Heading into Thursday’s game against the Atlanta Braves, Harper was mired in a 1-for-11 funk. For most mere mortal hitters, 1-for-11 doesn’t qualify as a slump. But for the reigning MVP, 10 outs in 11 at bats qualifies as a crisis situation. Beyond that, Harper had been stuck on 99 career home runs for -- perish the thought -- for four whole games.
The fact that Harper’s 100th career dinger, which flew out of Nationals Park on Thursday afternoon and made him the eighth youngest player in baseball history to reach the century mark, came off of Teheran should come as a surprise to no one.
For his career, Harper is now 12-for-27 with five home runs off Teheran. That is what's known in the baseball business as “really good.” How good? Consider this:
Harper’s .444 average off Teheran is his third highest against any pitcher (minimum 10 ABs).
His 1.587 OPS against the Braves’ righty is his best mark against any pitcher.
Using Harper’s 521 at-bats from last year as a gauge, if you extrapolate his career numbers vs. Teheran over a full season, he’d hit 96 homers and drive in 193 runs.
What makes those numbers even more impressive is that it’s not like Teheran is just some guy off the street. He’s a staff ace (even if it is Atlanta's staff) who finished top five in the 2013 Rookie of the Year voting and was named an All-Star the following season when his 1.08 WHIP ranked sixth in the National League.
And yet Harper terrorizes Teheran. Not only does he hit him hard, he hits him hard when he’s most hard-up for a hit.
Throughout the course of his young career, Harper hasn’t slumped very often, but when he has, Teheran has always been there to help him get off the schneid. In fact, of the five bombs that Harper’s launched off his division rival, all but one of them have been slump-busters. Check it out:
July 6, 2013 – Harper’s 39th career homer (second off Teheran), ends an 0-for-12 drought
Sept. 4, 2015 – Harper’s 87th career homer (third off Teheran), follows a 3-for-15 skid
April 4, 2016 – Harper’s 98th career homer (fourth off Teheran), he was 6-for-47 dating to 2015
April 14, 2016 – Harper’s 100th career homer (fifth off Teheran), snaps a 1-for-11 slump
And in case you didn’t hear, Harper’s hundredth wasn’t just a homer, but a grand slam, the first of his career. So of course it came off Teheran. Just like last week on Opening Day, when Harper began defending his MVP title by going deep in his first at-bat of the season off of you-know-who.
It’s gotten to the point now that the only thing more unbelievable than Harper’s numbers off Teheran is the fact that Teheran actually has the huevos to keep throwing strikes to Harper.
So kudos to him for that. And kudos to Harper for joining the century club at such a young age.
The next big milestone?
It’ll probably be his 1,000th hit. Either that or his 200th homer, both of which should come around the 2018 summer solstice. Knowing Harper and his flare for the dramatic, there’s a good chance they’ll come during the same at bat. And if you’re looking to place an early prop bet on who the pitcher of record will be, I have a suggestion.
(Hint: His name rhymes with Schmulio Schmeheran.)