A lot was notable about Bryce Harper’s grand slam. From the monstrous distance of the home run to the adrenaline-fueled sprint around the bases to the phenomenal radio call of the blast, the walk-off was a momentous occasion. But let’s rewind back to note another development that made the play possible: Harper’s stance.
Earlier this month, Scott Lauber of The Philadelphia Inquirer penned a piece noting how Harper changed his stance in early August heading into a series with Arizona, holding “the bat straight up in the air rather than draping it over his left shoulder.” Just a few days later, he ditched this approach and clobbered two home runs in San Francisco.
Harper then took the Cubs deep twice on August 14 with a new approach. “Big Time Baseball: Players Edition” hosts Tony Gwynn Jr. and Ben Davis dove into yet another Harper stance.
“He went to a toe tap last night, Tony,” Davis said. While Davis never played for the Phillies in his eight-year career, he works with the team as a color commentator and gets to watch Harper go to work day in and day out.
“I saw that, and this is his third - I won’t want to say major change - but certainly it’s a different set up,” Gwynn Jr. said. “He’s gone through a few of them this year but I noticed the toe tap.”
The former MLB players-turned-commentators and “Big Time Baseball” hosts referenced two other notable toe tappers throughout the game’s history in Chipper Jones and Barry Bonds.
“It looks like he was in pretty good rhythm but that doesn’t really surprise me,” Gwynn Jr. said. “I saw him last year come here to San Diego, hit two or four bullets and make outs, and then I saw him come out for early [batting practice] the next day. He took about four rounds left-handed, and then he went to the right-handed side and started hitting balls out right-handed. So it’s not that surprising that he can make an adjustment like a toe tap though you and I both know, Ben, that a toe tap is an offseason move.”
Though such an adjustment should be a long-term project, Davis understood Gwynn’s point.
“We’ve seen Bryce do that… he’s a guy that changes his stance and does different things,” Davis said. “If you’re able to do that, like literally in one day, that’s really something [to show] that you’re talented if you can do that. We’ll see how long it can continue”
And if the subsequent game was any indicator, Harper’s success could carry over and help lead the team into the playoffs. A walk-off grand slam -- and it was a slam -- came off the 2010 first-overall pick’s bat to finish off the Cubs for the series sweep.
The sweep came at a crucial point in the season for the Phillies, a team that has been the subject of much criticism given a slightly underwhelming output despite the big names that fill their roster. Davis believes that Harper’s hot bat can help their high expectations come true in the final stretch.
“He’s the guy that can go and hit 12 home runs in a month -- we’ve seen him do it -- and he’s been really hot with multiple home run games this past week,” Davis said. “He’s a guy that the Phillies are leaning on.”
An incredibly tight NL Wild Card race that features seven teams in the running will certainly test the up-and-down Phillies, but a hot Harper -- toe tap and all -- can help bring success to the City of Brotherly Love.