After barely surviving Mike Trout over the weekend, the Giants now get to face the even younger Bryce Harper and his Washington Nationals. Harper’s personality and the on-field scuffles have somehow become The Narrative when discussing him, to the point that most people forget he’s one of the game’s best players. In 790 games, he has 804 hits, 158 home runs, and a 142 OPS+ over his 6+ years in the big leagues.
At this age and point in his career, Mike Trout had a career 172 OPS+. I can believe that Mike Trout is 30% better than Bryce Harper and that both of them can be unfathomably better than the rest of the league. Since I’ve gone ahead and introduced the idea of two narratives being true at the same time, I shall use it as a clunky transition to what’s going on in this Monday-Wednesday Giants-Nationals series...
Hunter Strickland threw out Bryce Harper because he was mad about something that happened three years earlier. For the crime of making Hunter Strickland look bad, Hunter Strickland took it upon himself to punish Bryce Harper by making Hunter Strickland look bad. It’s Country Hardball that can’t be reasoned with. When Harper is introduced tonight, there will be people at AT&T Park, perhaps a great many, who will boo him as a villain. I will not be one of them. And, frankly, neither should you.
I mean, folks... come on. We’re trying to woo him here. There exists a nonzero chance of the Giants signing him as a free agent in the offseason.
Wait! Come back!
Seriously! Think about it: if the Giants were willing to absorb all of Giancarlo Stanton’s $30 million / year per average annual value, then they’re willing to pay a player $30 million a year, on average. Bryce Harper won’t turn 26 until October, two full years younger than Stanton. A long-term deal will take them through his prime. He embodies the Grit Gamery Gametermination they sought with the Aaron Rowand signing and there’s no question his energy and passion for the game will bring a new dimension to the team and —
Okay, fine. It’s a pipe dream. Let’s return to reality.
Dave Martinez now manages the Nationals and in trying to make sense of how they’ve begun the season 10-12, I thought I might be able to draw a line from letting Dusty Baker go to the present situation and — nope. Not really. Howie Kendrick is the starting second baseman, Ryan Zimmerman is having a start to the season that reminds me how he was almost entirely written off a few years ago due to repeated injuries, Trea Turner is hitting like he needs to adjust to the league’s adjustment against him (84 OPS+), and Adam Eaton and Anthony Rendon are on the disabled list. It’s been mostly Bryce Harper and the four rotation pitchers and that’s all for the Nationals. 93 runs scored against 100 runs allowed...
Just wanna circle back to this: do you think part of the reason why the Giants brought back Dusty Baker was to setup a wooing situation for Bryce Harper’s free agency? Think about it.
Hitter to watch: Let us assume that we’re all going to be watching Bryce Harper. So, I nominate the aforementioned Trea Turner, who actually leads the Nats in plate appearances (101 to Harper’s 100) and has drawn more walks (15) than Buster Posey and Brandon Belt combined (14). He has 8 stolen bases and has yet to be caught.
Pitcher to watch: I never liked the cut of Tanner Roark’s jib, and the numbers back me up on this. In 7 games against the Giants (4 of which were starts), he’s 6-0 and has allowed 0 home runs in 35.2 innings. That’s 35.2 regular season innings. Provided Brandon Belt is allowed to play on Tuesday, there’s another rematch from the 2014 postseason we might be better off talking about:
Prediction: We will be the only ones making a big deal out of Hunter Strickland losing his mind against Bryce Harper and it will tell us more about ourselves than it will about either player on the field.