(Matt Rourke / AP)
Another year, another award for ARod and Big Papi. Wait what!? That and more in our M-SABR staff-wide award predictions.
The wait is over! A long, dark, baseball-less winter has come and gone, and by the time you’re reading this, the 2017 MLB season will most likely be underway. What a glorious day. Baseball is back! Chris Archer will throw the first pitch of the year as the Yankees and Rays kick off the 2017 MLB season. Sure, there is probably a better place to kick it off than the Trop (everyone’s least favorite stadium), but at this point, any baseball is good baseball. With that, we are releasing our final predictions for the year. First, we have a few write-ups from club members predicting who will win the big awards this year. After that, the moment of truth: playoff and World Series predictions.
As for the awards, here we go!
Francisco Lindor starts his third season in the MLB this year, and in 2017 he will snatch the American League MVP as well. Lindor has always been known for his stellar defense, but his bat has come along just fine in his two years in the majors. He posted an 112 wRC+ last year. Now, that is nowhere near MVP caliber – the last five MVPs in the AL have had an average wRC+ of 170.2 during their MVP seasons – but he will get it up to about 130-140 this year. He does not need his offensive numbers to be off the charts, as his defense is what puts him in contention for this award. His UZR was 4th in all of Major League Baseball last year, at 20.8. Let me remind you too that he is only 23 years old, and to quote Michael Jordan, “the ceiling is the roof” for him. I will go out on a limb here and say that he will join the 30-30 club this upcoming year. Now that’s a bold prediction. Although he only stole 19 bags and hit 15 homers last year, however, he is going to surprise nearly everyone when he tears it up this season. His big problem is that he only walks 8.3% of the time, but more Major League experience should lead his offensive numbers to spike. Fangraphs states, “He is arguably the best shortstop in the MLB,” and he is only 23! Now, will he have his MVP year this next year? I hope so, simply for the sake of having bragging rights in our club. Yet, even if he doesn’t, he will find himself holding at least one MVP trophy by the end of his career. The parting thought I’m going to leave with you is this: he was 8th in the MLB in WAR (6.3) last year after having a subpar offensive year. Watch out Mike Trout, Francisco Lindor is coming for you.
– Hunter Satterthwaite
Headlined by four former MVP’s in Josh Donaldson, Andrew McCutchen, Bryce Harper and the almighty Clayton Kershaw, the 2018 MLB free agency class looks to be amongst the greatest in history, and one that could shape the landscape of the league for years to come. Yet don’t be surprised if when it’s all said and done Manny Machado signs the richest contract of them all after adding an MVP of his own in 2017.
Since 2013—his second year in the league—only 5 batters have produced more fWAR than Machado’s 21.7, yet if 2016 is any indicator, there is still room to grow for Baltimore’s sweet-fielding third baseman. If MVP’s were won simply by making ludicrous throws from your knees in foul territory, Machado would already have 3, but since they are not, look for him to win his first with his bat. His ISO and SLG have risen every full season he has been in the majors, and after hitting 37 home runs in 2016, 45 bombs with a .300/.375/.550 slash line may not be out of reach if his BB% is closer to the 9.8% he posted in 2015 than the sub-par 6.9% of 2016. If the rest of the Orioles homer-happy lineup steps up and the pitching is not a total disaster, a Machado led AL Wild Card berth for the O’s will be too good of a story for AL MVP voters to pass up—regardless of what Mike Trout does for the 4th place Angels.
– Max Smith
Sure, Mike Trout and Mookie Betts are the sexy picks here. These are young players with great bats that always seem to get it done, what’s not to love? But where is the recognition for a top-level consistent veteran who has been the dominant hitter at his position for years? After being overlooked the past few years on a Mariners team that has missed the playoffs, Cano finally gets the payoff for his production this year. The Mariners will win the AL West and Cano will be their leader. Since his breakout year in 2010, he only recorded an rWAR below 5.5 once (in 2015). Last year he showed that was just a fluke as he rebounded with an rWAR of 7.3, good for fourth in the entire American League. His defensive rWAR this past season was just a meager 0.3 lower than his last gold glove year (of which he’s had two). He also put out a career-high 39 home runs, showing he can still get it done both in the field and at the plate. The young studs and lack of Mariners postseason play have kept him from breaking through in the MVP vote but the 34-year-old will put together another fantastic season, end the Mariners playoff drought, and bring home some hardware in the process.
