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Angelsjunky

How overrated is Bryce Harper?

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This has been talked about before but...well...it is February 11. The question is: how overrated is Bryce Harper? The short TLDR version is: pretty overrated.

Harper has that great 2015 season (9.3 fWAR, 197 wRC+), a pretty good but injured 2017 (4.8 WAR in 111 games), and a bunch of decent to very good years. But how good has he been, relative to the field? Let's look at it relative to spans of years, going back from 2018 in terms of fWAR rank (100+ PA):

2018: #52 with 3.5 WAR. That's right...51 position players had a higher WAR than Harper in 2018. He was right between Michael Brantley and Eduarado Escobar--both good players, but hardly stars.

2017-18: #28 with 8.3 WAR, right between Justin Upton and Aaron Hicks - both pretty much the definition of "borderline stars."

2016-18: #34 with 11.2 WAR, between Matt Carpenter and Trea Turner. See above: very much in the domain of borderline stars (aka impact or very good players, in the 3-4ish WAR range per year).

2015-18: #11 with 20.6 WAR, between Nolan Arenado and Christian Yelich. Harper vaults into the true star range on account of his MVP season.

2014-18: #17 with 22.2 WAR, between Anthony Rizzo and Justin Turner. Starts falling back into the borderline star range.

2013-18: #13 with 26.3 WAR, between Robinson Cano and Christian Yelich.

2012-18 (career): #12 with 30.7 WAR between Adrian Beltre and Mookie Betts (who wouldn't play a game for two more years, in 2014). 

Or let's look at his WAR, year by year:

2012: 4.4 (borderline star)

2013: 4.1 (borderline star)

2014: 1.6 (average regular)

2015: 9.3 (MVP)

2016: 3.0 (good player)

2017: 4.8 (star)

2018: 3.5 (borderline star)

So what kind of player is Bryce Harper and where does he rank among current players? Well, based upon the above it is hard to even say that he's one of the 20 best position players in the game. He has not ranked in the top 20 in total WAR until we get back to his MVP year in 2015. But since then he's accrued 11.2 WAR, or 3.4 per year.

Looking at his seven seasons, he has one MVP season, one star season, three borderline star seasons, one good season, and one average season. The median and average is that of a borderline star.

Now if we look only at the last four years, that weights a bit higher and Harper could be seen as a true star. But we'll need to see more consistency, so right now he's hovering between borderline and true star.

So, yeah...it make sense why teams are balking at the superstar (even generational talent) contract that Harper is expecting.

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And for some Trout porn. Using that same methodology, while Trout was 2nd in WAR in 2018, he is 1st in WAR in every year span starting in 2018 and going back until...2006. That's right: Trout has the highest WAR from 2006-18, even though he didn't play his first major league game until 2011 and wasn't full-time until 2012. Dude.

 

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1). How many players would you BET will have a higher WAR over the next 6 or 7 seasons.

2). Now how many of them are available as free agents right now?

It isn't a matter of being overrated.  It is a matter of Harper being a very unique combination of real upside, youth and available now.

That's rare and valuable.

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10 minutes ago, Dtwncbad said:

1). How many players would you BET will have a higher WAR over the next 6 or 7 seasons.

2). Now how many of them are available as free agents right now?

It isn't a matter of being overrated.  It is a matter of Harper being a very unique combination of real upside, youth and available now.

That's rare and valuable.

It's not just about him being a unique and available player.  It's about relative cost.  

If your budget is finite as it every teams, you have to look at every spot combined.  Not on an individual basis.  If a 5 WAR player costs you $35 mil per year and the 1 WAR per (or 3 total) from 3 other spots costs you about 10 mil, you are spending 45 mil on 8 war per year.  If you have a player that's gonna give you 3 WAR for baseball free in a year or two then that 45 mil could be spent to improve that 2 WAR delta on those 1 WAR players to the point that you could easily make up the difference.  

Harper's value does not live in a vacuum.  

 

 

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9 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

It's not just about him being a unique and available player.  It's about relative cost.  

If your budget is finite as it every teams, you have to look at every spot combined.  Not on an individual basis.  If a 5 WAR player costs you $35 mil per year and the 1 WAR per (or 3 total) from 3 other spots costs you about 10 mil, you are spending 45 mil on 8 war per year.  If you have a player that's gonna give you 3 WAR for baseball free in a year or two then that 45 mil could be spent to improve that 2 WAR delta on those 1 WAR players to the point that you could easily make up the difference.  

Harper's value does not live in a vacuum.  

