Nationals Baseball: Bryce finally passes Trout... well for now... sort of

Friday, May 15, 2015

Bryce finally passes Trout... well for now... sort of

When Bryce Harper was called up in 2012 there was a a big kerfuffle among his supporters and his detractors on how he compared to this young phenom for the Angles named Mike Trout. Bryce backers kept noting that Mike Trout had played 40 games prior to 2012 (plus had the beginning of the year while Bryce was in the minors). They also noted the age difference as Trout was actually on the way to turning 21 while Bryce would be 19 all season.  Basically they were grasping for any explanation how their phenom could end up playing second fiddle to this other one. Mike Trout would end up hitting .300+ with 30 HRs and stealing 50 bases while Bryce was heading toward .274 20 and 11. They kept it up the following year but after Bryce basically matched his numbers and Trout traded some steals for a lot of walks the fight was over. Mike Trout was the better player.

He still probably is. Trout's going to steal more bases (at a great success rate) and he's a slightly above average fielder in center while Bryce is a slightly below average in right. Those things matter. However as of the end of that homer barrage a few days ago, Bryce is currently sitting with better offensive stats than Mike Trout

Bryce : .303 / .449 / .664
Trout : .289 / .396 / .562

It's still early and things will still swing but if Bryce can keep this up this comparison will finally be something it never was before, reasonable to make. Would you want the all around player - above average at everything, or the dominant offensive presence who frankly isn't really bad at anything? That's a fun argument to have.

Trout guys may try to tell you Bryce's numbers are definitely going to fade. Yes the HR/FB rate of 32.4% will drop, but how far?  The .347 BABIP might indicate some luck (though he was at .352 last year) but he is hitting everything hard, making great contact (in the zone contact % best of his career), swinging and missing less than he ever has, and identifying strikes and balls better than he ever has (or ever has tried to) before. There's a dip in homers coming. Everything else? I can't be so sure.

If Bryce keeps this up, hell even if the SLG drops .100 pts because of the expected HR rate slowdown, he'll have a better age 22 year than Mike Trout did in his 22-23 year, and that's not taking into account the ever disappearing offense for the sport as a whole. Trout has never hit this well (OPS 1.100+) this late into a season.  Bryce is forging his own path.

That's not saying Trout hasn't set lofty goals. He's hit over .325 for a season. Hit 36 homers in a year, drove in 111 guys, almost hit 40 doubles. He's carried a 1.000+ OPS into late September (2013). He hit 10 homers in a month (July 2012). He got on base half his PAs in a month (August 2013). That's impressive considering he's been in the majors all of 3 full seasons. But he's never hit like Bryce is now, on pace for 14 homers and 32 RBI in May. That pace is silly but I'm just saying. 

I'm not sure Bryce will every top the average (that's not really how I see Bryce) but everything else? That's in play, that's in play right now. Let's make this a bar argument worth having.

18 comments:

Kenny B. said...

Been waiting a while for this post. After so much "What's wrong with Strasburg?" What's wrong with Zimmermann?" What's wrong with Werth?" "When will Escobar crash?" and "How bad is Espinosa likely to fall?" we're finally asking the question we've been hoping to ask since 2012: "How awesome is Bryce Harper?"

Anonymous said...

I just wanna know... Can Ian swing any harder?

A Fly Moses said...

Are we sure Bryce is really below average in right? I know his defensive numbers have been negative since 2013, but it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect that a guy who hadn't played outfield until he was drafted, and has been moved from position to position would have meaningfully improved in a way the numbers wouldn't yet pick up. And for whatever the eye test is worth, he's looked very good in RF this year (though I suppose it's possible at least a little of that is just the comparison against what Werth was like last year).

Strasburger said...

WOOOHOOO. What a great blog; ask and you shall receive.

Now, please baseball gods let him stay healthy. I really want to see what he can do over a full season.

He homers tonight.

Harper said...

