Harrison Bader has continued his sorcery from the playoffs since his return to the lineup. The clutch home runs and hits just keep on coming. Will he continue to be the best hitter of all time? I will not rule it out! As of Tuesday afternoon, he is sitting at a 241 wRC+ through 22 plate appearances. His .476 ISO may or may not be unsustainable, but for now, we are having so much fun.
He helped keep the team competitive against Tampa Bay last weekend. Yes, they lost the series in a heartbreaking fashion, but with an injury-battered lineup, you can only come away from that series feeling better about the team when the health returns.
Bader is a key reason for that. He looks spectacular at the plate. His three-run game-tying home run was a perfect example of why we should bet on him being a legit above average hitter and potential All-Star caliber player. It was tough to distinguish whether playoff Bader was legit or not, but after seeing his start to the season, I’m banking on him being a five-win player assuming he maintains health. I’ll talk about the reasons why I’m feeling confident in him in the context of his great at-bat.
Pitch 1 (0-0 count)
I’m a nerd for great takes. Hitters need to have the mentality that they should be prepared to swing every single time. Now, that doesn’t mean they should swing, of course. However, if you train your body to be ready to pull the trigger at any time, then you’ll be in a better position to shoot your barrel no matter the speed. After Bader recognized the pitch was up, he rotated his torso quickly then decelerated it to a fast stop. The intent is there to do damage if the opportunity is there. With a run-scoring opportunity, hitters should be prepared to hit mistake pitches, because good pitchers don’t often give you more than one in at-bat. In the 1-0 count, Bader would continue the approach.
Pitch 2 (1-0 count)
Okay, I know this looks rough, but at least he took a good swing. You may be thinking; what the heck do you mean that was a good swing? To that I say, the mechanics were sound and he took an aggressive hack. Sometimes a hitter will realize mid-swing where a pitch like this is headed and will hesitate, leading to soft contact or a fall to the ground. Bader went fully in for it though, and only ended up with a 1-1 count.
Pitch 3 (1-1 count)
This was fantastic pitch, and it froze Bader. He has such great body control that he was able to still maintain an athletic position despite being fooled, but it’s quite clear he was fooled. Unfortunately for Garrett Cleavinger, his catcher moved his body all over the place and didn’t present this pitch properly. Quick aside, if you’re a catcher and you move your head, legs, and arm, you’re going to lose strikes. Anyways, this was a tough break for the Rays, as it put Cleavinger down in the count with the tying run up.
Pitch 4 (2-1 count)
Bader was sitting on this pitch from the get-go, and I was shocked to see Francisco Mejia set up for a fastball on this half. There are a few reasons why. First, Bader’s initial take indicated he was geared up for a meaty fastball. Second, his swing on the slider out of the zone proved even further that his eyes were set on the inner half. When you swing at a pitch like that, it’s because your eyes are locked in on a specific zone and the spin of the breaker fools you. Third, he was frozen on the curveball because he was sitting fastball! Every single pitch told the Rays’ battery that Bader wanted this exact speed and location. They didn’t realize, and they paid the price. Fantastic job by Bader to stick to his approach and let the pitcher come to him.