BY: Jason M. Sanin
As Major League Baseball nears the completion of the second month of its 2015 season, two players have established themselves as the game’s elite home run hitters. Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals and Nelson Cruz of the Seattle Mariners have made it through difficult situations to sit atop the home run leader boards with 18 home runs each to give them a nice lead over the rest of baseball’s batters, making them the favorites to finish with the most home runs in the eyes of baseball betting experts.
For Harper, the road to the top of this season’s home run list was one marked by several injuries early in his professional career. Known for his unbelievable power before he even reached age 18, Harper failed to make it through several seasons with his health in tact. However, he’s done a good job of keeping himself on the field this year, making pitchers pay with a sky high home run total.
What’s worked for Harper this year is taking advantage of outside pitches. So far this season, every single one of his 18 home runs have come on pitches from the middle of the strike zone to the outside of it. As a result, pitchers may be forced to start pitching Harper further inside, which could set him up for even more success given that Harper’s bat speed is good enough to turn on inside pitches in time to hit those out of the ballpark as well.
Nelson Cruz, meanwhile, has dealt with his reputation being tarnished prior to this year. Cruz’s past includes a 50 game suspension for the use of performance enhancing drugs, a suspension that will forever make him a cheater in the eyes of baseball fans who value the purity of the game over home run totals. And beyond just the reputation damage that such a suspension brings, spending that much time away from the game forces a player to lose his rhythm, which must be found upon their return.
For most, dealing with a long suspension would be enough to hurt a hitter, but Nelson Cruz has also had to deal with switching ballparks, which has made his home run total even more impressive. Cruz joined the Seattle Mariners this season, who play in Safeco Field, which has a reputation for being one of the worst stadiums in all of baseball for hitters to succeed in. In previous years, the Mariners have spent big money on free agent hitters, only to have them fail to replicate the successes of previous years on other teams. Because of this move, many tipsters wouldn’t have predicted Cruz to have done as well as he has this season.
Bryce Harper and Nelson Cruz find themselves with 18 home runs through two months of the 2015 Major League Baseball campaign, 4 ahead of their nearest competitors. With so much time left in the season, it’s definitely possible that they’ll be overtaken by another prolific hitter. However, after beating several challenges to get to where they currently find themselves, one would think that a challenge from some of baseball’s best players won’t get in their way.