Monday, June 27, 2016


The sequel is never as good as the original.  Whether in the cinema world or coming off a career-year in fantasy baseball, the follow up product is never quite as impressive.  Such has been the 2016 season of Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper who entered into the year as the 2015 MVP when he put up video game-like numbers that were highlighted by 42 home runs, 118 runs scored, 99 RBI, and a crazy .330 average that fell a point short of the batting title.  All at the age of 22 we might add.  While saying it was a career-year is kind of weird considering how young he remains, the fact of the matter is that Harper's production had him as a firm challenger to Mike Trout as the number 1 pick for 2016 drafts. 

Fast forward to present day and needless to say those who took Trout at the top have no regrets.  With opposing pitchers coming up with new approached to dealing with Harper and with the slugger starting to chase pitches out of the zone with regularity, he goes into a big series with the New York Mets on Monday with an ugly .249 batting average.  Harper has hit 15 home runs but his pace is quite a bit off his pace from 2015.  As we always do, let;s dig into the numbers and find out what is going on.

First let's get to the walks.  Harper got the Barry Bonds treatment during his blockbuster 2015 campaign, walking in 19.0 percent of his at-bats.  Harper openly bristled about all the walks and spoke about how tough it is to lay off pitches when he is not allowed to swing.  2016 has seen a slight uptick in walks as well as that number is now at 19.4 percent and Harper seems to be chasing now in showing his impatience.  Harper's swings outside the strike zone have shot way up and that has helped quite a bit in shooting down the batting average and also given opposing pitchers the idea of not throwing down the middle in knowing he will chase.  That has hurt the home run total in turn as Harper is not getting anything to drive and when he swings outside the zone, they are mostly line drives or foul balls.  This is a big factor as Harper's K rate has actually gone down and quite a bit from 2015's 20.0 percent to this season's 16.8.  In addition, Harper's BABIP has been in the unlucky territory all season as it sits at a very low .250.  Consider that Harper's BABIP last season was .369 and .352 in 2014.  This is a huge disparity and the .250 mark looks like a major outlier that will be corrected soon.  That means the average will shoot way up from this point onward as the luck evens out.  This is even more likely when you see the K rate is down. 

On the positive side, Harper has stolen 9 bases to help make up for the average hit after he took only 6 all of 2015.  The 15 home runs again are not terrible but also far from what we expected from Harper with regards to his pace.  When the BABIP luck starts to even out, count on more of those drives clearing outfield fences. 

When you put it all together, Bryce Harper will be just fine this season and likely will achieve most of his first round value outside of a dip in home runs.  The guy is ridiculously talented and you can only hold that kind of talent down for long before the numbers start piling on. 

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