Bryce Harper’s Detractors Need A Reality-Check

Good article about how some journalists covering the Nationals, and a few Nationals teammates, have started saying that Bryce Harper is overrated.

Which is crazy.

Here’s the total WAR (wins above replacement, by Baseball Reference) accumulated by every one of Harper’s Nationals teammates before the age of 21. Combined. Every one.

0.6 WAR

Here’s the total WAR accumulated by Harper before the age of 21.

8.6 WAR

Could jealousy among teammates be a factor here? Can’t rule it out.

One other thing while we are on the subject. Take a look at the list below:

WAR before 21


We’ve all seen charts like this before, showing that Bryce Harper is among the 10 best under-21 players in the history of major league baseball (hey look, he’s on the same list as Ty Cobb. And Al Kaline. And Mel Ott.) So far, he’s Mickey Mantle, only a little better.

So when Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post says the following, we ought roll our eyes:

Counting their three top starting pitchers, Harper may be the Nats’ seventh-best player. If forced to choose whether Harper or Anthony Rendon would have the better career, I’d think twice. Harper is in a self-conscious, fierce scowl-off with baseball. Rendon dances with it and grins. Baseball loves relaxed.

– “Bryce Harper needed a reality check,” April 20, 2014

This statement is just unreasonable.

  1. No defensible calculation of value would place Harper in seventh place on the Nationals roster.*
  2. Anthony Rendon is a good young player. Nats fans should be glad he’s on the team. Rendon has simply not demonstrated on-field performance to rival Harper.
  3. Ty Cobb’s intensity really prevented him from having a good career?

Harper gets a lot of attention. That seems to irritate Boswell and some Nats teammates, but the attention is appropriate for the 6th best under-21 player in baseball history. Harper’s on-field achievements are reality, and it is Harper’s detractors who need the reality check.

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