Anon - I suppose he could switch to a lighter bat. I think hes going for out of the shoes

AFM - He could be average or even above average I guess, but given that he was below average at his most atheletic in left... I'm not betting on it. But I'll concede yes he could get better

Strasburger - not always but I didn't have anything in the hopper that needed to get out.

Andrew said...

I disagree a bit on relying on Harper's fielding stats in left. He played only two seasons there (really 2/3 of a season twice) and the first season all of his playing time there was either his first month in the new position or with a hurt knee. I don't think he ever got the hang of things in left, but I think he's doing a good job in right and could end up very good there. His only real weakness as a fielder right now is his often suboptimal routes, but it's not at all unreasonable to think he can improve that over time.

Anonymous said...

Fangraphs and ESPN both have Bryce as worth .5 WAR in right field over just the 36 games played so far this year.

Kenny B. said...

I just read a WaPo article that mentioned that Matt Williams convinced Harper in the spring to stop over-swinging. He allegedly told Harper, "It's not how far, it's how many." Harper cites to this as a turning point in his more patient approach.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/sports/nationals/only-person-not-impressed-with-bryce-harper-is--bryce-harper/2015/05/14/335acb7e-fa47-11e4-9ef4-1bb7ce3b3fb7_story.html?tid=pm_sports_pop_b

My question is: Has Williams provided this same advice to Desmond? If not, why not? Is Desmond just ignoring it?

Ollie said...

Co-signing A Fly Moses and Anon's points on Harper's defense. I also was under the impression from Fangraphs' past hagiography that Trout is more of a plus-plus defender too.

Solid post though.

Anonymous said...

Fister on the DL...at least he's our "#5"?

Zimmerman11 said...

Span Werth and Rendon out to start the year... Fister, Rendon, Werth after the first month... Stammen out for year, Stras looks hurt. And we're only a half game out?

We're going to get a lot of help for the second half if all these guys are coming back from injury.

Let's just hope we're not 10 back by the time we actually get to watch the team we thought we had for 2015.

KW said...

Bryce now at 1.150 and 13 HRs and climbing. For a little perspective, though, before the 3 HR game, he was at 245/405/457.

The most important point is that he's learning. The plate discipline is driving everything. For a while, he was taking the walks but was not locked in when he forced the pitcher into juicy pitches. Now he is. This is what Bonds used to do, take the walks and wait for the mistakes. And yes, don't jump out of your shoes, just hit the ball hard. (And no, Ian is never going to learn this. Sigh.)

Josh said...

Like AFM, I'm unclear where below average in right is coming from. His fielding percentage, assists, range factor, and DWAR are all in the top 10 among right fielders. Is there a fancy stat that disagrees with those ones? For non-automatons, he has looked fantastic, although admittedly sometimes the great looking catches have been products of miscues early in his routes.

Anonymous said...

Bryce has "popped the clutch"! Another couple months of this and comparisons with Willie Mays are inevitable.

But here's another "just passed" story that is quietly defining the Nats of 2015: Espinosa's OPS, at .833, is now above Rendon's OPS for 2014 (.824). In fact it is above that of this year's amazing Escobar (.775) -- he of the .328 batting average. If Danny had enough at bats to qualify, he would rank 3rd in the NL, behind only Gordon and Kendrick. Not saying he will stay the course, but if he does, how are you going to sit this guy?

Anonymous said...

Appealing to my non-automaton side, maybe this will be stras. maybe?

http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/max-scherzer-might-be-getting-better/

Anonymous said...

it sucks having such an over-hyped player on your team. If only harper could learn to play the game the right way...

WiredHK said...

While you're never as good as you look when hot, or as bad as you look when cold, Harper is...on another planet right now. Wow...

Bjd1207 said...

@2nd Anon - Where are you getting the fangraphs number for WAR in Right Field? All I can find is Defensive Runs Saved which is currently pegged at 8, and including the positional adjustment brings him down to -1.5 (the def # you see on Fangraphs leaderboards)