What all this means is that Harper hit the ball as well as anyone in 2020. He ranked 15th in hard hit percentage and sixth in both barrels per plate appearance and barrels per batted ball event percentage. But a combination of what ballpark he was playing in, as well as defensive positioning and production against him, often left him on the unlucky side.
Bryce Harper hit the ball as well as anyone last season.
Want the SparkNotes explanation? These are all good signs for Harper and the Phillies, because sooner or later, he’s due for his actual numbers to more closely resemble his predictive stats. That’s a lot to digest, so I’ll leave you with just one more encouraging Harper stat.
Among players who had a minimum of 150 plate appearances last season, only three had an OPS above .950, a walk percentage above 15 percent, and a strikeout percentage below 20 percent. The list:
- Freddie Freeman (won NL MVP)
- Juan Soto (won NL Batting Title)
- Bryce Harper
At the end of the day, results are concrete and expected outcome data is just an evaluation tool. Harper didn’t have as good of a season as Freeman or Soto, or guys like Mike Trout, DJ LeMahieu or Jose Abreu, to name a few.
But these predictive stats are used to more accurately evaluate a player’s performance over time, to anticipate either progression or regression.
This Harper case study tells us two things: 1) he hit the ball better and more consistently than his actual numbers show, and 2) his expected outcome stats are an encouraging sign that he’s due for continued progression and more luck at the plate this season.
Whether you like advanced stats or not, they’re a big part of today’s game and are only growing in use, so they’re worth looking into.
And since these stats tell us Bryce Harper is about to ball out in his third season in red pinstripes, the Phillies and their fans should be excited.