Washington's Bryce Harper Is Making History
Right before Opening Day this year, ESPN conducted their annual poll of Major League players on a variety of topics. One of the things they asked players was, "Who do you think is the most overrated player in baseball?"
The response was overwhelming, with 41% of players saying Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was the most overrated. That was much higher than last year when Harper also finished atop that poll too, at 24%. It appears players don't really care for Harper all that much.
On Wednesday, Harper continued what has been a terrific 2015 season with what may have been his best day as a professional, hitting three home runs in his first three plate appearances in the Nats' 7-5 win over the Miami Marlins.
His first homer, the opposite field shot, traveled 393 feet. His second, hit into the upper deck in right field, went 442 feet. And his third, another moon shot that probably killed a small family in nearly the same spot, went 445 feet.
In the process, Harper became the youngest player since 1970 to hit three home runs in a game, at 22 years, 202 days old. Carney Lansford was 22 years, 206 days old when he did it back in 1979.
Remember, Bryce Harper is 22 years old and has never faced a pitcher who is younger than he is. Ever. And here are some other nuggets to chew on.
Bryce Harper is younger than Joc Pederson, Mookie Betts, Jorge Soler, and Austin Hedges -- among many others.— Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) May 6, 2015
What a show by Bryce Harper, still only 22. 3rd youngest NL player ever with a 3 HR game. The 2 younger: Eddie Mathews (20) & Mel Ott (21)— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) May 6, 2015
This year, Harper is hitting .265/.416/.561 with 8 home runs, 20 RBI, 21 runs scored, and perhaps more important, a 20.8% walk rate. Harper is having better at bats, not forcing the issue, and taking what the pitcher gives him, and it's helped his all-around performance at the plate.
His line drive percentage is 24.1% this year, up from his career 21.6% rate. He's not hitting as many ground balls, either, trading them in for more line drives. And his home run per fly ball ratio was a career high 22.7% before Wednesday's three-homer outburst.
So no, MLB players, Harper isn't overrated, and he wasn't before the season started either.
Was he injury prone? Yes. In 2012, he played in 139 games, then played in 118 games in 2013 and just 100 last year. But people tend to forget he posted an fWAR of 4.6 as a 19-year-old in his rookie season and then followed that up with a 4.0 fWAR season at age 20.
Of course, players don't like him because he's brash, says boastful things, and comes across as one of those "players you hate if he's not on your team." But there's no denying Harper's skill, and it appears as if he's putting it all together this season.
And if he is, he's going to do some very bad baseball things to you.