Looking at Harper’s struggles and some All-Star numbers

Is it a little strange to anyone that the team with the best record in the National League doesn’t have a single position player in the top three in All-Star voting as his respective position?

Obviously, the Nationals’ pitching is what has carried them to a 42-30 record and a 3.5-game lead in the NL East. That goes without saying at this point.

Stephen Strasburg and Gio Gonzalez will both almost certainly make the All-Star team and there’s a slim chance a Nationals reliever does, as well.

But it’s very possible that the National League All-Star squad will not have a position player representing its best team (as of this morning). And as of yesterday, no one in the Nats’ clubhouse finds his name on the three player depth chart at each position.

Ian Desmond probably deserves consideration for the All-Star team. The shortstop is now hitting .272 with 11 homers and 38 RBIs on the season. He leads major league shortstops with 33 extra-base hits and is tied with the Orioles’ J.J. Hardy for second-most homers among shortstops.

Desmond has made handfuls of sparkling defensive plays and has played all but one game this season. He’s nowhere in the top three among NL vote-getting shortstops, however, as Rafael Furcal, Troy Tulowitzki and Starlin Castro rank 1, 2 and 3 at the top of that list.

Adam LaRoche got off to a scorching-hot start to the season and still leads National League first basemen with 15 home runs. His 47 RBIs also are tied for the most among NL first basemen, but Joey Votto (.353, 14 homers, 47 RBIs, 1.121 OPS) is just blowing everyone else out of the water in the first half of the season.

Votto is running away with the first base voting, nearly tripling the number of votes of Lance Berkman (4.4 million to 1.5 million), who ranks second among NL first basemen.

That leaves Bryce Harper, who isn’t on the All-Star ballot because he started the season at Triple-A. Harper has really struggled of late, posting a slash line of .188/.250/.250 over his last 12 games. In that time, he has three extra-base hits, just one RBI and 15 strikeouts to just four walks.

For a guy who prides himself on plate discipline, Harper’s had a rough go of it lately.

He’s allowed pitchers to expand the zone against him, and has been flailing at pitches way off the plate, especially against lefties. We’ve seen very few of those long, battling Harper at-bats lately, and much more early swinging and waving at offspeed stuff away.

This run has dropped Harper’s batting average nearly 30 points to .278 and his OPS nearly 100 points to .837 over the last two weeks. It’s also delivered a hit to his All-Star hopes.

Harper could still get a push from the players’ vote and if the league office includes him in The Final Vote, he could ride his popularity to the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City.

Before that all works itself out, however, I’m sure Davey Johnson would like to see Harper settle down a bit, regain some of that patience which Harper showed early on in his major league career, and force pitchers to come to him. It’s then that we could see those numbers start to peak again, and if Harper does make the All-Star team, it could happen at the perfect time for him to put on quite a show.

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