

harper11

This time, Hammel tried to show Harper the fastball, using it for every pitch but pitch No. 3. But they weren’t necessarily competitive fastballs. Hammel half-committed to giving a different look. ehh

PA No. 12

  • Score: 5-4 Cubs
  • Leverage: 2.79
  • Outcome: intentional walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 10

harper12

An intentional walk is an auto-10. In the third, the Cubs pitched to Harper with a man on third and one out. In the seventh, they opted to put him on and take their chances with Zimmerman (who very nearly bounced into the desired double play). Totally sensible, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t inspired by fear!

PA No. 13

  • Score: 0-0
  • Leverage: 1.16
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 2

harper13

Sometimes people suggest that All-Star hitters are given the benefit of the doubt by umpires. Sometimes people suggest that All-Star pitchers are given the benefit of the doubt by umpires. This shows Bryce Harper going up against Jake Arrieta. Based on a sample size of one at-bat, the benefit of the doubt for All-Star hitters is stronger.

Of note: Harper seemed to try to make himself look less threatening, perhaps in an effort to get more pitches over the middle.

harper13-2

Tough beans, Harper.

PA No. 14

  • Score: 0-0
  • Leverage: 0.71
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 4

harper14

Look, I don’t think Jake Arrieta would ever admit to being intimidated by Bryce Harper. But it’s not like him to miss like this. So I have to give fear a little bit of credit.

PA No. 15

  • Score: 2-0 Nationals
  • Leverage: 1.53
  • Outcome: intentional walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 10

harper15

Jake Arrieta is arguably the best pitcher in baseball. Over the past year or so he’s put up numbers that are borderline unprecedented. The Cubs had Arrieta walk Harper intentionally. It’s Arrieta’s only intentional walk of the season. Think about what that tells you about how the Cubs feel about Bryce Harper, and Ryan Zimmerman.

PA No. 16

  • Score: 3-1 Nationals
  • Leverage: 0.89
  • Outcome: hit by pitch
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 7

harper16

We don’t get to see a lot here, because Harper got hit by the pitch. But there was a runner on second with one out. The first pitch was a terrible curveball. I wouldn’t be surprised if Harper would’ve been intentionally walked after this, had it just set Trevor Cahill behind 1-and-0. Harper was just not going to see a strike here. We don’t even need to know that to be true in order to know that to be true.

PA No. 17

  • Score: 3-3
  • Leverage: 0.96
  • Outcome: walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 3

harper17

Two non-competitive sinkers from Cahill to start. How much did Harper expect to just walk his way on again without seeing anything worthwhile? This much:

Cahill tried to give it a go. He threw an aggressive 2-and-0 strike. The 2-and-1 pitch wasn’t far off. The last pitch was worse. Ultimately, this walk was fairly predictable, but for a few seconds there Cahill gave thought to trying to get Harper to end the inning. Harper just wasn’t going to do it.

PA No. 18

  • Score: 3-3
  • Leverage: 4.41
  • Outcome: intentional walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 10

harper18

Harper got intentionally walked with runners on first and second. It’s one thing to walk someone to load the bases, and it’s another to walk someone to load the bases and in so doing move the two preexisting runners up. Ryan Zimmerman might’ve taken this one personally. He’s going to want to not be so sensitive.

PA No. 19

  • Score: 3-3
  • Leverage: 4.41
  • Outcome: intentional walk
  • Pitching Terrified Index: 10

harper19

Same exact situation, two innings later. The only difference was it was a different right-handed pitcher throwing Harper the four balls. Zimmerman might’ve been fuming, but Harper was happy to take the compliment:

harper19-2

Based on Harper’s smile, you’d think the Cubs were successfully Making Baseball Fun Again. In some sense they were actually doing the very opposite, but it’s out of Harper’s hands. He’s become simply too dangerous, and he’s become so dangerous it doesn’t matter that he hasn’t been particularly dangerous for a couple of weeks. The Cubs know better than that, following the cue of the Phillies a short while ago.

It’s important to note what this pitching around really looked like. Harper didn’t go to Chicago and draw 19 intentional walks. In most of the plate appearances, the pitcher tried to get Harper out, and in a few, the pitcher was rather aggressive. This is going to be the next challenge for Harper — waiting out the balls and staying patient yet prepared for when pitches come into his zone. They’re going to be there. They’re just likely to be somewhat infrequent, if the Cubs provided any indication. Even when pitchers have every reason to be aggressive, Harper still has a presence, and no one likes coughing up dingers. So extra care will be taken, which leads to fewer competitive times at bat. That’s not fun, for those of us watching. But it says everything about Bryce Harper. The Nationals could stand for it to say a little less about Ryan Zimmerman.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

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J Black
Member
J Black

At least Ryan Zimmerman slept well last night since RBIs don’t matter…

slm12345
Member
slm12345

In which variant of the English language are “don’t matter” and “aren’t a skill” the same phrase?