Nationals Baseball: Thursday : Bryce Day

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Thursday : Bryce Day

The Nats pitching staff is very very good so far. That shouldn't be all that surprising. It was #1 in 2012. It was #1 in 2014. It was 6th in 2013 and last year. They made noticeable improvements to at least the likely variance of the bullpen and jettisoned their worst starter. I want to give the staff some credit because they are really carrying the team (the offense is ok - 6th but pretty much dead average in runs per game) but I'm going to talk about Bryce again because BRYCE.

I was looking through old Bryce posts yesterday just to see what I had said in the past and found some interesting notes and tidbits. Well, at least to me and it's my blog!

First off a notice to Bryce. I said this on twitter and I'll repeat it here now (and over and over the next few months) Bryce Harper HAS TO BE IN THE HOME RUN DERBY. This isn't just a fan wanting to see the best home run hitter in the game in this exhibition of power. This is an understanding that if Bryce wants to "make baseball fun again" he needs to appear in what casual fans probably consider the most fun thing about baseball.* Bryce has said he doesn't want to do it the next couple years. Too bad. Unless you want to be labeled a huge hypocrite you have to get out there and hit dingers. You can't sit and complain about how baseball is tired and doesn't attract fans because it lacks drama and flair and then sit out what is seen by non-fans as the least tired and most "flair-riffic" part of the baseball season. CAN'T.

Bryce vs Trout? It's hard to say there is an offensive comparison anymore because Trout doesn't steal bases anymore (he has 1 this year - Bryce has 3) and more importantly Bryce is the best hitter in baseball by a wide margin. However for those of you focused on career numbers, because Trout hasn't had a down year yet (though he's certainly starting slow in 2016) while Bryce battled some injuries in good but not great years, Mike still has the career edge.
Trout : .303 / .396 / .555
Bryce :  .290 / .385 / .526
My guess is that Bryce can't pass Trout overall this year either. He'll probably pass in OBP, but assuming Trout bounces back will still be just behind in avg and power. But it's coming. Bryce is just better at the plate.

This column by Boz still rankles me two years later. Written after Matt Williams sat the kid for failing to run out that pop-out, it is a terrible mish-mash of armchair psychology, bad stats, and bad opinions including the idea that Rendon might be better or that Bryce wasn't even among the half-dozen best players on the team (silly things to think even given the fact that he wasn't running on full cylinders). It's Boz at his worst - acting as conduit for the team that wanted to send a message to Bryce - and defying logic to do it. Whenever I think I'm being too hard on Boz, I should go back and read this.

In 2015 the Nats offense around Bryce was pretty bad. How is it in 2016? Well... look. Daniel Murphy has been great but Zimm, Espinosa, Rendon, Werth, MAT are all below average this year. That's... not good. Bryce can be BRYCE but there is no way Daniel Murphy keeps this up and frankly I'm doubtful that Ramos can be above average through May let alone for the season. Someone has to step up. If they don't... well honestly if the pitching staff has one of it's "It's an even year. We're the best!" seasons, maybe BRYCE + a very good Murphy will be enough. I don't want to find out though. The Nats wasted one of the best offensive years in recent memory, maybe even not recent memory, last year. Someone else hit better! 

I still say put 15/500 on the table now.

Last year Bryce set the Nats single-season records for AVG, OBP, SLG, OPS, OPS+, and BB. He finished one behind Soriano in Rs (118 to 119), one behind Dunn in IBB (15 to 16), and second to Soriano in HRs (42 to 46). He was further behind in 2B, RBI and H.  What does he project to so far this year?  Playing 154 games : 77HRs,121 R, 231 RBI, 12 IBB, 44 2B, 176H.  OK he's not going to hit all those numbers but I'd be surprised if HRs and RBI and IBB don't all fall to Bryce this year. 2B will be hard because he hits too many homers. H will be hard because he walks too much. Runs? That could fall too but it depends on ths guys behind him hitting. Which as we've seen - they haven't.

In 2013 I basically guaranteed Bryce would break out at some point. "It could be this year, maybe 2014, but at worst by the end of 2105 he should have that great season." So kudos to me! If my memory serves me correct it did eventually waver to the point after 2013 and 2014 that I was giving him a 2015 like 2013/2014 Werth which would have been close to but not quite great. But 2015 was the year I think if he didn't put anything up I would have started doubting him. He was ok though, if I remember right.

