To Harrison, success comes as no surprise
Results of breakout season what Pirates third baseman expects from himself
Josh Harrison delivered a consistent message last summer.
The message was that the success that Harrison was having wasn't a surprise to him. It wasn't when he went from bench player to starter, or from starter to National League All-Star. Nor was it when Harrison darn near won the NL batting title.
Appearing in 143 games and starting at five positions during the 2014 season, Harrison hit .315 with 38 doubles, seven triples, 13 homers, 52 RBIs, 77 runs and 18 steals. He missed becoming the 12th Pirates player in history to capture the batting title by a mere four percentage points.
Those kinds of results, Harrison insisted, are what he expects from himself when he plays every day. He wasn't a regular during his first three seasons with Pittsburgh (2011-13). In fact, Harrison spent a good portion of two of those campaigns with Triple-A Indianapolis.
Still, surely there was a moment this offseason when Harrison took a deep breath and thought about what he achieved.
"Obviously, I reflected. I was definitely pleased with the season," Harrison said late last week at Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla. "But as you mentioned, it was never a surprise to me. I played that way my whole life. Everywhere I've gone, regardless of the level -- that's how I played.
"I know high school, college and the Minor Leagues are different than the big leagues. But you still want to go out and win games and help your team any way possible. For me it was never, 'Ah man, this is the big leagues.' It was, 'This is the big leagues, but that pitcher is still trying to get me out, just like the guys in the Minor Leagues, just like the guys in college.' The players may be a little smarter and more consistent, but the objective is the same."
OK, but what about almost winning the batting title?
"It's nothing that surprised me that I was up there [in contention]," Harrison said. "That's how I play, plus I work hard. God has given me the ability to play this game. I know I'm blessed to have certain tools that allow me to succeed. But I don't want to rely just on that. I put in my work every day as well."
Plenty of folks not named Josh Harrison were surprised by at least a couple of the columns in his stats line last year -- namely the 38 doubles and 13 homers. Listed at 5-foot-8 in the Pirates' media guide, he drove the ball exceptionally well -- especially for someone his size.
Harrison attributes that, at least partially, to getting a little older -- he's now 27 -- and stronger, and learning more about his swing. But there's something else he's factored into the equation.
"Players say there's such a thing as Daddy strength, too. When you have a child, you get a little stronger," Harrison said with a huge smile. "It's kind of a little joke. But a lot of players say, 'Oh, you got your Daddy strength now.'"
Harrison and his wife, Brittney, had their first child -- a daughter named Mia Jade -- in February 2014. Then Harrison went on to have what was easily his finest season.
"It could have been some of that Daddy strength working, for sure," he said. "Also on the other side of that, I've always had the ability to drive the ball. Understanding myself and my swing and being a little stronger has allowed those balls to carry a little more and not be catchable.
"Andrew McCutchen isn't the biggest guy, either. Neither one of us are. But both of us have been blessed with the ability to find the barrel. Baseball is a game that you don't have to be 6-foot-4 to succeed. I might be 5-foot-8 on a good day. But put me in the right setting and I can play like I'm 6-foot-4."
Harrison sure did last year, and don't be surprised if he offers a repeat performance in 2015. One thing is for sure: He won't be surprised.