 

 

Value also doesn't live in a WAR vaccuum.  Marketing matters.

Harper, like it or not, sells tickets and puts faces in front of TVs.

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18 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

It's not just about him being a unique and available player.  It's about relative cost.  

If your budget is finite as it every teams, you have to look at every spot combined.  Not on an individual basis.  If a 5 WAR player costs you $35 mil per year and the 1 WAR per (or 3 total) from 3 other spots costs you about 10 mil, you are spending 45 mil on 8 war per year.  If you have a player that's gonna give you 3 WAR for baseball free in a year or two then that 45 mil could be spent to improve that 2 WAR delta on those 1 WAR players to the point that you could easily make up the difference.  

Harper's value does not live in a vacuum.  

 

 

Roster spots and lineup spots are finite as well. Mike Trout is worth way more than 9 one WAR players even if they cost half as much total.

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13 minutes ago, Dtwncbad said:

Value also doesn't live in a WAR vaccuum.  Marketing matters.

Harper, like it or not, sells tickets and puts faces in front of TVs.

so you would do the pujols contract again?  

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5 minutes ago, Dochalo said:

so you would do the pujols contract again?  

31 vs. 26.

When you got burned buying old mushy brown bananas, was your lesson learned to never buy bananas again?

Would you have wanted Pujols starting at age 26? Problem fixed.

Edited by Dtwncbad

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5 minutes ago, eaterfan said:

Roster spots and lineup spots are finite as well. Mike Trout is worth way more than 9 one WAR players even if they cost half as much total.

that's not what I'm saying and of course he is.  

the point is that you don't assemble a team on one player's value when you have a finite budget.  If he's worth 9 WAR and the other 8 players around him are worth 0 and you've maxed out your budget then you are better off with 9  two WAR players on that same budget.  

if you get bryce harper and he's worth 5 WAR per year which is a 3 WAR upgrade over a league min player, and you have 2 one WAR players at other positions that you then can't afford to upgrade, aren't you better off going with the 2 WAR player in RF and spending that $35 mil to upgrade the 2 one war player to 2.5 WAR each for less than $35 mil?  

Another way to look at it is this:

Trout is worth 9 WAR but you get him for $40 mil.  

Harper is worth 4.5 WAR, but you get him for $35 mil.  

Moustakas is worth 2.5 WAR for 10mil or so.  

When we get to a point where $25 mil can't give the team a 2 WAR upgrade somewhere else, I will be all for signing Harper.  Until then, I am in the incremental upgrade boat.  

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11 minutes ago, Dtwncbad said:

31 vs. 26.

When you got burned buying old mushy brown bananas, was your lesson learned to never buy bananas again?

Would you have wanted Pujols starting at age 26? Problem fixed.

the age 26 argument isn't about marketing.  it's about the likelihood of bringing value on the field.  you are mixing your justifications.  

if you want to use the fact that he's likely to be good then it boils down to how much better he is vs. his replacement and the other replacements we'd be able to afford elsewhere.  

plus, the incremental attendance of what Harper brings above what Trout and Ohtani already bring is a tough sell.   I'll give you 10% of his contract value.  Then we're back to justifying a 4.5 WAR player for 31.5 mil over using that money for multiple upgrades elsewhere.  Especially in this market where we can get 2.5 WAR for 10 mil max.  

Again, show me where we can't make a 2-3 WAR upgrade for less than 30+ mil and I'll be on board with a Harper signing.  

We could have added Grandal on a 1 yr deal and he'd likely be an equal upgrade over Lucroy as Harper is over Calhoun.   

I get that a Harper addition would be sexy and all that, but it's just math.  Don't be the Boras target audience.  

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Bryce Harper’s age is a lot of his value. 

Normally with a free agent you are buying ages 30-34 maybe. With Harper you get to buy 27-28-29 too. 

Of course teams probably only want to pay for 27-33, and he wants 27 to 35 or 36, which is why he’s not signed. 

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16 minutes ago, Jeff Fletcher said:

Bryce Harper’s age is a lot of his value. 

Normally with a free agent you are buying ages 30-34 maybe. With Harper you get to buy 27-28-29 too. 

Of course teams probably only want to pay for 27-33, and he wants 27 to 35 or 36, which is why he’s not signed. 

it's probably pertinent that he wants $35 mil per for those seasons as well.  

 

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when i see his numbers, harper seems to be the current role model for "chicks dig the long ball."

i think he's overrated. definitely talented, but overrated.