You've probably heard this but part of Bryce's issues in seasons before 2015 was striking out a bit too much. He's not doing that at all this year. He's not swinging at pitches out of the zone and he's hitting everything in the zone. Here's one article on it. You can find others I'm sure.

One thing about Bryce that makes him pretty much like everyone else? He has his most issues against power pitchers. In previous years he couldn't hit them. In 2015 that changed and he hit them pretty well. But given how Bryce hit overall in 2015 "pretty well" is a distinct drop off from "OMG!". How is he doing this year? Not that great although the Nats have faced very few of these pitchers so it's only 7 ABs. Of course the flipside of that is he KILLS non-power pitchers. Like decapitates them and hits the head out of the park. That's still happening too. We'll check on this again in a month when there's more data. Remind me.

I had a Bryce tracker back in the day for his age 21 year. How does that stand now for "through age 23 season"? Well for HRs he needs another 50 this year to set the record for most HRs by end of their age 23 season. Not likely but certainly possible given how he's hitting. More reasonable will be 35-40 more which would put him in 4th at 139-144 career behind Eddie Mathews (153), Mel Ott (153), and A-Rod (148).  As for OPS+ (went with 400 games played), he's at 16th now with 145. This is a hard read but I'll guess he finishes the year around 155 which would put him Top 10. The Top 10 right now. Ted Williams, Cobb, Trout, Musial, Pujols, Sam Crwaford, Mathews, Mantle, Foxx, Ott. For reference even if he hits like he has so far for then entire 2015 (which would be a Top 15 season EVER) he still doesn't make the Top 5 in this group. As far as first ballot HOFers he started at only a moderate pace.That is your worst current knock on Bryce. "As far as first ballot HOFers he started at only a moderate pace".  Enjoy this kid.

*Before last year I would have fought them on it. The HR Derby was a slog that you watched for 1 1/2 batters or 30 minutes before you gave up on it. But last year's rule changes finally made it interesting.


Anonymous said...

Have to disagree. I pray Harper doesn't participate in the Derby. I would prefer he not even play in the ASG. I care not for what it means to the sport, only what it means to DC winning a championship.

WWNLT? WWHW? WWHG? said...

Based on your theory about Boz acting as a mouthpiece for the owners, what do you make of his recent column saying that the team should try to lock Bryce down right now? Boz acting independent or the team trying to put out feelers?

Robot said...

Pffft. Overrated. He almost has as many strikeouts as he does homeruns, and he's never had 5 RBIs or more in a single AB. Not impressed. /idiot anti-Brycer

Harper said...

Anon - its fair for him to do that - but if so shut up about making the game fun.

WW - He is only occasionally a mouthpiece. Every few months or so you'll read something that doesn't quite sound like him, with lines that feel like they come from nowhere, that happens to agree with what we think management wants. Those are the specific columns I'm talking about. Most of the other times he's a cheerleader because he's a fan first, though occasionally he does get panicked/angry because... well becuase he's a fan first. That last column is definitely the latter.

Robot - And did you know it takes him 2 ABs at least to hit 2 HRS?

blovy8 said...

I don't see a problem with that Boswell column, it's pretty typical of click bait and opinion pieces. Harper really hadn't done much to stand out at that point unless age was brought into the question, and possibly that's all that behavioral stuff was about since he hadn't experienced failure like that before, didn't put in a lot of minor league time, and needed to learn how to handle it publicly without throwing stuff. Which he has done, and which some guys never really do. It's not a certainty that athletes grow up. Perhaps Williams doesn't really deserve much credit for that you could argue. But I suspect guys like Zim and Werth probably do a bit. They look out blankly, reset, and go back to the bench. Harper does that with a bit o' anger, but he does it.

Old Man River said...

Last week, I was sitting at my desk listening to Charlie & Dave on the radio when I hear a co-worker down the hall shout, "Holy $&*^! Harper just hit a grand-slam!" The radio was on a delay, so the second I heard this, a child-like smile crept across my face as I looked out the window to hear Charlie make the call 30-seconds later: Bryce's 100th homer; and a grand slam to boot. Its amazing to be able to watch this kid on a daily basis. People go a lifetime without having homegrown talent playing for you favorite team. By old man used to tell me stories of watching Koufax in LA, and just the sheer joy it brought him. The line in this post that resonates with me more than anything is the last sentence, Harper: "Enjoy this kid."

