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March 31, 2014

Going Yard

The Violence of Bryce Harper's Swing

by Ryan Parker


Bryce Harper is about to have his best season. His swing is beginning to take shape. The violence is still there, the head-turning bat speed hasn’t left him, but he now has a much more efficient movement pattern. To understand this process, let’s compare his swings from 2012, 2013, and this year’s spring action.

Before diving into the individual years, I’ll point out what makes Harper a special hitter from a mechanical perspective. He generates incredible bat speed through the most athletic means possible. Yes, his hands move quickly and yes, his lower half is incredibly strong and forceful. What links these components together is the remarkable use of his hips and an impressive sense of internal timing. Harper’s hips don’t have the flexibility some of his peers have, nor the obvious strength of a hitter like Javier Baez. What he does have is the ability to clear his front hip early and then time the rest of his swing to his hip action. Think of all the physical components (hands, hips, legs, etc…) of his swing as instruments. His orchestra of baseball-crushing fury is masterfully conducted by his sense of internal timing.

Here are the three swings side by side. 2012:

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Related Content:  Scouting,  Washington Nationals,  Mechanics

9 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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huztlers
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22 HR and a .270 BA is taking the league by storm, eh? Getting really excited over a kid is one thing and overstating his impact is another. At some point people should get tired of being wrong. He doesn't even belong in any MVP conversations until he does something...

Mar 31, 2014 07:03 AM
rating: -4
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

So only players that have produced at an MVP level before belong in the MVP conversation? That's a bit limiting, no? Harper belongs in the discussion because he has the potential to reach those heights. Most players (even the good ones) lack that type of ceiling. 22 HR and a .270 BA was from his age 19 season. That's a remarkable accomplishment, any way you look at it.

Mar 31, 2014 07:24 AM
 
Marcgiz
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Trout, Puig, Harper - If they turn out to be half as good as "everyone" says they will be they will be average players.

Mar 31, 2014 07:59 AM
rating: -7
 
magua11

I am not certain what sport you are watching....Trout is already well beyond what anyone sensible would consider average.

Mar 31, 2014 09:41 AM
rating: 5
 
lheiman

Exactly. At half of what could be, they are still major league quality. Half.

And if they turn out to be 75% as good, they'll be perennial All-Stars.

And if they turn out to be 100% as good, they'll be HOFers and in the conversation for best ever.

Mar 31, 2014 10:02 AM
rating: 0
 
Travis Leleu

Considering Trout is probably a 7-11 WAR player, half of Trout is a perennial All Star.

Mar 31, 2014 15:30 PM
rating: 2
 
bobbygrace

I can't wait to watch Harper hit in DC this year.

One term I've heard used in describing Harper's swing is "leverage." It's never been clear to me what leverage could mean in the context of a swing, and I don't think I've seen you use it in your articles for BP. If Harper does have a high-leverage swing, what exactly does that mean? Or, if "leverage" isn't a useful term in describing hitting mechanics, what do you think people are trying to describe when they use it and how could it be put more aptly.

Thank you for the great writing, Ryan. I've learned a lot from your series of articles.

Mar 31, 2014 09:54 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Ryan Parker
BP staff

Could you point me to the context where leverage is used? It's honestly not a term I use when breaking down a hitter. I have heard it used but in a handful of different ways (which is part of the reason I don't like to use it.)

Just saying he creates leverage is unclear as to what action somebody is trying to describe. It would be tremendously helpful if you could show me where somebody says HOW he creates leverage.

When somebody uses a phrase like "a hitter creates ton of leverage" they usually mean the hitter's have a strong front side where they can create torque early and then carry it through the swing without the front side continuing to spin out. I've also heard it used to describe hitters who hit balls with lots of long fly balls as opposed to ground balls.

Awesome question. Look forward to more discussion

Mar 31, 2014 16:07 PM
 
bobbygrace

Thank you for your reply. I tried to find some instances where "leverage" was used and the context provided clues to what the author means. It seems to connote a power-oriented approach, as you suggested in the third paragraph of your answer.

On Stephen Piscotty: "can shorten up or add length/leverage to stroke." (articleid=22759)

On Colin Moran: "swing has some leverage and power potential." (articleid=22796)

On David Dahl: "swing is more short to the ball and linear than leveraged for over-the-fence." (articleid=22525)

I also saw a Washington Post video on Bryce Harper's swing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kP8rhRg-4Mw) in which "leverage" came up in the narrative. In that video, his front leg is described as a "fulcrum." That made me wonder which was more elementary, my understanding of physics or my understanding of swing mechanics. (Both, probably.)

Apr 01, 2014 03:13 AM
rating: 2
 
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