Lots of people are acting like Bryce Harper has been terrible this season and it’s confusing me.
Sure, he’s had prolonged slumps and he’s also had some injuries, but Harper has been on fire for the past few weeks and overall he’s hit .274 with 13 homers and a .776 OPS in 92 games for the Nationals as a 21-year-old and the youngest player in the league with at least 250 plate appearances.
There’s a stat called OPS+ that adjusts a player’s raw numbers for the league, home ballpark, and offensive era he’s in. An average OPS+ is 100 and Harper is currently at 114.
Here’s a list of every 21-year-old outfielder with an OPS+ above 110 during the past 25 seasons:
Bryce Harper, 2014
Mike Trout, 2013
Giancarlo Stanton, 2011
Justin Upton, 2009
Miguel Cabrera, 2004
Andruw Jones, 1998
Juan Gonzalez, 1991
Ken Griffey Jr., 1991
That’s it. That’s the entire list.
Harper’s season isn’t as strong as some of those other 21-year-olds on the above list, but the main point is that it’s really, really rare for a 21-year-old outfielder to be a solidly above-average hitter and Harper has been that this season.
I get that the hype he arrived with and his personality both rub lots of people the wrong way and I get that comparing anyone to Mike Trout is going to make them look bad, but don’t let that mask the fact that Harper is doing things 21-year-olds rarely do in what I’m sure even he’d admit has been a difficult season.