DENVER -- Call him Mr. April. When you're in company with The Sultan of Swat and The Splendid Splinter, you need your own nickname.Bryce Harper is finishing another April for the ages, hitting a Major League best .418 with eight homers and 25 RBIs. His OPS for the month is
DENVER -- Call him Mr. April. When you're in company with The Sultan of Swat and The Splendid Splinter, you need your own nickname.
Bryce Harper is finishing another April for the ages, hitting a Major League best .418 with eight homers and 25 RBIs. His OPS for the month is 1.358, second only to Eric Thames (1.393), but his career OPS in March and April is 1.076, trailing only Babe Ruth (1.090) and Ted Williams (1.088), according to Stats., Inc.
"Those are great players," Harper said of the elite company he's keeping. "I respect the heck out of what they did before me. If they didn't do what they did before me, then I wouldn't be playing this game today."
He just wrapped a 10-day road trip where he hit .529 (18-for-34) with 10 walks, six doubles, four homers and 12 RBIs, including going 7-for-14 (.500) with two doubles, a homer, and five RBIs in the final four games at Coors Field. He was hitless in three at-bats in the finale on Thursday until he hit his first homer of the series in an 11-run seventh inning as the Nationals won, 16-5.
"It's not over yet," manager Dusty Baker said of Harper's historic April. "He's been unbelievable. We were pulling for Harp [in the finale]. It's rare that a power hitter comes here without hitting at least one home run. We were like, 'Man, he's due to not only get a hit, but to get a home run here at Coors Field,' and he did both."
His April tear owes a lot to his exercising the best plate discipline of his career. He's swung at only 22 percent of pitches outside the strike zone, forcing pitchers to come into the zone on him. Entering Thursday, he had a 1.056 slugging percentage on pitches in the zone, according to Statcast™.
Even when pitchers do draw him out of the zone, he's able to make productive contact, as he did Wednesday, going 4-for-4 against the Rockies, when he took three pitches to the opposite field and one to center.
"You got to hit the bad ones as best as you can," Harper said. "You try to take those two-to-three inch pitches that are off the plate, and try to knock them into left, or walk and get on base. If you do that, good things happen."
Harper has been Exhibit A -- as in April -- for that axiom.
Owen Perkins is a contributor to MLB.com based in Denver, and covered the Nationals on Thursday.