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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