Home > Sports > Bryce Harper and the Stats that Prove He’s For Real

Bryce Harper and the Stats that Prove He’s For Real

So how good is he?  Very good.  Not great because he’s only 19.  There is no telling what he’ll be four years from now but the potential is out of this world.  There is no doubt. Bryce Harper is a once-a-generation player.  Here are the stats from Baseball Almanac that prove it.

A lot of folks have run comparisons of Harper against other 19-year-olds in baseball history, but what I’ve done is compare him to the first full seasons of 15 other players, 14 of them in Baseball’s Hall of Fame (Ken Griffey Jr. isn’t eligible yet).  The age range is 19-24 years old.  For most of them, these are their rookie seasons.  For some, it’s their 2nd or 3rd year in the major leagues, but the earlier years were statistically insignificant.

In order to do this properly, I have projected from Bryce Harper’s 1st 100 at-bats to how he would perform if he played every single one of the remaining games of the season.  Here’s how Harper would do this year based on what he’s done so far.

Bryce Harper (projected though end of 2012 season):

Games

AB

AVG

OBP

SLUG

Triples

Homers

RBI

BB

SO

142

531

.287

.376

.525

15

21

58

74

100

So how does that stack up against the first full seasons of these 15 gentlemen?  (Babe Ruth is the oldest at 24 because he was a pitcher for his first few years; his stats are from his first season as a position player in 1919)

Player

Year

Age

Rogers Hornsby

1916

20

Babe Ruth

1919

24

Jimmie Foxx

1928

21

Mel Ott

1928

19

Hank Greenberg

1933

22

Ted Williams

1939

21

Willie Mays

1951

20

Mickey Mantle

1951

20

Ernie Banks

1954

23

Hank Aaron

1954

20

Frank Robinson

1956

21

Billy Williams

1961

23

Johnny Bench

1968

21

Eddie Murray

1977

21

Ken Griffey Jr

1989

20

In batting average, Harper is middle-of-the-pack, but better than Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Ken Griffey Jr., Hank Aaron, Ernie Banks, Johnny Bench and Billy Williams.

Rank

Player

Age

AVG

1

Jimmie Foxx

21

328

2

Ted Williams

21

327

3

Babe Ruth

24

322

4

Mel Ott

19

.322

5

Rogers Hornsby

20

.313

6

Hank Greenberg

22

.301

7

Frank Robinson

21

.290

8

Harper Projected

19

.287

9

Eddie Murray

21

.283

10

Hank Aaron

20

.280

11

Billy Williams

23

.278

12

Ernie Banks

23

.275

13

Johnny Bench

21

.275

14

Willie Mays

20

.274

15

Mickey Mantle

20

.267

16

Ken Griffey Jr

20

.264

In On-Base-Percentage (hits plus walks), it gets better.  Bryce Harper is ranked 6th, exceeded only by Frank Robinson (who had one of the best rookie seasons in history), Mel Ott, Jimmie Foxx, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.

Player

Age

OBP

1

Babe Ruth

24

.456

2

Ted Williams

21

.436

3

Jimmie Foxx

21

.416

4

Mel Ott

19

.397

5

Frank Robinson

21

.379

6

Harper Projected

19

.376

7

Hank Greenberg

22

.367

8

Rogers Hornsby

20

.364

9

Willie Mays

20

.356

10

Mickey Mantle

20

.349

11

Billy Williams

23

.338

12

Eddie Murray

21

.333

13

Ken Griffey Jr

20

.329

14

Ernie Banks

23

.326

15

Hank Aaron

20

.322

16

Johnny Bench

21

.311

In slugging percentage (total bases divided by at-bats), Harper is 5th behind only Jimmie Foxx, Frank Robinson, Ted Williams and Babe Ruth.

Player

Age

SLUG

1

Babe Ruth

24

.657

2

Ted Williams

21

.609

3

Frank Robinson

21

.558

4

Jimmie Foxx

21

.548

5

Harper Projected

19

.525

6

Mel Ott

19

.524

7

Billy Williams

23

.484

8

Willie Mays

20

.472

9

Eddie Murray

21

.470

10

Hank Greenberg

22

.468

11

Hank Aaron

20

.447

12

Rogers Hornsby

20

.444

13

Mickey Mantle

20

.443

14

Johnny Bench

21

.433

15

Ernie Banks

23

.427

16

Ken Griffey Jr

20

.420

Here’s how Harper ranks in these various categories against our list of 15 of the greatest players of all time.

At-Bats

6th

Homers

6th

Triples

1st

BB’s

3rd

Most K’s

2nd

Average

8th

On Base %

6th

Slugging %

5th

RBI

16th

Sixth in At-Bats means he’s established as an everyday player in his first season, and for a 19-year-old means he’s up there among the youngest day-to-day players in the history of the game.

Sixth in HR’s speaks for itself, but I suspect he’s got a better track record ahead of him on dingers as the weather heats up and he gets even more confidence and experience.

There’s no way he’ll end up as 1st on this list in triples.  But it does show his base-running aggressiveness.  Mickey Mantle was faster, timed at just over 3 seconds from the left-handed box at home running to first.  But as we all know, Harper just hustles- his aggression compensating for his good but not amazing speed.

Third in walks is a great stat that separates this young man from anyone before him at his age. Except Ted Williams.  Williams and Babe Ruth have more walks in their first full offensive seasons.  This means pitchers are already pitching around Harper and that he has a keen eye and tremendous discipline at the plate.  These are not the normal traits for a young player.  The only other 19-year-old on the list- the great Mel Ott- drew only 52 walks to Harper’s projected 74.

Yet he strikes out a lot, second only to Eddie Murray.  Harper still has a few holes in his swing or like his idol, Mickey Mantle, he swings hard; “swings violently” is the often used description.

He’s last in RBI.  But that’s not his fault.  He has to have runners on base.  It’s too early to tell if he’s lacking in the clutch component.

And, of course, these are just hitting stats.  There’s nothing here on his laser arm which only seems to throw to home, even at ill-advised moments, but as good as anything Roberto Clemente threw from the outfield.  These stats don’t measure his base-running aggressiveness which is memorable; from making lazy outfielders pay by legging out doubles, consistently advancing from first to third with less than two outs, to running ground balls into infield hits.  Oh, yeah, he stole home for his very first SB of his career.

His fielding is hilarious.  Playing all three outfield positions fearlessly, strange things happen to him out there.  Usually he overcomes every odd angle he runs to fly balls with sheer athleticism.  Or he can completely lose the ball in a grey sky with absolutely no clue where it’s headed.  Or he bobbles a hard-hit fly and it bounces off his mitt and he catches it again.  Or it falls out of his glove and he catches it with his bare hand.

Yes, The Kid is quite the adventure in every way you can think of.  Think of this.  If you ever get the chance to go see him- it will be the same as your grandparents or parents having gone to a ballgame to witness Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron or Ted Williams.  Except he’s a teenager.

This is once in your life.

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