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Bearcats in the Big Leagues: Harrison, Happ and HBPs

This week Harrison and Happ are both getting hits, just not in the same way.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at St. Louis Cardinals Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

Josh Harrison

A flurry of features have filled the internet over the last week about Harrison and his sudden propensity for getting hit by pitches. The reasoning behind this is justified. During his first six seasons, Harrison was hit 26 times by errant pitches. That includes a grand total of 16 over the last three campaigns. In 2017, he has already matched that second number, taking 16 offerings to the body rather than the bat. That number was helped along on April 18 when he was hit by a pitch in four-straight at-bats, twice against the Cubs and twice by the Cardinals. In the last week, he has been plunked five times. FIVE. TIMES. For context, Scott Schebler, who leads the Cincinnati Reds in HBPs, has been stung seven times all season, so Harrison’s elevated rate isn’t just a slight one. He leads the majors in this category by four and is one of only five players to have been hit at least 10 times.

While it may not be the most pain-free way to get on base, it has certainly helped Harrison in that regard. His current OBP (.369) would be the best he’s ever put together by a long shot. His previous career-high was set in 2014 and his career mark is .323, obviously aided by his work this season.

Those five HBPs he gutted through this past week helped make up slightly for a .185 batting average in his last 36 plate appearances. Although he hasn’t had many hits in that time, he did smash his ninth home run of the campaign. He is slashing .291/.369/.458 overall and has produced at a 121 wRC+ clip. So although his OBP has been inflated by HBPs, he is still hitting well enough to consider this a potential career year.

Ian Happ

Power has been at the forefront of Happ’s first jaunt through the majors. He has 10 home runs this season after hitting three during his last 34 plate appearances, which equates to a .367 isolated power reading. Those dingers were part of a fine week for the former Bearcat, who slashed .400/.438/.767 with a wRC+ of 207 during the span of eight games. Not only has Happ helped with the bat, he has also provided plenty of positional flexibility, spending time at all three outfield posts as well as second base this past week. That kind of work has made it easier for the Cubs to play without Ben Zobrist.

A fine week redirected Happ’s rookie campaign, as it is back on the upswing. Slashing .262/.338/.577, with isolated power beyond the realm of sustainability (.315), Happ has a wRC+ of 133 and is already threatening to reach starter level by fWAR measurements.

And, to keep in line with this week’s theme, he has only been hit by one pitcher. He recorded only three across five levels in the minors.

Connor Walsh

A fairly uneventful week for Walsh featured just one appearance against the Montgomery Biscuits. He did his part in that contest, limiting the Biscuits to just one hit and a walk over 2 13 innings of relief. He also struck out three batters along the way, even if Montgomery did win the game 8-2. The right-hander is now 1-2 with a 4.45 ERA and 35 strikeouts across 19 appearances (30 13 innings).

Walsh has been a stranger to the hit batsmen statistic this year, letting one get away only once. However, in his professional career he has hit 11 batters.

Ryan Atkinson

Atkinson is beginning to add upgrade points to his stamina meter, as his most recent start was the second in the last four in which he tossed at least seven innings. He was not spectacular in the latest affair, as he allowed three runs over seven innings, but that is still a quality start. In that outing, in which he faced the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Atkinson struck out six batters and was pegged for a home run in the second inning. He also struck out Jonathan Villar twice and did not give up a hit to Ryan Braun, as the two Brewers stars played in a rehab assignment. Atkinson has a 4.33 ERA in five starts for the Kane County Cougars this season and he is striking out nearly a batter per inning. He has only hit one batter with the Cougars, pushing his total since he signed with the Diamondbacks last summer to five.