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Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Washington Post: Boswell: Harper Has Come Of Age When It Mattered Most

The Legend grows:

Since Manager Davey Johnson called a team meeting in Miami on Aug. 29 with the club mired in a five-game losing streak, which player had done the most to help the team right itself and go on a solid 19-13 run to end up with the division title? Gio Gonzalez was 5-1 with a 1.34 ERA. Ryan Zimmerman had 27 RBI. Ian Desmond hit .333 and fielded brilliantly. Drew Storen was lights-out: 1.17 ERA in 17 games. Adam LaRoche hit nine homers.

But the Nats were not surprised to learn that the best offensive player in the game from Aug. 29 until now was on their team, leading MLB in that span in runs, extra-base hits and on-base-plus-slugging percentage (1.106) with 10 homers. The teenager.

The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 03, 2012 at 07:40 PM | 26 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hall of fame, washington nationals

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   1. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: October 04, 2012 at 08:35 AM (#4253551)
So, according to WAR, Harper had the best teenage season ever, by a good margin. WAR loves the kid's defense (14 Rfield): it's the best by a 19-year-old since Al Kaline (19 Rfield in '54). A-Rod, Kaline, Ott, Cobb and Mantle all exploded as 20-year-olds; will Harper be next?
   2. GregD Posted: October 04, 2012 at 09:13 AM (#4253575)
If this is the launching pad for next year's explosion, woo boy are we in for some fun.

I always am interested to be reminded how well Claudell Washington does on those lists of super-young players. Not Harper level well, of course, but still.
   3. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 04, 2012 at 09:22 AM (#4253588)
I meant to post this, mainly because of this

This is the real time-to-put-up deal. In this span when Harper was slugging .699 and hitting .341, the Angels’ 20-year-old star, Mike Trout, hit .269 with just nine RBI as his team eventually was eliminated.


I'd love a good Harper/Trout Mantle/Mays fight.
   4. zack Posted: October 04, 2012 at 10:08 AM (#4253635)
That line in #3 is real crap though, selective endpoints, quoting RBI from a leadoff guy and blaming Trout (who saved the Angels season almost personally) for them not making the playoffs.

I was sure Harper was going to be a super-duper star from the first time I heard about him so I'm happy to see him backing me up, though.

Tracing I don't get the exact numbers Boswell mentions, from 8/29 through 10/3:

Harper: .341/.407/.690
Trout: .276/.387/.465

Not exactly killing the team.
   5. NJ in DC (Now with Wife!) Posted: October 04, 2012 at 10:41 AM (#4253674)
Who would you rather have...Harper or Trout?
   6. The Good Face Posted: October 04, 2012 at 10:48 AM (#4253690)
Who would you rather have...Harper or Trout?


Harper. A year younger and his game is less dependent on speed; a guy stealing 50 bases a year is a greater injury risk than a guy who only runs half that much.

Also, how do you top a 10 WAR season? There's a pretty good chance we've already seen Trout's career year.
   7. jack the seal clubber (on the sidelines of life) Posted: October 04, 2012 at 11:18 AM (#4253748)
I'm biased, but I would give Harper the slight edge. You can't miss with either; I think in the long run Harper will have considerably more power, and will improve against LHP.
   8. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 04, 2012 at 11:22 AM (#4253754)
That line in #3 is real crap though, selective endpoints, quoting RBI from a leadoff guy and blaming Trout


of course it is, it's a hometown guy picking a fight
   9. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 04, 2012 at 11:23 AM (#4253758)
Harper has just exceeded my wildest expectations. He's turned into a real good CF, he's got an absolute cannon for an arm, and he can hit anything a mile. Great fun/
   10. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: October 04, 2012 at 12:03 PM (#4253819)
There's a pretty good chance we've already seen Trout's career year.

Kaline never really topped his age 20 season, either, but he played in 18 All-Star Games (in 15 seasons).

