When Bryce Harper steps to the plate in the first inning tonight, it will be his 2,000th regular season plate appearance with the Phillies. For some frame of reference, he’ll become the 109th player in Phils history to reach that number. The 108th was J.T. Realmuto earlier this year, and players with about that many included Manny Trillo, Rico Brogna, and Gregg Jefferies.
Of course there was also his spectacular postseason run of 71 PAs last Fall, but for this exercise we’ll focus on the regular season, and how his first 2,000 PAs compare to those of other Phillies. This will be a mixture of veterans acquired in trades or free agency, as well as young players who came up through the Phillies’ farm system.
The first thing anyone wonders about in this type of inquiry is home runs, and that’s where one figure stands head and shoulders above the rest:
This includes Ryan Howard’s rookie of the year season in 2005, and his monster MVP season with 58 home runs in 2006, as well as a very good 2007.
Unless Harper homers his first time up tonight, he’ll complete his first 2,000 PAs tied with Rhys Hoskins for 3rd most in Phillies history.
For overall hitting, below are the top 10 in OPS, and Howard leads in that as well. Bobby Abreu comes in second, with Harper third:
In addition to this being a mix of players at various stages of their careers, it’s also a mix of eras, some which were very different in terms of hitting environment and how much hitting was required to help your team win a game. This exercise is mostly for fun, and OPS is easy to calculate, but it’s important to acknowledge that the OPS may have meant different things depending on the era, so we have an approximate wRC+ as well to gauge that.
So for example Gavvy Cravath is not far ahead of Don Hurst in OPS, but they played in vastly different periods. Cravath’s .907 OPS in the dead ball era made him one of the best hitters of his time (53% better than average), while Hurst’s .893 made him somewhat above average in the pitching-poor era that he played in.
Hits per se aren’t Harper’s forte, and he ranks way down this particular list. The Phillies’ all-time leader in hits in their first 2,000 PAs is someone most of us have barely heard of, if at all.
Here’s the introduction from Johnny Moore’s SABR bio:
Johnny Moore’s one glimpse of fame, if it can be called that, is that he was the Cubs center fielder over whose head sailed Babe Ruth’s supposed called-shot home run in the 1932 World Series. Otherwise, it is hard to imagine a more completely forgotten yet outstanding player from any era than Moore. Even excellent recent histories of baseball in the 1930s, oral and otherwise, have completely omitted him.
Moore only lasted 1,993 PAs with the Phils before their cheap owner sold him to the minor-league LA Angels (they offered more money than any major league team did), and his major league career was effectively over. But over the time he was here, he hit .329 with an .827 OPS and an impressive 604 hits, more than any Phil has ever piled up in their first 2,000 PAs:
Richie Ashburn (543), Pete Rose (542), and Dave Cash (539) just missed the top 10.
Speaking of players most of us have never heard of, number two on the list also deserves a mention. Virgil Davis (listed by his nickname, “Spud”, until recently) was one of the best-hitting catchers of his day — his bio is worth a read.
Extra Base Hits
Back to a category Harper is known for, in Extra Base Hits he’s second only to Howard (and only back by three):
J.T. Realmuto (193) and Jayson Werth (191) are next, fyi.
Also included in extra base hits are doubles, and Harper has the third most:
Ryan Howard again has a wide lead here in RBIs, with Harper coming in 8th:
Finally, just to note who leads in some other categories...
Runs: 1) Dick Allen 327, 2) HARPER 315, 3) Chase Utley 304
Walks: 1) Bobby Abreu 303, 2) Mike Schmidt 302, 3) HARPER 299, 4) Hoskins 289
(Note, this is all from Baseball-Reference.com, where the game-by-game data starts in 1901, but if we were to go back to just before the turn of the century, leadoff hitter extraordinaire Roy Thomas would lead in both Runs and Walks. He had at least 371 runs and 330 walks in his first 2000 PAs.)