Oppo, oppo and away: Harper on record pace to left field

October 28th, 2022

's swing is always satisfying to watch, but the one that sent the Phillies to the World Series even more so than usual -- one of those beautiful lefty slices that sent the ball tailing into the left-center-field seats at Citizens Bank Park.

Pay attention to where that home run landed. Because Harper is the opposite-field king of the 2022 postseason.

Harper has nine opposite-field hits this postseason -- more than double any other hitter. (Plus three more hits to the left side of the field that just barely get classified as "straightaway" rather than "oppo.")

José Ramírez, Giancarlo Stanton, Jake Cronenworth and Isiah Kiner-Falefa, the next-closest to Harper in the 2022 playoffs, had four opposite-field hits each before their teams were eliminated. And as far as his World Series opponent, Harper has triple the opposite-field hits of the Astros' leader, Yuli Gurriel, who has three.

Harper is approaching the opposite-field hits record for a single postseason in the pitch-tracking era, which goes back 15 seasons. With a few opposite-field hits in the World Series, Harper would pass David Freese in his iconic 2011 postseason for the Cardinals and opposite-field legend Derek Jeter during the Yankees' 2009 World Series run for the top spot on the list.

Most opposite-field hits in a single postseason
Pitch-tracking era (since 2008)
David Freese, 2011 Cardinals -- 11
Derek Jeter, 2009 Yankees -- 10
Jon Jay, 2014 Cardinals -- 10
Bryce Harper, 2022 Phillies -- 9
Randy Arozarena, 2020 Rays -- 9

Those aren't just "nice piece of hitting"-style singles that Harper is slapping the other way. He's driving the ball to the left side of the field, and doing lots of damage.

Six of Harper's nine opposite-field hits are extra-base hits -- three homers, three doubles. Only Freese in 2011 has had more extra-base hits in a single postseason in the pitch-tracking era (eight), and only Arozarena in '20 has had more opposite-field home runs (four). But Harper has a higher slugging percentage to the opposite field than both of them.

Highest opposite-field SLG in a single postseason
Minimum 10 batted balls to opposite field

  1. Bryce Harper, 2022 Phillies: 1.750
  2. Randy Arozarena, 2020 Rays: 1.571
  3. David Freese, 2011 Cardinals: 1.333
  4. Brandon Lowe, 2020 Rays: 1.250
  5. Buster Posey, 2021 Giants: 1.100

Harper's average exit velocity on his opposite-field contact this postseason is 96.8 mph, one of the highest marks for any hitter in a single postseason since Statcast started tracking in 2015. Among hitters with more than five opposite-field batted balls in a single playoff run, only Stanton this season (99.2 mph) and Aaron Judge in '18 (98.9 mph) hit the ball harder to the opposite field.

Harper wasn't taking this approach in the regular season, when only 29% of his total hits were to the opposite field. In the playoffs, that's up to 50%. So why might he be doing this now, on the biggest stage?

Well, let's see how pitchers are trying to attack Harper this postseason.

Where are they throwing their fastballs?


Where are they throwing their breaking balls?


Where are they throwing their offspeed pitches?


This could matter even more in the World Series, where four of the potential seven games would be played at Houston's Minute Maid Park, with its short left field. Harper is crushing everything on the outside part of the plate in the playoffs -- against pitches middle-away in the strike zone, his average exit velocity is 98.2 mph -- and if the Astros' pitchers go after him there, he'll have his eye on the Crawford Boxes.

It doesn't matter if it's a 99 mph fastball on the outside edge, like the pitch from Padres reliever Robert Suárez that Harper homered off to win the National League Championship Series, or a backdoor cutter like the one he took deep off Braves closer Kenley Jansen in the clinching Game 4 of the NL Division Series, or a breaking ball off the plate like the one he lined down the left-field line against Kyle Wright in NLDS Game 2, or an 0-2 splitter like the one he knocked through the shift for a hit against Yu Darvish six innings before his pennant-winning homer.

Pitchers are going away, away, away. And Bryce is going oppo, oppo, oppo. It's a hitting clinic.