Sep 23, 2015, 10:00 AM EDT
At the rate he is going, an MVP favorite at the age of 22, Bryce Harper is probably going to set a lot of records before his career is over.
He will likely break a bunch of Nationals team records, as they only have 11 seasons to pull from. Then, he will set his sights on franchise marks which include Expos greats such as Vladimir Guerrero, Andre Dawson and Tim Raines. And after that, perhaps some all-time MLB records, as well. After all, the guy is already doing things at his age that few in the long history of baseball have ever accomplished.
On Tuesday, Harper set a record that could be the first of many. He is now the sole owner of the Nationals single season walks record, previously held by Adam Dunn who walked 116 times in 2009. That was coincidentally the year the Nats finished in last place and earned the good fortune of taking Harper No. 1 overall the following summer.
Harper actually walked three times on Tuesday. His first inning walk tied the record and his fifth inning walk broke it. Then, for good measure, he walked again in the eighth inning. It was the eighth time in 143 games this season he has walked three times or more. He has drawn at least two walks in 24 games this year.
This particular performance came in a loss to the Orioles, another tough defeat in what will likely end up being a lost season for his team. Those usually aren’t the best times to get a player to speak about their individual accomplishments, and Harper explained his walks in terms of continuing to fight for his team’s playoff life.
“I’m just trying to have good at-bats. Just trying to get on base. I have faith in the guys behind me to get it done. If I can just get on base and hopefully score runs, then we’re winning ballgames. I’m just trying to keep the faith, keep going and keep trying to just get on base for my guys. Just trying to score as many runs as I can,” he said.
Manager Matt Williams has been asked countless times this season about the maturation of Harper, how it has been for a teacher to watch his pupil take such a significant leap in his development. Williams, who generally likes to stay within moments and take matters day-by-day, decided to take a step back and appreciate what Harper has done this year and what he could be capable of moving forward.
“It just means that he’s had a great year. It means that he’s staying with his plan. It means that he continues to be patient at the plate,” Williams said. “It just means that he’s continuing with his progress and that’s a very good sign for this franchise for years to come.”
Drawing 118 walks – and counting – in a season is a rare feat that few MLB players will ever accomplish. He currently ranks second in baseball behind only Joey Votto, who is perhaps more associated with the stat than any contemporary player.
Harper’s ability to draw walks has impressed just about everyone this season, including teammate Jose Lobaton.
“He’s one of the greatest hitters I’ve ever seen. It’s unbelievable to see how many walks he can take in a year,” he said.
The Nationals have 12 games remaining on their schedule and Harper does not appear to be slowing down. There are a few more records he could set before it is all said and done.
He is five walks away from tying Ken Singleton’s franchise single season record of 123. At 41 homers, Harper is just five away from Alfonso Soriano’s record of 46 set in 2006. He is almost guaranteed to have the best on-base percentage (Mike Jorgensen, .444 in 1974), slugging percentage (Guerrero, .664 in 2000) and OPS (Guerrero, 1.074 in 2000) in franchise history. And he’s just behind Guerrero’s franchise-best .345 average with a .342 clip after Tuesday.
Those numbers should fall in due time and then Harper will aim for the next ones as he continues to ascend as an MLB superstar. With the way he is playing these days, no record is truly safe.
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