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Bearcats in the Big Leagues: Base Running Gets Some Love

Josh Harrison does some nifty things between first and home.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Pittsburgh Pirates Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Harrison

A few weeks ago we talked about fielding on BITBL. There’s another aspect of the game that doesn’t always get enough love and that is base running. Harrison is an excellent one, or at least a talented contortionist on slides.

This performance from Friday was another impressive base-running move from Harrison, who is getting more and more All Star consideration by the second. In his career, Harrison has been worth 12 base running runs above average, setting a career-high 3.5 in 2014 and 3.2 in 2016. He already has one this season despite only having six stolen bases. However, he has only been worth three career runs from base running according to baseball-reference, adding nothing to that total the last two seasons. What the numbers don’t calculate is Harrison’s do-whatever-it-takes effort, as evidenced by his slide from Friday night.

In that game, Harrison went just 1-for-5. He slashed .208/.269/.333 during the last six games with a home run and two RBI. However, he also struck out six times in 26 plate appearances and had his batting average drop below .300 for the season. He’s working an uphill battle to make the All Star Game because Daniel Murphy exists, so slow weeks like this won’t help, but we’re still watching Harrison have one of his best seasons.

Ian Happ

While Harrison had a slow week, Happ enjoyed a resurgence. His batting average had creept closer to the Mendoza Line when we last visited the former Bearcat, but he’s taken some steps back toward respectability with a .273/.333/.773 week. He launched three home runs and a pair of doubles in 25 plate appearances and continues to be a key part of the Chicago Cubs’ lineup. He also hit a home run on Sunday in the final part of a three-game series in his hometown of Pittsburgh. Happ is slashing .223/.316/.544 with eight home runs and 16 RBI at the MLB level this season. Despite that batting average, his power numbers have pushed him to a value of 0.6 fWAR, even if he has been a negative in base running.

Connor Walsh

Walsh has established himself as an important cog in the Birmingham Barons’ bullpen, but he’s still having trouble being lights out every time he steps on the mound. He threw one shutout inning on June 15 against the Jackson Generals. In his only other appearance of the week he struck out three batters in two innings, but he also allowed three hits and two walks as well as one earned run. Walsh is now sporting a 4.82 ERA across 28 innings, during which he has struck out a ton of batters (32) but also walked a bunch (24).

Ryan Atkinson

Atkinson is also piling up the punch outs, as we’ve seen all year. He had 17 combined in his last two starts, even if he wasn’t entirely perfect on the run prevention side. He was tagged for eight hits and two runs on June 11 against the San Jose Giants. Then, on June 16, he surrendered three runs on five hits in six innings. While those performances were not Kershawian, he did continue to flash electric stuff with the strikeouts, while consistently pounding the zone, with only one walk in 11 innings. He has 67 strikeouts compared to 23 walks over the last 10 games and is 5-4 with a 3.67 ERA in 68 23 minor league innings overall.