MIAMI -- One of Bryce Harper's walk-up songs at Nationals Park is "The Best is Yet to Come" by Frank Sinatra, which Harper started using on his way to winning the National League MVP Award last season. After that breakout season, considered historic by some measures, Harper kept Sinatra's song
MIAMI -- One of Bryce Harper's walk-up songs at Nationals Park is "The Best is Yet to Come" by Frank Sinatra, which Harper started using on his way to winning the National League MVP Award last season. After that breakout season, considered historic by some measures, Harper kept Sinatra's song in his rotation of walk-up music, even though expecting Harper to improve upon last year was a tall and somewhat unfair task.
Yet, through the first 11 games of this young season, Harper is somehow topping himself once again.
Harper is batting .359/.458/.897 with more home runs (six) and walks (eight) than strikeouts (four). It took four games in between his 99th and 100th career homer, which is what passes as a drought nowadays for him. He entered Monday's game against the Marlins and star hurler Jose Fernandez with a home run in four consecutive games. His six home runs this season are tied for second in the Majors behind the Rockies' Trevor Story (seven). Harper is slugging .897 with a 1.356 OPS and a 250 OPS+, all the best in the Majors. He has three stolen bases and has driven in 15 runs.
He is still only 23 years old.
At a time where pitchers are throwing harder than ever and batters are striking out more than ever, Harper's strikeout percentage is getting better. It currently sits at 8.3 percent, a drastic drop from 20 percent in 2015 and 26.3 percent in '14. He's swinging at fewer pitches outside the zone (23.8 percent this season compared to his 32.6 percent career average) and not missing when he does decide to swing (7.0 percent swing-and-miss rate).
And for all his herculean numbers from last year, Harper did not light up the leaderboards in average exit velocity. According to Statcast™, balls off his bat averaged about 91.6 mph, which is solid but unspectacular, and ranked 41st among the 376 players with a minimum 100 balls in play. Through the early stages of this season, Harper is hitting the ball slightly harder at 93.7 mph, ranked 26th out of the 207 batters with at least 20 balls in play.
Combine much better discipline at the plate with more solid contact when he does decide to swing and Harper has found a way to make himself more dangerous with the bat.
Of course this is only through 11 games against three teams -- the Braves, Phillies and Marlins -- that are a combined 12-23 so far this season. Expecting Harper to produce at this exact level for an entire season is unlikely; he's currently on pace for 88 home runs, and only Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth have ever posted an OPS+ of at least 250. But Harper keeps improving, and it's fair to wonder if this is just the beginning.
Perhaps already the best hitter in baseball, and we still may have not seen Harper's best.
Jamal Collier is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @jamalcollier.