Bryce Harper is no longer the best 19-year-old of all time

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Bryce Harper turned 20 years old today, which means I can’t write any more “how does Bryce Harper compare to the best 19-year-olds in baseball history” articles.

Well, except this one.

Here’s the final tally on how Harper’s age-19 season compared to the best age-19 seasons of all time:

Total bases (254): 1st
Extra-base hits (57): 1st
Runs (98): 2nd
Homers (22): 2nd
Doubles (26): 2nd
Walks (56): 2nd
Steals (18): 2nd
Slugging percentage (.477): 3rd
OPS (.817): 3rd
Plate appearances (597): 4th
Hits (144): 4th
Triples (9): 4th
Games (139): 5th
RBIs (59): 5th

And if you add that all up while including his strong defense in the outfield Harper produced 5.0 Wins Above Replacement to rank first among all 19-year-olds in MLB history ahead of Hall of Famer Mel Ott at 3.7.

So, yeah: Happy 20th birthday to the best 19-year-old of all time.

Why Ryan Zimmerman skipped spring training

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All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.

The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.

It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.

It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.

Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