Harper is only the eighth player in history to hit double digits in Rbat, and three of them were in 1884. The other four: Cobb (1906), Ott (1928), Tony C (1964) and Cedeno (1970).
   11. Spectral Posted: October 04, 2012 at 12:42 PM (#4253885)
I'm a pretty big homer, but I'll take Harper. I think the bulk of his skills are more repeatable than what Trout did this year, as he didn't have a crazy high BABIP (yes, I realize this is repeatable, but it's highly variable), his walk rate was basically the same as Trout's, his ISO was only a touch behind, and he's a year younger, which could matter quite a bit. Additionally, from a purely subjective standpoint, I think Harper just looks more like a hitter that's likely to have a career of consistent 40 HR type power than Trout. This isn't to take anything away from Trout, but Harper's power looks so effortless and natural that it's hard to imagine him not slapping up a decade or more of ~.600 SLG. Also, subjectively, it was amazing to watch him go through that slump then look like he figured it out. The September Harper looked like what I think the "real Harper" will be (although that .340 batting average isn't sustainable).
   12. Tippecanoe Posted: October 04, 2012 at 01:20 PM (#4253962)
I love, love, love me some Bryce Harper, but saying you'd take him over Trout is illogical. Harper can develop beautifully, put in a fantastic 115 WAR career, be a three-time MVP, go in on the first ballot, and never reach the performance level that Trout has already demonstrated. Trout, on the other hand, doesn't need to improve at all and he's Willie goddammed Mays.

Regarding the injury projection, who knows? If you're really clairvoyant about athlete injuries, you should be making millions.
   13. The Good Face Posted: October 04, 2012 at 01:58 PM (#4254069)
and never reach the performance level that Trout has already demonstrated. Trout, on the other hand, doesn't need to improve at all and he's Willie goddammed Mays.


But that's kind of my point. Not only do I think Trout will not improve, I think he'll be worse going forward than he was in 2012. That doesn't mean he can't still be a superstar and have a no-brainer HOF career, but NOBODY routinely puts up 10 WAR seasons in the modern game. Barry Bonds has a legitimate case for best player of all time, and he only pulled it off 3 times in a long career, and those were his Balco Super Steroid Barry years. Alex Rodriguez has done it once. Albert Pujols has never done it. Unless you're convinced Trout will be the best player in the history of the game, you shouldn't expect 10+ WAR seasons as his baseline.

Regarding the injury projection, who knows? If you're really clairvoyant about athlete injuries, you should be making millions.


Nobody's a prophet, but you play the percentages. Stealing bases opens players up to injuries, and the more you steal, the more opportunity for injury.
   14. with Glavinesque control and Madduxian poise Posted: October 04, 2012 at 02:09 PM (#4254096)
Barry Bonds has a legitimate case for best player of all time, and he only pulled it off 3 times in a long career, and those were his Balco Super Steroid Barry years. Alex Rodriguez has done it once. Albert Pujols has never done it. Unless you're convinced Trout will be the best player in the history of the game, you shouldn't expect 10+ WAR seasons as his baseline.


Sure, you can't expect it as a baseline, but we know he's capable of it. We know that Trout /can/ put out a ten WAR season. As you highlight, Pujols never did it, and few of the greatest players ever did it. Very few players ever have been so good that if everything goes well, they can put up ten WAR. Trout is one of those players. That fact means he can get a lot worse and still be better than if Harper takes a serious step up next year.
   15. Cowboy Popup Posted: October 04, 2012 at 02:26 PM (#4254144)
Additionally, from a purely subjective standpoint, I think Harper just looks more like a hitter that's likely to have a career of consistent 40 HR type power than Trout.

I think Trout is going to do that too. He hit a HR in Comerica this year, opposite field, that looked like it might go out off the bat and then simply kept sailing and sailing. I think it ended up near 440 ft and was the second longest opposite field HR of the season at the time.

I feel like these guys have the same amount of talent everywhere except that Trout is one of the fastest guys in the game, if not the fastest. I'll take Trout.

   16. Spectral Posted: October 04, 2012 at 02:52 PM (#4254208)
I've got to say, I love that this is a conversation worth having. There really haven't been two guys that came up at the same time with this kind of ceiling since Mays and Mantle, and that's just plain amazing.

I don't think anything anyone's said in this thread about either guy is incorrect. I think it's an entirely reasonable thing to state that Trout's season was so good that it's possible (perhaps even likely) that Harper won't ever match it. That said, I think it's nearly as likely that Trout won't match it, as I think he had multiple things break right for him that I don't really think will be sustainable (at least not all at the same time) in seasons future.

