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Is Bryce Harper having a “good” season?

Harper’s had a lot of good moments so far in 2019, but has his season been “good?”

Philadelphia Phillies v Kansas City Royals Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images

Bryce Harper has had some very good moments here in the 2019 season, and his contributions have helped the Phillies jump out to a 23-16 record and a three-game cushion in the NL East. He is perhaps the team’s most important player, and the Phils are counting on him to help carry the club through a pennant race as the days tick on.

But can we say the Harper has had a “good” season?

It all depends on your definition of “good.” Harper’s presence in the lineup appears to have taken some of the pressure off Rhys Hoskins and there are intangibles that he brings to the table that help increase his value. But some of his numbers are flat-out bad.

His .229 batting average is obviously abysmal. Among qualified NL hitters, Harper’s average is is tied for 68th out of 87 players. But while average is not a statistic that should be ignored, on-base percentage is a better indicator of value, and his .376 OBP is 16th in the NL. In other words, only 15 players in the National League have made outs in fewer of their plate appearances than Harper has, and his walk rate of 17.9% is tops in the National League.

Despite his slump, Harper continues to have quality at bats and is getting on base in front of a lineup that features Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Odubel Herrera, Cesar Hernandez and Maikel Franco. And while his wRC+ of 121 (tied for 31st) is certainly not what everyone was expecting when he signed his mega deal with the Phillies this off-season, it is well above average and it would be unfair to say he’s been “bad.”

But has he been “good?” I say YES.

Harper’s on-base ability has helped make up for his 29.5% strikeout rate (7th-highest in the NL), and he is still an extremely dangerous weapon in the middle of the order. One of his biggest weaknesses, fastballs over the plate, is not one I would expect to be a season-long problem. His heat maps in 2017 (numbers below indicate batting average/pitch)...

...and 2018...

...indicate throwing fastballs over the plate to get Harper out isn’t a great strategy. Unfortunately, this year, it is how pitchers have been getting him out.

That’s unlikely to continue.

On Episode 285 of “Hittin’ Season,” hosts Justin Klugh, Liz Roscher and talked more in depth about Harper’s season thus far and whether we think it’s been “good” or not, along with Jake Arrieta’s up-and-down 2019. Also, we talked about our most underrated uniforms, Cole Irvin’s big league debut, and a full recap of the Royals series from this weekend.


Is Bryce Harper having a "good" season?

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