This season has been a very different one for Pittsburgh Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison.
Following the offseason trade of Neil Walker, Harrison found a real starting opportunity for the first time in his major league career, getting the nod over at second base.
To start the season, the former super-utility man made great strides on offense and defense, proving to be a capable replacement for the beloved Pittsburgh Kid.
This season, Harrison is hitting .275 with four home runs and 55 RBIs in 124 games. He has already surpassed his career high in RBIs, which was set during his all star campaign in 2014.
Like the Pirates team as a whole, Harrison has endured a roller-coaster type season. The 29-year-old has slumped at times, but it seems as if he has finally found a way to be impactful in the Pirates lineup once again.
Monthly Ups and Downs for J Hay
Though many were in agreement that Harrison was more than worthy of the starting second baseman job, few were confident that he could start the season the way that he did.
After the opening two months of the season, the former National League All-Star was hitting at a .329/.363/.435 clip with two home runs and 25 RBIs in 170 at-bats through 47 games. He also compiled 17 multi hit games in that span and wreaked havoc on the base paths, stealing eight bases.
He was crucial early on in the season as the Pirates offense ranked as one of the best in baseball, something that many weren’t expecting to be a reality coming into the season.
Despite the early offensive success, Harrison was unable to maintain it for very long.
The month of June was far less kind to the Pirates veteran, as he hit only .198 with one home run and 10 RBIs in 101 at-bats through 26 games. He also dropped his season average from .329 at the beginning of the month to .280 by the end of it.
Harrison only compiled five multi hit games during the month, while being held hitless in half of his games played. He also lacked a sense of plate discipline, striking out 17 times and walking just twice.
Harrison’s struggles lingered as the calendar turned to July and his plate appearances decreased because of it. In 79 plate appearances, he hit just .213 with seven RBIs, 13 strikeouts and two walks.
While Harrison continued to search for answers on how to get out of his slump, Pirates utility man Adam Frazier was taking advantage of opportunities to play over at second base. The rookie made three starts at second base in July, going 6-for-14 with four doubles, one RBI and two walks.
Frazier went 12-for-36 (.333) with one home run, three RBIs, five doubles and six runs scored in 18 games (five starts) in the month of July.
In the month of August, it seemed as if Harrison returned to form. He hit .298, his highest average since May, with one home run and 13 RBIs in the month. He also struck out 19 times, more than any other month, but he did also compile more walks (six) than any other month.
August was a highlight month for Harrison as he compiled four three-hit games, including a four-hit game against the Los Angeles Dodgers on Aug. 14.
Harrison has continued that trend so far into the month of September. In two games against the Milwaukee Brewers, Harrison is 3-for-9 (.333) with one strikeout and one run scored. The three hits have all been singles, but it proves that he is simply capable of getting on base at a high rate once again.
Spot in Batting Order Making Difference
Harrison has hit everywhere in the Pirates lineup this season, but he has hit primarily out of the lead-off spot along with the sixth and seventh spots in the lineup.
When hitting out of the sixth spot in the lineup, Harrison has hit .200 with one home run and seven RBIs in 32 games. In 43 games out of the seventh spot, Harrison has arguably found his most success, hitting .307 with one home run and 24 RBIs.
Throughout his career, Harrison has his most experience hitting out of the lead-off spot in the lineup. He’s hitting .303 in 194 career games while leading off and holds a .302 average with one home run and 14 RBIs in 31 games out of the lead-off spot this season.
Harrison Making an Impact Once Again
Throughout the year, the struggles of Andrew McCutchen have taken most of the attention away from Harrison’s summer slump. However, it seems as if both players have recently been able to right the ship.
In his last seven games, McCutchen is hitting .290 with one home run and three RBIs. He has also struck out four times, walked once and compiled a .353 On-Base Percentage.
Harrison has also had some success in his last seven contests, compiling a .300 batting average with six RBIs and three stolen bases.
It is no secret that the Pirates are at their best when these guys are playing at a high level. Despite the recent five-game losing streak, both McCutchen and Harrison have done their part on the offensive side.
As most people know, Harrison is at his best when he is able to impact a game with his energy. He is a guy who has fun playing the game and plays a gritty style of baseball.
Whether it’s staying in a rundown and beating a throw or getting on base and driving runners in, Harrison is finally doing something he wasn’t doing in the month of June and July: making an impact.