Julio Teheran’s Bryce Harper Problem
Sometimes a hitter just had your number, which leads to a random thought by Seth.
In last night’s Braves-Nationals game, Bryce Harper came up in the third inning, with his team trailing 8–4. Braves ace Julio Teheran threw Harper a curveball to the lower outer third of the plate. The red hot lefty slugger launched that pitch into the right field bleachers cutting Atlanta’s lead. Even with Harper’s dominating start to the 2018 season (posting a 1.200 SLG and 1.742 OPS along with 4 HR and 9 RBI in only 24 plate appearance), it was business as usual for Teheran’s career numbers versus the Nats superstar.
Both Harper and Teheran have been with their respective teams their entire careers. Teheran came up as one of the Braves top prospects in 2011 having shown glimpses of brilliance since then. The high profiled Harper arrived to The Show in 2012 and baseball fans know how well he’s done since he debuted. Despite Teheran’s strong arsenal of pitches, he has a hard time getting Bryce Harper out.
No pitcher has been more abused by Bryce Harper than Julio Teheran (Though Tom Koehler’s line versus Harper is not too far off). In 47 plate appearances, Harper has a slash line of .462/.553/1.154/1.707, displaying plenty of power. Of the 18 hits Harper has against Teheran, 11 were for extra bases including 8 home runs.
Harper is hardly ever fooled by Teheran’s pitching.
Even for the two-time all-star, Teheran has tried to curtail Harper’s slugging. But as the numbers keep ringing true, it will be Harper’s stat line that will ultimately win out.
Even as Teheran’s career plays out, the 27-year-old, is not Hall of Fame player. He’s been a decent, with potential to be better, pitcher. As the Braves continue their rebuild, now waiting for other pitcher’s to develop into their projections, the Harper-Teheran numbers reminded me of another Braves ace — John Smoltz.
When Smoltz was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2015, MLB Network made a feature on all the inductees. As part of Smoltz feature, there was a question asked of who Smoltz hated to face during his career. While there are the obvious answers like Barry Bonds or Tony Gwynn, Smoltz mentioned his stuggles against Mickey Morandini. For a guy who made his career during the proliferation of the home run, here’s a Hall of Fame pitcher mentioning a second baseman who hit 32 homers — in his entire 11 year career.
Of all the hitters Smoltz faced in his career at a minimum of 60 plate appearance, which is 33 hitters, only seven hit an average above .300:
- Tony Gwynn .444 (not even Glavine or Maddux could suppress Gwynn)
- Mickey Morandini .344
- Mark Grace .343
- Brett Butler .319
- Larry Walker .313
- Jose Reyes .305
- Jeff Bagwell .301
So two Hall of Famers, a guy who should be in the Hall (Walker), a couple “Hall of Very Good” players (Grace and Reyes), the bunt king (Butler), and a light hitting, 11.1 career WAR second baseman.
Even taking into account Morandini’s OPS (OBP+SLG), he’s still in a limited class of guys who have an .800+ OPS against Smoltz. Morandini’s .820 OPS is seventh in that grouping even though he never homered off Smoltz.
Coming back to Teheran’s issues with Bryce Harper is it better to give up big numbers to one of the best players of the game? Or is it better to have that one substitute level player post strong numbers as in the Morandini case?
*All due respect to Mickey Morandini — the guy played 11 years in the Major Leagues, which is 11 more seasons than I will ever play.
Video courtesy of MLBAM