Scott Boras, the agent for Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper, wants nothing to do with talk that his superstar client might be distracted by thoughts of his pending free agency at the end of the season.
While Harper is still a power threat, with 21 home runs, good for second in the National League, he is hitting just .218, after beginning the season with a career average of .285.
It's harder for Harper to get hits when teams aren't giving hit pitches to hit, Boras told ESPN, pointing to Harper's NL-leading 68 walks, second only to Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels in the majors.
"There's no question that with the walk rates that Bryce Harper has, he's going to have less hits. No doubt about that," Boras said.
"You keep having to ask the question, why don't they do this to other players if it's so effective? The answer is that teams feel the benefit of pitching to those players, there's much less of a consequence than there is to pitch to Harp. I would assume that has to do with his extraordinary power," he said.
FanGraphs lists Harper's hard-hit rate at 41.1 percent, 43rd among major league hitters but Harper's best ever.
Boras also cited the increased use of defensive shifts, especially against left-handed hitters such as Harper. Teams routinely pull one of their right-side infielders over to the first-base side of second base against left-handed pull hitters.
"The other thing is, 70 percent of pitchers are right-handed, so they're getting sliders and breaking balls that are naturally inclined for them to hit where the ball is pitched and go the other way. Right-handed hitters can take a natural approach to the game as they were trained in their youth," Boras said.
"They can hit a slider or curveball the other way, whereas left-handers, they're saying you're supposed to hit everything now the other way. The breaking ball's coming, the slider's coming, the fastballs are in, and you're now supposed to take inside-out swings?" he added.
"That's not how a power hitter's trained. You're affecting baseball on many, many levels in a negative way."
Harper and Baltimore Orioles third baseman Manny Machado figure to be the stars of the free agent class in the offseason.
--Field Level Media