Can't wait to tune in this afternoon...

Rob Evans said...

Man, I sure am enjoying this as much as I can. Although, I can't help but get distracted by all the talk of him leaving. I want him to stay a Nat for his career. I would just hate it to no end if he ends up wearing pinstripes because the Lerners couldn't get a deal done. I know it takes two to tango, but pony up already and lock this kid up! lol

Anonymous said...

Great win, but possibly a costly one. Ross (rapidly becoming one of my favorite players) with a blister, and who knows how long that may linger, and decrepit old man Werth hurts himself running to catch a fly ball in much the way that an elderly woman will often hurt herself navigating a staircase or getting out of a bathtub.

Although Werth is probably more of a blessing than anything. Of course, now the uber-apologists will use his injury as an excuse for his crappy performance for the rest of the year.

Jay said...

I agree with Robot. Overrated. When I play baseball (on my xbox) I consistently go 3/4 with like 1 or 2 homers. I also steal like 100 bases a year. Until Harper can do that or throw a no hitter in the same ball game don't bother.

We'll see on signing Harper, but I'm trying to take the same attitude I had this year with the Caps. Enjoy it while it's here. The Caps just had one of the best NHL seasons in a long while. Some fans were saying - just wait for the playoffs. If you can't enjoy the regular season the Caps just had then why bother watching (you won't see a better regular season than they just had).

Harper often does things that I figure just aren't possible. He does them in "clutch" situations as well. If you are not going to sign him to a longterm deal, then who? Anyway, I'm going to try not to worry about it and just enjoy watching him give 100% every day. That's the best thing about watching him is that it's true that he's talented but he gives everything he's got every day.

G Cracka X said...

Is 10/500 unreasonable?

Harper said...

GCX - to be offered... hmmm it's certainly interesting. On Bryce's side : I can't for sure say he's getting more on the open market than that. He might get more years but you certainly wouldn't turn down 10/500 for 15/500. I suppose the question would be an opt-out, the hot ticket item nowadays. 10/500 straight up might lose to 12/480 with an opt out after 3 or something like that. On the Lerners side : He's definitely worth it if he's putting up years like last season or even a step under. That's just on the field, add in endorsements, publicity, etc.... yeah he's worth 50 mill. If he gets worse it gets dicey but assuming this is eating his last arb years you'd be getting years 24-33 so if this is real (and it seems to be) only injury should stop him. The question would be how much money do they want to spend overall. 140 per year leaves them with 90 mill for the rest. Pull out Scherzer, 70 mill? I'd have to think signing Bryce comes with the idea that you are going to be a top payroll team for however long that is. They might not want that.

but why not 15/500?

SM said...

I understand why you argue Bryce should enter the Home Run Derby. It's perfectly reasonable to showcase its brightest star in baseball's firmament. But unless he won it--and hammered a couple of 500-foot shots, to boot--I suspect the entire exercise would be futile.

Something else, too. The post-All Star Game offensive production of the finalists in last year's Derby, Todd Frazier and Joc Pederson, collapsed dramatically. Frazier's freefall, in fact, was one of the most precipitous of any winner since the Derby began.

Sure, there a dozen explanations that have nothing whatsoever to do with Bryce. You know: comparing either of those two to Bryce is laughable; not very good players who were Derby flukes; bad luck/good luck; coincidence, injuries, and so on.

Then again, did the new format have something to do with it? In any case, trying to muscle balls out of the park, one after another, is the kind of exertion most players can do without in a long, grinding season.

If you're Bryce, and you're absolutely critical to your team's success, four off-days are a necessity as much as a luxury. For the Nats, too.

Re: 15/500
A sports talk show here in Toronto discussed that very issue yesterday. Conclusion? 10/500 is the opening bid . . . and he's going to the Yankees.

Anonymous said...

He is in the homerun derby every day.

Bryceroni said...

I can't put my finger on who looked at it, but I'm pretty sure the 'Derby messes up swings' trope has been debunked.