Really, the argument for taking Harper hinges entirely on him being the best 19 year old ever and that making his potential effectively limitless. The counter to that is that Trout's basically the best 20 year old ever and that makes his potential effectively limitless. My money's on Harper, but it has more to do with subjective bias and plain ol' homerism than anything I can justify empirically.
   17. zack Posted: October 04, 2012 at 03:19 PM (#4254264)
The argument that Trout is more likely to hurt himself running makes no sense to me. Have you ever seen Harper play? He is downright reckless at times.

I also wouldn't be surprised if he has back issues if he isn't super vigilant about it, with that swing.
   18. Tippecanoe Posted: October 04, 2012 at 03:26 PM (#4254282)
Regarding the base stealing, is there solid evidence that base-stealers are less durable? Pierre, Damon, Ichiro, Bourne are modern guys who steal plenty without injury trouble. Also, Trout is going to be at 40 dingers very shortly, so they'll move him to third in the order and any effect will be blunted.

   19. Spectral Posted: October 04, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4254299)
The argument that Trout is more likely to hurt himself running makes no sense to me. Have you ever seen Harper play? He is downright reckless at times.


I agree with this. Both guys play with reckless abandon. Ah, to be 19 or 20 years old again. I suspect they'll both stop that a bit as they get a bit older and their managers insist on insanely good bats staying in the lineup.

I also wouldn't be surprised if he has back issues if he isn't super vigilant about it, with that swing.


During his recent power surge, it seems like he hasn't been swinging as deliberately hard.
   20. Ardo Posted: October 04, 2012 at 03:32 PM (#4254300)
Harper may already be better than Trout. He scares the *$)^*#^? out of me, and I'm glad he's on the NL side of the postseason bracket.
   21. Kurt Posted: October 04, 2012 at 03:38 PM (#4254314)
I agree with this. Both guys play with reckless abandon. Ah, to be 19 or 20 years old again. I suspect they'll both stop that a bit as they get a bit older and their managers insist on insanely good bats staying in the lineup.

Just keep them the hell away from Pedroia and Youkilis.

   22. spycake Posted: October 04, 2012 at 03:46 PM (#4254326)
I've got to say, I love that this is a conversation worth having. There really haven't been two guys that came up at the same time with this kind of ceiling since Mays and Mantle, and that's just plain amazing.


Sure beats the heck out of the Derek Bell vs. Phil Plantier debate from my childhood, that's for sure.
   23. The Yankee Clapper Posted: October 04, 2012 at 04:01 PM (#4254354)
Who would you rather have...Harper or Trout?

The (no fun) answer is that it is too early to tell. Harper had less than a month at AAA, and then produced one of the best age-19 seasons ever. That leaves a lot of us thinking he will step it up big time at age 20, perhaps like A-Rod or Trout. But he could also be like Phil Cavarretta, who was pretty good at age 18-19, but never really got much better (except during WWII when many MLB players were otherwise occupied). Similarly, until Trout does it again, can we really say whether 2012 was a career year or his general level of production?

I suspect both Trout & Harper are the real deal, and like Mantle & Mays, if you see one play regularly, you can't imagine that there's another player that's better.
   24. Chris Needham Posted: October 04, 2012 at 04:12 PM (#4254371)
How was Trout's injury history in the minors? He's got that big sorta linebacker's build... strikes me that that type is more susceptible to the occasional nagging injury just through normal in-season wear and tear.
   25. The Good Face Posted: October 04, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4254406)
Regarding the base stealing, is there solid evidence that base-stealers are less durable? Pierre, Damon, Ichiro, Bourne are modern guys who steal plenty without injury trouble. Also, Trout is going to be at 40 dingers very shortly, so they'll move him to third in the order and any effect will be blunted.


Most modern power hitters who are also good base stealers tend to steal much less after their early or mid 20s, even though they're still capable of it; their teams don't want them risking injury. A-Rod could have easily stolen more bases than he did, but the upside of a few stolen bases is relatively low, the downside of losing peak A-Rod's bat from the lineup is huge. Guys like Pierre or Damon lose a lot of value if they can't/won't steal bases; they don't do enough other stuff well to compensate, so they keep running as long as they can be effective doing so. I expect the Angels will taper Trout's basestealing down over the next few years; Trout is perfectly capable of being an MVP-level player stealing 15 bases a year.
   26. Bourbon Samurai Posted: October 04, 2012 at 04:44 PM (#4254430)
I will be interested to see Trout's aging curve since he basically looks like a 27 year old already. Harper still has that rangy 19 year old build.

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