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8 hours ago, Dochalo said:

that's not what I'm saying and of course he is.  

the point is that you don't assemble a team on one player's value when you have a finite budget.  If he's worth 9 WAR and the other 8 players around him are worth 0 and you've maxed out your budget then you are better off with 9  two WAR players on that same budget.  

if you get bryce harper and he's worth 5 WAR per year which is a 3 WAR upgrade over a league min player, and you have 2 one WAR players at other positions that you then can't afford to upgrade, aren't you better off going with the 2 WAR player in RF and spending that $35 mil to upgrade the 2 one war player to 2.5 WAR each for less than $35 mil?  

Another way to look at it is this:

Trout is worth 9 WAR but you get him for $40 mil.  

Harper is worth 4.5 WAR, but you get him for $35 mil.  

Moustakas is worth 2.5 WAR for 10mil or so.  

When we get to a point where $25 mil can't give the team a 2 WAR upgrade somewhere else, I will be all for signing Harper.  Until then, I am in the incremental upgrade boat.  

Finding 3-4 guys who will sign for $10 million and give you 2-3 WAR consistently is way easier said than done. See the Angels over the last 5 years as an example.

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3 hours ago, eaterfan said:

Finding 3-4 guys who will sign for $10 million and give you 2-3 WAR consistently is way easier said than done. See the Angels over the last 5 years as an example.

Well last year Harper gave the Nats 1.3 WAR.  So he is far from a guarantee.  

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6 minutes ago, Stradling said:

Well last year Harper gave the Nats 1.3 WAR.  So he is far from a guarantee.  

He had a -3.2 dWAR.  I know numbers and formulas are smarter than me, but I find it hard to believe he was that bad defensively. 

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Just now, m0nkey said:

He had a -3.2 dWAR.  I know numbers and formulas are smarter than me, but I find it hard to believe he was that bad defensively. 

I agree but I use WAR to stay consistent.  If I use WAR on one guy and OPS+ for another guy it could easily be construed that I’m cherry picking stats.  

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3 hours ago, eaterfan said:

Finding 3-4 guys who will sign for $10 million and give you 2-3 WAR consistently is way easier said than done. See the Angels over the last 5 years as an example.

Yeah, this.  
It reminds me of the old "We dont need a 20 game winner ill go find 2 guys to win 10 each" nonsense. 

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5 minutes ago, floplag said:

Yeah, this.  
It reminds me of the old "We dont need a 20 game winner ill go find 2 guys to win 10 each" nonsense. 

And all of this would mean something if we weren’t talking about Bryce Harper who gave the Nats a 1.3 WAR season last year.  Which means he had the same value as Andrew Heaney, or Tyler Skaggs or Jose Alvarez and less value than David Fletcher who played half a season.  Hell as much as I don’t like Machado he is much more consistent with his performance.  

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4 minutes ago, Stradling said:

And all of this would mean something if we weren’t talking about Bryce Harper who gave the Nats a 1.3 WAR season last year.  Which means he had the same value as Andrew Heaney, or Tyler Skaggs or Jose Alvarez and less value than David Fletcher who played half a season.  Hell as much as I don’t like Machado he is much more consistent with his performance.  

Which isnt the point.  
My comment was in reference to the one regarding finding a bunch of 2-3 WAR guys for 10 Mil that dont exist.  

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3 hours ago, eaterfan said:

Finding 3-4 guys who will sign for $10 million and give you 2-3 WAR consistently is way easier said than done. See the Angels over the last 5 years as an example.

yep.  and that's why we haven't been as good as we'd like to be lately.  It becomes even more difficult when you chew up $30-35 mil per year on a player that can give you anything from 1.5 WAR to an MVP season.  

I know you know this, but it's why a strong farm system is paramount.  Two of the key components are #1, if you lose your 3 WAR guy to injury then you've got depth to at least make part of it up and #2, you're not paying 10, 15, 20 mil for 1-2 WAR players.  And then an upgrade becomes more palatable when you are replacing a league min guy as opposed to someone you're already paying 10mil.  

Don't get me wrong.  I am not opposed to getting a guy like Harper.  But if it's at the cost of upgrading other areas in great need of upgrade then I don't think it makes sense.  I  am also not saying that every position needs to have a 3 WAR player before you make such a move.  But it's all about opportunity.  

Personally, I think Harper is a really good player.  Yet he's not sooo good that there isn't going to be another player available at some point that we could get instead.  His youth value makes considering him more interesting, but at the end of the day you have to weigh that against current timing and long term impact.  

Another way to think about it is that Harper is either a first piece or a last piece.  We have two first pieces and we aren't ready for the last piece yet.  

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