Harper has batted third in 38 of his 43 games with a .290 average, 11 home runs and 22 RBI.
The rest of the Nationals hitting in the No. 3 hole are a combined 46-for-161, with seven home runs and 23 RBI.
That's not a horrific stat line, but the Nats need more out of the No. 3 hole.
So, why is Harper the best fit at No. 3 for a struggling Nats offense?
Righty, Lefty, Righty, Lefty, Righty
When you slot in Harper into the No. 3 spot, the lineup is much more balanced.
From No. 1 to No. 6, it alternates between lefties and righties.
You start with Denard Span (lefty), then go to Jayson Werth (righty), Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, Adam LaRoche and Ian Desmond to round out the top six.
Pitchers can't get as comfortable against a balanced lineup, especially in late-game situations when lefty or righty specialists are null and void.
Not to mention when half of those six are on their games, there can be dangerous consequences.
Although he doesn't have a long history at hitting third (just this season), Harper is already showing he can put up better numbers there.
From the No. 2 hole, where he batted during the majority of last year, Harper has batted .270 with a .340 on-base percentage. Batting third, he's batting .285 with a .392 on-base percentage. He's also drawing more walks, which allows teammates behind him to do more damage.
In turn, Zimmerman is having a little more success batting behind Harper, batting 267 with two home runs and 19 RBI.
His average is 10 points less compared to batting third and he has five less home runs, but he's getting more opportunities to do damage.
We can't be certain on the affect Harper has on teammates in other parts of the lineup. But it's clear he is the key if the Nationals are going to catch the Atlanta Braves in the NL East.
Example in First Game Back
In the first game back Monday, the Nationals had a lot of success with the first six.
The Nationals were 8-for-25 with 10 RBI in a 10-5 win over the Milwaukee Brewers. Werth had five RBI from the No. 2 hole, while Harper hit a home run in his first at-bat.
So far, things are looking good for the Nationals.
As long as Harper stays healthy and in the No. 3 hole, the Nationals will be there come September.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!