WASHINGTON — You won’t see many video highlights of it, but Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper is leading Major league Baseball in a very important offensive category again so far this year: walks.
Sure, Harper is having one of the best Aprils at the plate, ever, trailing in OPS to only Babe Ruth, Ted Williams and Barry Bonds. Harper went into Wednesday night leading the league in walks (18), on-base percentage (.523) and RBI (21).
This means that Harper is extremely productive, despite being pitched around. He actually lost the league lead in RBI to teammate Daniel Murphy (22), but added another walk to his league-leading total.
When Harper is at his best, producing like his MVP season in 2015, he can do it all, challenging for the league lead in average and power. This incentivizes opposing pitchers to pitch around him.
If this trend continues, and there’s little reason for it to change, it will be interesting to see how Harper handles the treatment. In 2015, he let his emotions get the better of him on a number of occasions, getting into arguments with umpires and boiling over to the media. His point was valid: if teams continue to pitch around him, eventually he cools off.
In the meantime, however, Harper is hitting among the league’s best again, which is a welcome development after a down 2016. As of the eighth inning vs. the Colorado Rockies, Harper was four-for-four on the night, bringing him into the MLB lead for batting average as well (.432).
You can understand why he leads the world in walks.