Bryce Harper’s first year with the Phillies is complete. Although the team struggled, Bryce did not, posting some ridiculously good numbers in 2019.
When looking back on Bryce Harper’s first year with the Phillies, I could go a million different directions. Ticket numbers, jersey sales, the excitement, his massive contract, etc. However, for this specific review, I’m going to look at simply what Harper produced on the baseball field and what to expect from our 330 million dollar superstar in 2020.
Harper was phenomenal swinging the bat this season; there’s no other way to put it. He set a career-high in RBIs with 114, hit the most homers he’s had since 2015 (35), walked 99 times, launched 36 doubles, stole 15 bases and finished with an OPS of .883. Despite the general criticism on his batting average, he saw his avg go UP 11 points from last season (.249 to .260). Feel free to dissect his stats any way you feel pleased; Harper had a great year as a run-producer and overall batter.
Harper had more RBIs than Mike Trout, more doubles than Cody Bellinger, a higher on-base percentage than Josh Bell, fewer strikeouts than Acuna Jr., and a higher OPS than Michael Brantley. Despite all the hate, he got from opposing fans around the league, when compared to some of the top players in baseball, Harper was right up there with them. According to the WPA formula (win probability added), Harper ranked as the 5th best player in all of baseball. When it comes to +WPA (an adjusted version of that same formula), Harper was ranked first.
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The Phillies signed Harper to drive in runs, something the organization had been starved of for close to a decade now. With that said, Harper is the first Phillie with 100+ RBIs since Philly legend Ryan Howard did it back in 2011 (116). On top of that, Harper is the first Phillie to have 100+ RBIs AND 35+ homers since Howard exploded for 45 and 141 way back in 2011.
In just one season, Harper has already established himself as one of the greatest Phillie batters of the 2000s.
We all knew he could hit, but Harper’s defense in 2019 was an incredibly pleasant surprise. After being labeled as a “bad defender” by most throughout 2018, Harper committed to improving his defensive capabilities over the offseason. One hundred sixty-two games later and he’s found himself being talked about as one of the best defensive corner outfielders in the MLB.
Harper’s absolute cannon of an arm has been on display all season long, as he ranks first in the entire National League in outfield assists (13). His ability to throw people out has been so impressive this season that opposing team’s have seemingly taken note, with multiple third base coaches opting to not test his arm late in the season. One play that stuck out to me this year was when Harper threw out Robles at third from the warning track, freaky stuff. If Harper continues this type of defensive development, I see no reason for there to not be a Gold Glove in his future.
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Harper is a relatively quiet individual; you’ll never see him yelling at teammates or attempting to fire up the clubhouse. With that said, he leads by example. Harper was the embodiment of clutch this season, stepping up as the Phillies sole leader time and time again. We all remember his walk-off double against the Dodgers and his surreal grand slam winner against the Cubs. But, what may have gone unnoticed is just how ridiculously consistent Harper was when the Phillies needed someone to get a big hit.
According to FanGraphs, Bryce Harper was ranked as the third most clutch hitter in the entire NL.
Fangraphs’ “clutch formula” is mainly calculated based off how a player performs in situations with runners on base. Harper’s high ranking makes a whole lot of sense when you see he rocked a .357 batting average with RISP, good for 7th best in the majors. The Phillies new superstar did precisely what a superstar is supposed to do, deliver in the big moments.
Back on the 22nd of September, broadcaster and baseball legend Alex Rodriguez went on the record in saying he predicts Harper will have an even better 2020 season. A-Rod cited his own experiences, noting how “settling in” to a city plays a factor in how one performs. Harper embodies Philadelphia, he’s embraced the city and pulled fans back in by the thousands with his electric performances. If the ex-Yankee is anything close to right with his prediction, boy are we in for a treat. If the Philly front office takes this offseason seriously and surrounds their franchise star with a better supporting staff, the possibility for an even better 2020 season for Harper is exceptionally likely.