As someone who is quite brand conscious, Bryce really has to do things like ASG and the homerun Derby to maximize national coverage. It's easy for us to know and love him. The national audience is more difficult. Mike trout is probably just as talented as lebron but trout's sport and personality give him a huge disadvantage in terms of fame. Kershaw is in that same category with trout as well. Trout and Kershaw have huge recognition in their regional markets (haha both la) and with the hardcore baseball audience, but their national numbers are much lower than other first ballot HOF type players in other sports.

Essentially, baseball players have to work really hard to become nationally famous as opposed to regionally famous.

@harper here's the next gluttonous question: how many seasons of >200 ops+ will BRYCE have?

Also my phone autocorrect his name to all caps now. It must have learned...

Froggy said...

Riduculous postulation that the only way Bryce cannot be a hypocrite is to partake in the homerun derby. Besides who cares whether the 'casual' fan thinks baseball is tired or not. Homerun derbies don't get you in the HoF. Leading the league in HRs OBP, OPS every season do.

blovy8 said...

Who remembers who won a home run derby until the next one comes along and they tell you the guys that have?

All I know is Rollie Fingers plays in every old-timers game he can find. Well, at least he's the guy I can recognize because of the moustache...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone think he would sign a contract like Scherzer's with deferred payments? Something like 15 years/600 million. But it would pay out 20 million a year for 30 years? You would think that would be ideal for him and for the Nats. He gets a monster contract worthy of his talents, that still allows the team to bring in good players for him to try to win championships with. The 15 years after the contract is over could be a bit lean, but that is the investment on opening a realistic 8-12 year window to win with BRYCE!!!! I would assume BRYCE would be replaced by Bryce somewhere around year 8 or 9 of the contract, but Bryce for another 2-3 years is still projected to be pretty good.

Bjd1207 said...

As if on cue, the only offense we can muster against Tom freakin' Koehler is a solo bomb by BRYCE

Harper said...

Froggy - "Besides who cares whether the 'casual' fan thinks baseball is tired or not." See that's the issue apparently BRYCE cares. So if he cares and then he doesn't actually do probably the most obvious things to address it... well that's hypocrisy in a nutshell. Yes, it has nothing to do with being best, winning most, so some (most?) may not care if he doesn't go. Might even prefer if he didn't. But you can't say he's not a hypocrite.

All - I think we're getting ahead of ourselves on this contract. Remember the current biggest is 13/325. I think the current biggest yearly amount on a deal is 35+ million. Yes Bryce is better and younger but 15 for half a billion was put out there as a talk-ender. The idea that it's an opener, that he would get paid twice the biggest contract ever, or almost 50% more than the most anyone is paid annually I just don't see it. It's far more likely 13/350 or 13/375 starts it out, maybe even 13/400. But whatever for 500 million is not a starting point.

Harper said...

And yes, I know that it happened with A-Rod's Texas deal but that worked out for no one except him (maybe even not him culturally). I find it hard to believe anyone would be in a hurry to repeat THAT

Froggy said...

Offer Bryce 15 - $500mm and naming rights to Nats stadium after he retires.

Harper Park: The House That Bryce Built

Froggy said...

Offer Bryce 15 - $500mm and naming rights to Nats stadium after he retires.

Harper Park: The House That Bryce Built

BxJaycobb said...

Harper: regarding how the non-Murphy/Bryce players will hit rest of season. I think Ramos will probably decline a bit, but Werth appears to be picking it up fairly quickly. He's not going to be great, but I'm sure he can manage a .260/.340 clip with 15 homers. Zim may not get MUCH better but it seems unlikely he would be worse, but mostly I think the big improvements will be: Revere over Taylor and (when he comes up) Turner over Espinosa---it can't be overstated how heinous Danny and MAT have been, and then Rendon as well can be banked on for much better production.... it is virtually impossible that he will not improve substantially. (Maybe you could write a column on this, but....his hard hit % and LD % is same as 2014, and his K and BB % are also the same...he seems to just be hitting of balls vaguely squarely towards outfielders. He's had stretches like this before including in May 2014 when he but like .230 with no power....I think if lack of pop is related to recovery that will come back as season goes on. And if it's persuasive to you at all,just look at his Fangraphs projection. I'll put it this way: I could easily see Rendon's next month being similar to Murphy's next month (.280/.330/.430 type deal). Once you install revere at leadiff and pick up an uptick from turner (even if he just hits .240 with some doubles and walks it will be a huge boost) and have Werth continue to be decent and Rendon be closer to himself, I'm not that worried.