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.