Bryce Harper’s overall defense is easy to critique at times, but he left no doubt about his throwing arm on Saturday night.
Last season with the Washington Nationals, Bryce Harper registered -26 Defensive Runs Saved with a -14.4 UZR while playing a good bit of center field as well as right field. So far in his first season with the Philadelphia Phillies he’s been far better (7.4 UZR, 2 Defensive Runs Saved), with five assists while strictly playing right field.
Advanced defensive metrics don’t suggest Harper is anything close to an elite defensive outfielder. Still, 2018 stands as a notable down outlier and the Phillies found the easiest possible solution by having him solely play right field thus far.
Victor Robles retained rookie eligibility this year, and the Nationals have to be happy with what they’ve seen overall (13 home runs, 12 stolen bases entering Saturday). It’s clear the young man runs well, but in the top of the second inning Saturday night he found out about Harper’s throwing arm.
Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia is small and hitter friendly, to say the least. Still, when Robles hit one to the right-center field gap he clearly had a triple on his mind. Harper had other ideas.
From the warning track, Harper uncorked a throw that still seemed like it had little chance to actually get Robles. But third baseman Maikel Franco caught the ball on the fly, slightly toward the outfield side, and tagged Robles out fairly easily.
We can measure these kind of things now, so it’s no surprise the Statcast data on Harper’s throw is impressive.
Harper essentially threw a 310-foot, 94 MPH fastball from the right field warning track to third base. It’s hard to imagine many throws of that nature registering on Statcast any better, if any, to say nothing of how few right fielders would or could even attempt that kind of throw with any realistic chance at success.