Phillies

The method behind Bryce Harper's bunting madness

Phillies

The only two National League players this season who have laid down more bunts than Bryce Harper are Roman Quinn and Rockies utilityman Garrett Hampson.

File that under the extensive "Wait, what?" category of 2020.

Harper bunted successfully in his second at-bat against Aníbal Sanchez Thursday night. After a Rhys Hoskins home run, the struggling Harper bunted up the first-base line and his speed and proximity to Sanchez forced Sanchez into an error. That run came around to score later in the inning on a Didi Gregorius double.

It was the sixth bunt Harper has laid down this season — the seventh if you count his bad decision to bunt with two strikes last Wednesday. He has reached base three times this season and in 7 of 11 bunt attempts as a Phillie.

In fact, those 11 bunts from Harper in 189 games as a Phillie are more than he had his final four seasons in Washington combined.

It is not always the right decision. Two weeks ago against the Blue Jays, Harper needlessly gave away his final at-bat of the first game of a doubleheader with a bunt fielded cleanly. Last Wednesday against the Nationals, he goofed and bunted foul with two strikes in the first inning.

"That was dumb. Flat-out stupid," Harper said of the bunt strikeout. "I don't know what I was doing or what I was thinking, to tell you the truth.

"When it works, I think it's a big play for us. I can score from first on a ball in the gap, do things like that. Try to beat the shift, get a guy on base. It's got to be the perfect situation for me to do it the right way. Maybe be a little bit smarter with the spots I pick to do it in."

 

Harper has hit .156 over his last 63 plate appearances, though with a .371 OBP because of his 16 walks. The bunt singles are a different way of getting on base that he's clearly interested in exploring when logical.

For years, Phillies fans implored Ryan Howard to bunt now and again to beat the shift. He never did; it's not an easy thing to do against major-league pitchers if you've barely bunted in your life. Harper has added this tool to his kit. The decision-making has not been perfect but he's working to refine it.