LINK: Bryce Harper’s Swing

On Saturday, the Washington Post published, well, I’m not sure what to call it exactly. It’s not an article. It’s part-interview, part-analysis, part-video, part-comparison. Whatever it is, it’s amazing. This is the kind of stuff that happens when you combine quality journalism with the advantages of technology. You owe it to yourself to check out this production by Adam Kilgore and friends. Even if you’re tired of the amount of coverage Bryce Harper gets, you should read this just for what it shows about what baseball journalism can be. And I, for one, am not at all tired of Bryce Harper.

The realization came to Rick Schu this spring as he sat in front of a screen, collecting baseball swings. All winter, Schu, the Washington Nationals’ hitting coordinator, had been watching “Baseball” by Ken Burns, a Christmas gift from his wife. He burned clips from the DVD and compiled classic swings — Jackie Robinson, Ted Williams, Babe Ruth. As he watched Ruth, Schu paused the video and asked himself a question: Didn’t Bryce Harper have a swing just like that?

Schu scanned through video and found film of Harper hitting. He arranged clips of Harper and Ruth side-by-side on the monitor and stopped at the moment each hitter’s bat connected with a pitch. In each still picture, he saw a stiff front leg, an uncoiling torso and a back foot lifting off the ground. “Wow,” he thought. “That’s identical.”

“They’ve got that exact same swing at contact point,” Schu said later.

Read the rest at The Washington Post.



Print This Post



Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 4 months ago

Glad to see this featured here: it’s a fascinating read from top to bottom, especially the interviews about the physics of Harper’s swing and how the specific mechanics help Harper (and Ruth) drive the ball so powerfully.

Also: the animation of Harper and Griffey, which starts moving when you mouse over, is one of the coolest graphics I’ve ever seen in baseball.

Well-Beered Englishman
Guest
Well-Beered Englishman
3 years 4 months ago

Looking again, the comments section on that article appears to be either a deliberate satire or a tragedy. There’s some moron saying Harper can’t be that good a hitter because his batting average is below Jordan Schafer’s. (It’s actually one point higher, today.)

Powder Blues
Guest
Powder Blues
3 years 4 months ago

I also noticed the comments…

Other than using BA and RBIs to discredit his game, commenters attack him for his toe nails, sideburns and loose clothing.

Dreamin
Guest
Dreamin
3 years 4 months ago

The comment by KooleyTwoKeysO(nlogn) is one of the best things I have ever read

JM
Guest
JM
3 years 4 months ago

It’s funny the article compares Harper’s rotational energy to Tiger Woods, I have this sort of dread in the back of my mind that tells me that his swing mechanics are going to destroy his upper body as he gets older and past his body’s prime.

I hope that doesn’t happen of course.

vivalajeter
Guest
vivalajeter
3 years 4 months ago

I had the same feeling when I saw him for the first time. He has such a violent swing, and my first thought was that he’d injure a muscle in his side, or eventually hurt his back. I don’t think it’d actually happen, but it was definitely my first thought.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

It’s no more violent than Prince Fielder, who may have the highest bat speed in baseball.

cass
Guest
cass
3 years 4 months ago

I really wish batspeed was a statistic we have access to. It seems no one is trying to give the public access to stats that are readily accesible to teams. If this continues, I fear the baseball analytics community will eventually become irrelevant.

Choo
Member
3 years 4 months ago

Since the advent and subsequent exclusivity of Hit/FX and Fld/FX, I get the feeling we are already there, as if Major league teams are out slaying real dragons while we stay home and roll the same 12-sided die over and over and over again.

za
Guest
za
3 years 4 months ago

Harper’s a beast. I may be a Mets fan and know he’ll be a thorn in our side for years, but it’s okay because, damn, that guy is good at baseball. I hope he doesn’t fall victim to some freak injury because on talent, drive, and hard work, he is as good a ballplayer as I’ve ever seen. And he’s got the upside of being the best ever.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

The interesting thing is that Harper’s swing is not ideal, as compared to say Cabrera, Posey.

That’s not to say that Harper isn’t an outstanding talent or great hitter, or has bad mechanics. Only that he does not have the “perfect mechanical swing”, such as Bonds, or Manny.

cass
Guest
cass
3 years 4 months ago

Based on which criteria, exactly? How are you determining which swings are more ideal than others?

I imagine the only true way to measure a swing in the long run is the amount of production it provides, i.e. wRAA+ or the like. I don’t think we can know which swing is more ideal at this point.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

Frames of swing, % of swings that are ideal.

I think we can, and do, measure the amount of time a swing takes to get from heel plant to ball contact, and measure the amount of speed (mph) the bat generates, translating into power or work done.

It’s not really all that difficult.

CircleChange11
Guest
CircleChange11
3 years 4 months ago

I would suggest that it is pitch recognition and hand-eye coordination that makes the elite the elite.

There are some bad hitters that have good mechanics.

TKDC
Guest
TKDC
3 years 4 months ago

Subtle trolling, or do you not realize there are multiple elements of offensive production?

Phantom Stranger
Guest
Phantom Stranger
3 years 4 months ago

I largely agree with your critique of Harper’s mechanics. The optimal swing from modern times has been Bonds, who combined perfect swing mechanics with insane athletic ability. There is a reason he put up historic offensive seasons on the juice.

Right now Harper’s athletic ability is masking some of the deficiencies in his approach, but I imagine his swing mechanics will smooth out over the years with more experience.

Oasis
Guest
Oasis
3 years 4 months ago

You truly are a renaissance man. You know everything about hitting mechanics and pitching mechanics.

I’m amazed no baseball team as tapped your infinite pool of baseball knowledge ….

YanksFanInBeantown
Guest
YanksFanInBeantown
3 years 4 months ago

I actually have the biggest man-crush on Bryce Harper.

Nick
Guest
Nick
3 years 4 months ago

The comments on that article are depressing.

wpDiscuz