3 Numbers To Remember With Jonny Heller

3 Numbers to Remember: Bryce Harper’s impressive first season in Philadelphia


Bryce Harper had an impressive first season in Philadelphia. (John Adams/Icon Sportswire)

There isn’t a really a better way to set high expectations for a player than to sign the biggest free-agent contract in baseball history. But after signing a 13-year, $330 million contract, Bryce Harper did just that.

For the most part, Harper’s 2019 season was a success. A hot August and September helped to make up for a lackluster first half, and Harper got his Phillies career started on the right foot.

Here are three numbers that detail Harper’s impressive 2019 season both at the plate and in the field.

Outfield Assists – 13

One of the biggest knocks on Harper prior to him getting his lucrative contract was his lack of an impact on defense. In 2018, he ranked as the second worst outfielder in baseball according to FanGraphs.

However, in 2019, Harper turned this around. His 13 outfield assists ranked second best in baseball behind White Sox outfielder Leury Garcia and were the highest total for a Phillies outfielder since Bobby Abreu had 13 in 2004. His fielding runs above average, a stat used to measure a player’s defensive impact, was ninth highest out of 53 qualified outfielders, according to FanGraphs.

Harper was an National League Gold Glove Award finalist due to his efforts in 2019. While he was brought to Philadelphia for his ability at the plate, he added plenty of value in the field in 2019.

Second half OPS – .941

Through the end of July, Harper was underwhelming at the plate. He wasn’t bad by any stretch, but his 16 home runs and .839 OPS at that point led to many believing that his first season as a Phillie would ultimately be a disappointment.

But, Harper caught fire in August. He smashed 11 home runs, including the biggest of his Phillie career in a walk-off grand slam against the Cubs on Aug. 15. He slowed down a bit in September but still maintained a .598 slugging percentage over the two-month span in what was the best stretch of his young Phillies career.

The Phillies started to crumble down the stretch, but that was no fault of Harper’s. He raised his season OPS by 42 points over the final two months of the season and catapulted himself to a solid statistical season in which he finished with 35 home runs, 98 runs and 114 RBIs, all of which led the Phillies.

Win Probability Added (WPA) – 4.6

WPA, which is defined by Baseball-Reference as “the change in probability caused by this batter during the game,” is used to measure how much a player directly impacts his team’s chance at winning a certain game. Harper’s total was good for seventh in baseball.

Harper’s aforementioned walk-off grand slam against the Cubs was just one example of his ability to change games. He crushed a walk-off double in July against the Dodgers, and showed time and time again an ability to impact the game during moments that mattered.

Harper’s first season in Philadelphia wasn’t perfect. He was never even mentioned in the National League MVP race, and was far off his career-best paces from his historic 2015 season. The Phillies won just 81 games.

But at the age of 27, Harper should just be entering his prime. And if his first season as a Phillie serves as any indication, the next 12 years will be special.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. John

    December 4, 2019 at 9:41 am

    Bullsh** He was really really bad for 5 out of the 7 months You write about how great his defense was….they don’t pay guys 30 million for defense. Sorry i’m not buying it. To justify this contract Harper should be hitting 40+ bombs and .280-.300 I’m not a Phillies fan (live in Michigan) but this was a really bad contract unless Harper miraculously starts performing like he did in 2015. Watching him up at the plate this whole season (until Sept) He had all kinds of unnecessary movement standing in the box and was behind on a lot of pitches in the zone. If i had to guess and this is just a guess….the biggest problem with Bryce Harper is in fact Bryce Harper. I don’t know the guy but you can’t tell me that his coaches weren’t suggesting some changes after he struggled the first few months. My guess is he refused to listen because he thinks he knows everything and doesn’t really listen to his coaches. If you look at his stance in the box it’s obvious his improvements were due to changes he made (sept, Oct). He is uber talented but he needs to worry less about looking like the “Hulk” (weight lifting) and worry more about baseball fundamentals. If when hitting the ball all that mattered was strength you’d see Arnold Schwarzenegger hitting 50 hrs in his prime. He needs to cut out getting huge in the gym and worry about flexibility, reaction time, putting the bat on the ball etc. Look at Christian Yelich, Cody Bellinger….you don’t have to be a beef cake to hit lots of HR’s.

    • schmenkman

      December 5, 2019 at 12:19 am

      Mar/Apr… .878 OPS, 124 wRC+
      May……. .811 OPS, 107
      June…… .825 OPS, 117
      July…… .847 OPS, 119
      Aug…… 1.025 OPS, 157
      Sept…… .912 OPS, 128

      So. Which are the months that you consider “really bad”?

  2. schmenkman

    December 5, 2019 at 8:56 am

    @John, which are the months that you consider “really bad”?

    Mar/Apr… .878 OPS, 124 wRC+
    May……. .811 OPS, 107
    June…… .825 OPS, 117
    July…… .847 OPS, 119
    Aug…… 1.025 OPS, 157
    Sept…… .912 OPS, 128

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