Let’s rip this bandaid off quickly. Bryce Harper did not make the All-Star team in 2019 and didn’t deserve to. At the time of the All-Star break, Harper was hitting an OK .253, a good OBP of .370, and a pretty good SLG of .470. That’s good for an OPS+ of 117, good, but not great.
Harper made the All-Star in 2018 with seemingly worse numbers in 2018, but there were 2 reasons for that.
A) The Midsummer Classic was being held in Washington D.C., so Nationals fans voted in droves.
B) Out of his 70 pre-All-Star game hits, 23 of them were home runs. That put him at a pace for almost 40 on the season, something he’s only accomplished once.
His batting average at the break was terrible, mustering only a .214 batting average. Then he flipped a switch.
Post-2018 All-Star Game
For the next 30 games, Bryce Harper couldn’t be stopped. His batting average rose to a season-high .252. He slashed .364/.441/.655. The swell in batting average was fueled by a .458 Batting Average on Balls in Play.
While those numbers weren’t sustainable, he still finished strong. From July 20th to the end of the season, Harper hit exactly .300 with a .434 OBP. Between walks and hits, Harper was on base 119 times in a 65-game span.
The stretch would raise Harper’s BA 35 points from his mid-season mark and 40 points from his season-low .209 on June 20th.
Can Harper do it in 2019
It might surprise you, but he has already started.
From his low water mark of .209 in 2018, Harper slashed .283/.430/.525 with 15 HR and 56 RBI in 88 games. Harper’s low water mark in 2019 was on May 14 when he was hitting .219. Since that time, Harper has slashed .280/.369/.500 with 9 HR and 37 RBI in 49 games.
These aren’t surprising numbers either as Harper’s career slashline is .277/.386/.508. So the question now changes: Will Harper continue to do it?
There are a few numbers that we can look can that suggest he can. Harper has sported a .323 BAbip for the entire season. That number has only raised 10 points since May 14th. The only true difference is that Harper is striking out less since May 14th. In his first 41 games, Harper struck out 56 times. Since May 14th (49 games), he’s struck out 49 times. If he can lower this rate further, he should see his BA rise with his strong BAbip.
The other numbers that stand out show that Harper is smoking balls in 2019. According to Statcast, Harper is barreling 14% of batting balls, a career-high and top 9% of the league. His average exit velocity is 92 MPH, another career high and top 7% of the league.
According to Fangraphs, Harper is making soft contact at the lowest rate of his career, 11.8%. He’s also making hard contact at a career-high 45.6%.
In other words, Bryce Harper is going to destroy some baseballs in the second half of 2019.
Mandatory Credit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports