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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Washington Post: Boswell: Harper Poised To Join Elite Company

Is Harper better than Joe Hardy?

Let’s imagine what Harper, who had the best overall season of any teenager in big league history last year, might do if he has, say, one of the best 20 seasons of any 20-year-old.
. . .
Most projections for Harper put him into the wrong category: all ballplayers. Compared to everybody, anyone’s chances of being superb look dim. But what if we compare Harper to a more accurate peer group: No. 1 overall draft picks taken out of high school that played power positions? Since the 1977 draft, here is the list of just successes: Harold Baines, Darryl Strawberry, Griffey, Chipper Jones, A-Rod, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Mauer (three batting titles by 27). Justin Upton’s grade is “incomplete,” but he is a cautionary note for Harper fans. At 20, he was as good a hitter (per at-bat) as Harper at 19, but six years later, he isn’t any better.

When these No. 1 overall picks became established in the majors, they almost always got better dramatically. The younger they arrived, the more they improved. Who flopped? Only Al Chambers, Shawn Abner and mediocre Delmon Young, who hit .288 as a rookie at 21 but never got better.
. . .
The possibility of an outlandish season is far from outlandish.

The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 06, 2013 at 09:07 PM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: bryce harper, great baseball players, washington nationals

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Howie Menckel Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:43 AM (#4382580)
Is there some reason that we have to ignore all months in such young players?

has anyone done a study on whether 20-0s, 20-11s, 21-Os, and 21-11s muddy the waters at all?

Not a large sample size, but are we listing any player so boldly into categories that we risk overdrawn conclusions?

I don't know that we are, and it MAY all even out, but seems worth a look at least...

This one is "taken out of high school" but that risks giving extra initial credit to the many kids who get left back a grade for this very price point later (yes, it happens)

   2. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:46 AM (#4382667)
Bryce Harper is actually 37 years old. Suckers!
   3. Ron J2 Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:20 AM (#4382708)
#1 No reason, nobody I'm aware of has chosen that approach and I suspect the reason is just sample size.
   4. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 07, 2013 at 10:25 AM (#4382712)
Boswell is really annoying when he puts on his Nationals fanboy hat.
   5. Famous Original Joe C Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:09 PM (#4382811)
Boswell is really annoying when he puts on his Nationals fanboy hat.


He's not as bad a couple** of them we have here.


**Just a couple, most of them are not this way at all.
   6. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:41 PM (#4382847)
true
   7. winnipegwhip Posted: March 07, 2013 at 12:58 PM (#4382867)
“You know what’s pushing Harper,” said Johnson, who was third for rookie of the year in 1966, then improved the next season. “Mike Trout.”

Trout’s magnificent 2012 season has been mislabeled as “one of the greatest of all time.” It isn’t. He doesn’t even beat A-Rod, Ott or Williams for best season at 20. Most of the best hitters had a half-dozen seasons that were equal to or better than Trout. (We’ll argue later.)



Boswell's viewpoint of comparing Trout to Harper
   8. TJ Posted: March 07, 2013 at 03:57 PM (#4383044)
“You know what’s pushing Harper,” said Johnson, who was third for rookie of the year in 1966, then improved the next season. “Mike Trout.”

Trout’s magnificent 2012 season has been mislabeled as “one of the greatest of all time.” It isn’t. He doesn’t even beat A-Rod, Ott or Williams for best season at 20. Most of the best hitters had a half-dozen seasons that were equal to or better than Trout. (We’ll argue later.)


What benchamrk are you using , Boswell? HR? RBI? Batting Average? Whatever it is, I have to hazard a guess that you have no concept of what the phrase "adjusting for eras" means. I'm also guessing modern statistics aren't soemthing you tend to bother much with. But, since you called it out, here are the number of seasons the three legends you mentioned have posted a higher offensive WAR that Trout- Ted Williams 6, Alex Rodriguez 4, Mel Ott Zero. And none posted a higher oWAR than Trout did at age 20. So unless you expect baseball fans and students of the game to either judge your comment out of blind trust or to accept using non-adjusted raw stats, then no, Boswell, we won't argue later, because you don't have an argument to make.
   9. Spectral Posted: March 07, 2013 at 04:57 PM (#4383118)
It'd be kind of a dopey thing to do, but if I were inclined to make an excuse for him, I'd say he's referring just to hitting value. Trout produced 54 Rbat, Ott 61, ARod 58, and Williams 54. I don't think batting alone is a good definition for "best season at 20", but I suppose someone could say that Trout wasn't as good as those three at age twenty.

I'd agree with the claim that "most of the best hitters had a half-dozen seasons that were equal to or better than Trout" only if we were defining "best hitters" in an incredibly narrow fashion, such that it only included about five guys.
   10. Walt Davis Posted: March 07, 2013 at 06:29 PM (#4383263)
Yes, Boswell is just tilting the table. He's expressly referring just to "hitting." People who cite Trout as one of the best ever age 20 season are generally including defense and baserunning too.

I'm not sure how we get to Harper as best-ever age 19. Ott out-OPS'd him by 139 to 119 at age 19. Ott leads in Rbat 25-15. Harper does take the lead in WAR thanks to positional adjustment (same oWAR) and defense.

So now it looks like Boswell shifted the goalposts. In declaring Harper the best age-19 ever, he's taking a full-game approach. In declaring Trout not in Harper's league, he's taking a hitting-only approach. Using bWAR, even Bonds, Mantle and Mays had only two seasons each better than Trout's 2012. Ruth, 6 times, is the only player in history to lap Trout. The second youngest seasons on that list were Mantle and Gehrig at 24.

Unfortunately P-I doesn't let you search on oWAR even though I keep complaining. There probably are a good number of seasons that top Trout's 8.4 oWAR although I'll note that number is still slightly ahead of Mantle's age 23 season. Bonds didn't get to that level until age 27. Aaron topped it only twice in his career, first at age 25. Pujols hit 8.3 at age 23 and that's still his career high. I can't check all age 20s but Trout's 8.4 oWAR is well ahead of Williams, Mathews, Ott and Cobb at age 20. In fact, neither Mathews nor Ott ever reached 8.4 oWAR. If you restrict it just to Rbat, it's again Ott on top with 61 followed by ARod at 58, then Trout and Williams at 54, Kaline at 53 then a big gap to Mantle at 42. Interestingly, due to baserunning, Trout ekes out over ARod in oWAR and defense puts him well ahead in WAR.

It is fair to say that lots of players have had seasons as good or better than Trout's 54 Rbat (just not at age 20). Aaron did it 6 times, Bonds 10, Gehrig 11, Musial 10, Pujols 7, etc. In addition to Ott at 20, there's Mathews and Foxx at 21 and Musial, Foxx, DiMaggio and Cobb at 22. But of course Harper has done it zero times.

When you look at the age 19 list, the most obvious Harper comp is Griffey. He never made it to 8.4 oWAR nor 54 Rbat even. He tied but never beat Trout's 171 OPS. Mike Trout just had a season that, by pretty much every measure we've got, was as good or better than any season Ken Griffey ever had.

One might possibly make the case that Harper has more potential than Trout but, even if you believe that, it's still more potential not more performance. While it's unlikely, for all we know Harper is not going to get substantially better -- he could be Vada Pinson. Trout has had one all-time great season. He can't be expected to repeat at that level but at least we know he's capable of it and has to be picked ahead of Harper as of this moment.

   11. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 07, 2013 at 07:09 PM (#4383301)
At age 20, Mike Trout was comparable to ARod, Ott, and Williams. This is the whole story. All the rest is commentary. Go and learn.

Edit: and Foxx and Cobb and Mantle.
   12. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:00 PM (#4383389)
My hunch is that Boswell is right - Harper puts up some kind of ~.300/.400/.500 season. For a decade.
   13. RMc is a fine piece of cheese Posted: March 07, 2013 at 08:26 PM (#4383406)
Harper: All-Star at 19.
Trout: Effing superstar at 20.
The next two decades will be fun.
   14. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: March 07, 2013 at 09:52 PM (#4383492)

No. 1 overall draft picks taken out of high school that played power positions? Since the 1977 draft, here is the list of just successes: Harold Baines, Darryl Strawberry, Griffey, Chipper Jones, A-Rod, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Mauer (three batting titles by 27).

Are shortstop, centerfield, and catcher now "power positions"?
   15. tfbg9 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:06 AM (#4383607)
How old is Boswell? Pushing 80?

Edit: nope, about 66 or 67.
   16. bigglou115 Posted: March 08, 2013 at 01:46 AM (#4383720)
No. 1 overall draft picks taken out of high school that played power positions? Since the 1977 draft, here is the list of just successes: Harold Baines, Darryl Strawberry, Griffey, Chipper Jones, A-Rod, Josh Hamilton, Adrian Gonzalez and Joe Mauer (three batting titles by 27).


Anybody else have a problem with a guy drawing a comparison to a sample group and only listing the successes? Pretty sure I could come up with a pretty impressive list of just successes from a ton of spots in the draft.
   17. Yeaarrgghhhh Posted: March 08, 2013 at 12:29 PM (#4384005)
My hunch is that Boswell is right - Harper puts up some kind of ~.300/.400/.500 season. For a decade.

That would be great for the Nationals, but that would make Harper more like Eddie Murray than Ted Williams.

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