A month ago, I published an article about Bryce Harper’s incredible performance at Citizens Bank Park in 2021. I suggested that this very well might be the greatest single-season offensive performance that CBP has seen since first opening its gates in 2004.
And now that the 2021 season is in the books, I can officially argue that it was the greatest offensive season at the Phillies current stadium. Let me just start with this:
Bryce Harper finished 2021 with a 189 wRC+ at home. It was the greatest offensive season in Citizen’s Bank Park history by wRC, wRC+, wOBA, OBP, SLG, & OPS. It ranked second in BB%, ISO, and third in AVG and Hard Hit%.— Leo Morgenstern (@morgensternmlb) October 6, 2021
41 XBH, 59 BB, and 74 wRC in only 303 PA. Absolutely unreal.
Here’s a link to the splits leaderboard I was using. I set the minimum plate appearances to 200 (although you can have a lot of fun if you set it a little lower – you’ll be impressed how good Kevin Frandsen was in 2012).
When I published the original piece back on September 9, 2021, Harper was pretty much neck and neck with some of the other greatest home seasons at CBP: 2007 Chase Utley, 2006 Ryan Howard, and 2010 Jayson Werth.
I argued that Harper’s season could be considered the best of all those great seasons because Harper had the lead in wRC+, but I also acknowledged that he was trailing in several other key categories and that his lead in wRC+ was pretty slim. I also acknowledged that it would be pretty tough for Harper to maintain his elite level of dominance. In other words, there was a case to be made that Harper was having the greatest offensive season in CBP history, but it wasn’t open-and-shut.
From the day I published the article until the end of the season, Harper played all 14 remaining home games. He hit .409/.574/.886 with a 259 wRC+. I was already in complete and utter awe of him, and somehow he managed to get even better. By the end of the season, his lead in wRC+ wasn’t so slim anymore.
Here are the top five seasons by wRC+ (min. 200 PA):
- 2021 Harper, 189 wRC+
- 2007 Utley, 172 wRC+
- 2010 Werth, 170 wRC+
- 2006 Howard, 158 wRC+
- 2004 Abreu, 157 wRC+
You’ll notice that Harper’s wRC+ is 17 ticks higher than 2007 Utley. It’s also 14 ticks higher than it was when I wrote the original story on September 9. Harper also managed to surpass Utley in wOBA, .462 to .458. That’s a small difference, but it’s a lot more significant when you consider that wOBA is scaled to the league average OBP in that season, and the league average OBP in 2007 was much higher than it was in 2021.
In actual OBP, Harper’s closest competitor is 2004 Bobby Abreu. Harper’s OBP was .464, and Abreu’s was .451. And perhaps most impressive of all is that Harper even managed to out-slug 2006 Ryan Howard. Harper finished with a .667 SLG, while 2006 Howard was at .656.
Looking at Harper’s rate stats, it’s pretty clear that when he was on the field, he was practically unstoppable. The only knock against Harper was his lack of plate appearances, which rate stats, by nature, do not take into account. Harper missed ten homes games this season, and it shows in his counting stat totals. While he ranks at the top in stats like OBP, SLG, and wRC+, he doesn’t rank so high in stats like hits, runs, home runs, and RBI.
However, he does rank at the top in weighted runs created, which is a counting stat. In fact, you could make the argument that it’s the ultimate counting stat, because it attempts to “quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs.” Harper may not rank at the top in any individual counting stat categories, but he does rank at the top in the one that aggregates every possible offensive contribution a player can make.
Harper’s 2021 season marked only the fourth time that a hitter has put up 70 or more weighted runs created in a single season at Citizens Bank Park. And take a look at how many plate appearances Harper had compared to the other guys on the list.
- 2021 Harper, 74 wRC (303 PA)
- 2006 Howard, 73 wRC (341 PA)
- 2004 Abreu, 73 (348 PA)
- 2006 Utley, 70 wRC (360 PA)
After looking at all of these numbers, I’m wholly convinced that this was the greatest offensive performance Citizens Bank Park has ever witnessed. I know there will always be those who argue for 2006 Ryan Howard and his 29 home runs or 2007 Utley who actually managed to lead the Phillies to the postseason. But having watched what Bryce Harper accomplished, despite a bad back, a near-deadly pitch to the face, and absolutely no help from the rest of his lineup, I don’t see how you can argue for anyone else.