A Frame by Frame Account of the Harper / Strickland Fight

Baseball can be a pretty boring game sometimes. A lot of standing around. Announcers filling air time with inane stories that have no relevance to the game. Some nose picking. But once in a blue moon the baseball gods grace us with a situation that allows testosterone-fueled, alpha-men to get their rocks off in physical confrontations. More often than not, these altercations involve a lot of milling about with little actual fighting, and basically serve as an excuse for the relief pitchers out in the bullpen to stretch their legs a bit. However, on rare occasions the stars align and we are graced with moments like yesterday’s Bryce Harper / Hunter Strickland fight, which was replete with helmet throwing, blind fist flailing and punches to the face.

For those who haven’t seen the fight yet, check out the full video here. To provide some context to the situation, the San Francisco Giants were hosting the final slate of a three game set against the Washington Nationals. The Giants were trailing the Nationals 2-0 in the top of the 8th inning when Hunter Strickland, a hard-throwing relief pitcher for San Francisco, plunked Bryce Harper, the Zeus of baseball and great hair, in the right buttocks with a 98 MPH fastball.

I would suggest watching the full minute-long video prior to conducting the annotated, frame by frame viewing below:

game score

Strickland is mid wind-up. Harper is priming his leg kick. Posey thinks the ball is going on the inside half of the plate. Take notice of the score and the inning. The Giants are trailing 2-0 in the top of the 8th. The guy on deck actually has a better OPS than Bryce Harper this year. All in all, probably not a situation where Hunter Strickland would intentionally put Harper on base.

harper just hit

So Strickland missed his location a little bit…or by like three feet. Did he do it intentionally? Tough to say. I decided to review Strickland’s previous four MLB plunkings to see if I could glean anything.

HBP #4: Jay Bruce on August 21, 2016

Ironically enough, Strickland’s previous beaming occurred in a game at AT&T Park where the Giants were losing 2-0. He also missed his fastball location horribly, drilling Jay Bruce in the upper ribs, which is a much worse place to get hit than the ass. Bruce took the 99 MPH fastball like a man and walked to first, even though it appears like he’s about to keel over at the 18-second mark.

HBP #3: Stephen Piscotty on June 5, 2016

One thing is becoming clear…when Strickland hits someone, it freaking hurts. Strickland didn’t miss his location as badly on this one, just nicking Piscotty in the elbow, but boy did Piscotty wince in pain. This 98 MPH fastball was the only pitch Strickland threw in the game, as he was lifted for lefty Javy Lopez to face the lefty-hitting Matt Adams.

HBP #2: Todd Frazier on September 15, 2015

Couldn’t find a video for this one, but a picture is worth a thousand words. Given that Frazier is a righty, and given the look on his face, I’m assuming that he was hit by one of the 15, 96-98 MPH fastballs thrown by Strickland that day and NOT one of the two, 86 MPH sliders.

HBP #1: Matt Kemp on June 25, 2015

No video or pictorial evidence on this one. However, I am going to go out on a limb and assume that the right-handed Kemp was hit by one of Strickland’s fastballs, which he threw 77% of the time on this day and which averaged 97 MPH.

So what did we glean from all that? Somehow, four other players took Strickland fastballs to various parts of their bodies and managed to not charge the mound. Jay Bruce looked like he almost died and didn’t say anything. Toughen up Harper.

harper hit

Immediately post plunking. You can tell Harper is pissed. Now, while I think Harper is being a bit over-dramatic here, I would like to point out the location of the baseball. See the the Oracle sign with the red background on the right? The ball is covering the lower right part of the ‘R’. That’s a good 12 feet from where Harper was hit, and it travels another three or four before hitting the ground. You don’t get that kind of distance on the ricochet without inflicting some damage on the target. With that said, an ass-cheek bruise isn’t the worse thing in the world.

bat flip.PNG

What’s going on with that bat flip? You bat flip after hitting a monstrous dong, not after getting plunked in the butt. Maybe Harper was just mad about being 0-3 on the day? Simmer down Bryce.

harper wind up

The wind up…

harper release

…and the pitch is just a bit outside.

The ironic thing in all of this is that Harper was so mad about Strickland’s lack of ability to control his throw, yet Harper uncorked one of the worst throws seen on live television since 50 Cent threw out the first pitch at a Mets game. No one likes a hypocrite Bryce.

pre collision

Now the real hilarity begins. San Francisco players are labeled with a red ‘S’ while Washington players are designated with a blue ‘W’ (Harper is the ‘W’ in the middle of the picture). Fair to say the Giants players are overreacting a bit in their desire to enter the middle of the fray. Notice how Mike Morse, the San Francisco player directly to the left of Harper, and Jeff Samardzija, the San Francisco pitcher with the black fleece, are about the collide.

collision aftermath

collision aftermath2

And boom! The force of teammates Morse and Samardzija running into each other knocks them both to the ground and sends Samardzija’s hat flying. Although they were both hoping to help Strickland fend off Harper, they simply ran into each other at full speed, taking both of themselves out of the fracas. Also, instead of getting at Harper, they take out Harper’s teammate Daniel Murphy at the knees, while Harper walks away unscathed.

Also, I apologize for my poor MS paint penmanship.

werth jesus.PNG

Jesus, is that you?

hold me back

Fair to say Strickland was pretty hot and bothered. He may or may not have thrown at Harper intentionally, and he subsequently had a batting helmet hurled at him and received a couple good shots to the moneymaker. But seriously, pull it together. I count eight Giants personnel holding you back. Player #3 is even picking your leg up in an attempt to help carry you off the field, much like how my parents would carry my four-year old self out of a restaurant in the midst of a temper tantrum. Timeout for you Hunter.


After all that, what’s my take? Harper is a whiny baby. Strickland needs to get his fastball under control, because that thing is a deadly weapon. He should also attend some anger management classes. Jeff Samardzija and Michael Morse are those drunks guys at the bar who bump into people looking for a fight. And Jayson Werth continues to have the best flow in baseball.

3 comments

  1. Anonymous · · Reply

    So fun to read. Who new that baseball facts could be scintillating. Love the amusing focus on the game.

    Like

  2. Charlie Gerli · · Reply

    Amusing. A good old fashioned donnybrook with punches being landed. I sure hope the Yankees don’t go after Bryce Harper

    Like

  3. This is the quality #content that Fungraphs has been lacking.
    The narrative was at least there for Strickland to plunk Harper intentionally, after Harper took Strickland deep TWICE in the NLDS, and did a 80-grade bat drop after the 2nd bomb.

    Like

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