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Patrick Newman

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Harper’s Home Runs

by Patrick Newman (Aug 19, 2010)

Brett Harper has gotten off to quite a start in Japan. Though he’s cooled off a little bit (3 for his last 23, with 8 K’s), through 33 games and 137 plate appearances he’s sporting a 1.077 OPS and 11 home runs. Harper racked up those 11 homers quickly, in his first 100 or so ABs.

This got me thinking, it is the league or Harper? So I wrote a little query to get the opposing pitcher, pitch type, velocity and count for each of his 11 home runs:

gameresultpitcherpitchmphballsstrikesouts
2010071802本塁打[ サヨナラ満塁ホームラン ]Marc Kroonforkball1
2010081002本塁打Wei-Yin Chenfastball88.125322
2010070602本塁打Wei-Yin Chenfastball91.875221
2010072703本塁打Kyuji Fujikawafastball96.25321
2010072102本塁打Kazuki Yoshimifastball90111
2010070903本塁打Yasutomo Kuboforkball81.25121
2010071301本塁打Kenta Maedaslider81.87531
2010081102本塁打[ バックスクリーン ]Masato Kobayashifastball82.5121
2010080602本塁打Shouhei Tateyamafastball91.87511
2010071401本塁打[ ポール直撃 ]Giancarlo Alvaradoslider81.8752
2010080702本塁打Masato Nakazawacurve70.6251

Notes: 1. today’s Japanese vocabulary is “honruida”, (本塁打), “home run”. 2. the ’0′ velocity on the HR off Kroon is the result of my data source lacking velocity data for some pitches.

I was a little surprised; I thought there would be a little bit more of a trend. Harper has hit six bombs on fastballs, and five on breaking pitches. His home runs have come against some of Japan’s best pitchers: Chen, Fujikawa, Maeada, Yoshimi, and some solid performers in Kudo, Tateyama and Alvarado.

So on the flip side, what has Harper struggled with? I wrote another query to get the pitches he’s swung and missed on. Harper has done a pretty good job of making contact, swinging and missing 62 times on the 556 pitches he’s seen this season. Here’s the breakdown:

pitchswinging strikes
changeup2
curve4
cut fastball3
fastball8
forkball28
shuuto1
sinker1
slider14
special1

Forkballs and sliders. Further querying reveals that Harper has seen 94 forkballs and 104 sliders, so he’s chased a large percentage of the forks he’s seen.

So going back to Harper’s recent slump, I took a look at what pitches he’s seen over his last six games:

pitch# thrown
changeup6
curve15
cut fastball8
fastball39
forkball33
shuuto1
slider20

So it looks like the league has caught on to Harper’s forkball weakness, as he’s seen nearly as many forkballs as fastballs. And accordingly, he’s whiffed on 14 of them.

Now that Harper has shown he can mash NPB fastballs, he won’t see as many of them. Harper’s early success is a great sign, but he’ll have to lay off the breaking stuff and get pitches he can drive.


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