– Josh Rusgo
After a surreal breakout in 2015, some were expecting monster numbers for Correa in 2016, while others were expecting a bit of a sophomore slump. Based on him hitting two fewer homers and stealing one less base in 2016 in 228 more plate appearances than he had in 2015, it’s safe to say that ’16 was a bit of a slump. Nevertheless, Correa still hit a solid .274 with a .361 OBP, 20 bombs, 96 RBI, and 13 steals, good for an fWAR of 4.9 (24th in the MLB) and a wRC+ of 122 (tied for 44th). If those stats represent Correa’s “sophomore slump”, he should be poised to put on a show in 2017. It doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect at least 30 homers and a .280+ average from the rising star, which could spell an MVP for Correa if his fWAR is high enough.
– Griffin Murphy
….I guess everybody felt edgy and decided not to pick him? In any case, look at the WAR leaderboards for the past five years. Done? Okay. Trout wins the MVP.
– Zane Harding
Don’t let the babyface and seemingly luck-inflated .388 BABIP fool you: Trea Turner and his .342/.370/.567 2016 half-season performance are for real.
If you’re a traditional stats guy, look no further than his 13 home runs and 33 stolen bases in 73 games that put him in position to join Rickey Henderson, Eric Davis, Joe Morgan as only the fourth member in history of the 20 HR/60 SB club in 2017—as I mentioned in MSABR’s Pre-Season Bold Predictions. If you fancy yourself a sabermetrician, maybe I can interest you in Turner’s .395 wOBA and 147 wRC+ from last season, both of which outpaced NL Rookie of the Year and MVP 3rd place Corey Seager (.372 wOBA and 137 wRC+). And if Statcast is your player-evaluation method of choice, then you might be especially impressed by Turner posting Statcast’s top max-speed on any 2016 triple at an eye-popping 22.7 mph.Now I admit that questioning whether the surprising power he displayed last year (.225 ISO) is here to stay is a valid concern, but given the return to his natural position at short and a full season as the dynamo atop a loaded Nationals line-up, a spectacular, MVP-winning 2017 could be in store for the only 23-year old Turner.
Now I admit that questioning whether the surprising power he displayed last year (.225 ISO) is here to stay is a valid concern, but given the return to his natural position at short and a full season as the dynamo atop a loaded Nationals lineup, a spectacular, MVP-winning 2017 could be in store for the only 23-year old Turner.
– Max Smith
Let’s start here: Addison Russell is the starting shortstop for what is likely to be baseball’s best team in 2017. He’s young, fun to watch, and likable. He’ll get Cubs-powered national attention, too. These characteristics—besides the shortstop part—are some of the things that fueled Kris Bryant’s MVP campaign in 2016. So what’s missing with Russell?
For one, Bryant is years ahead of Russell in offensive development. The third baseman clobbered 39 home runs last year to go along with 102 runs driven in. He posted a wOBA of .396 and improved in nearly every offensive category from the previous year—his Rookie of the Year campaign. So it’s hard to compare the two teammates in the batter’s box, at least at the moment.
But Kris Bryant lacks a quality that Addison Russell has consistently demonstrated since his debut: extraordinary defense. The shortstop was a top-of-the-line defender in 2015, boasting a UZR/150 of 7.3. His RngR (range runs, defined as the number of runs above or below average a fielder is, determined by how the fielder is able to get to balls hit in his vicinity) was 11.2. And Russell did all of this while playing mostly second base, away from his natural slot at shortstop. When allowed the comfort of his home position in 2016, the 23-year-old flourished even more so, raising his UZR to 15.4, good for 8th-best in all of baseball, and pushing his RngR to 14.5, 5th-best among qualified defenders.
So there’s no denying Russell’s defense is MVP-worthy. But what about his offense?
He improved mightily at the plate in 2016 compared to his rookie year, increasing his totals in home runs, runs batted in, on-base percentage, and isolated power. His wOBA went up, while he also increased his BB% from 8.0% to 9.2% and cut his K% from 28.5% to 22.6%. In addition, his RC+ rose from 91 in 2015 to 95 last year. These are promising signs, and they point toward continued development this coming season. If Russell can be even more valuable at the plate in 2017 while continuing his defensive excellence, he might pass Bryant as the Cubs’ most valuable player—maybe even becoming baseball’s most valuable, too.
– Billy Stampfl
Last fall, Stanton took a trip with his closest friends, A.J. Ramos and Ricky Nolasco, to journey the world and find perspective in it following the loss of teammate Jose Fernandez. This spring, Stanton says he has found a new outlook on life and an appreciation for it following everything he has been through over the past seven months or so. His coaches have added that Stanton appears to have a new focus. It is Stanton’s time to lead this team and take his levels to new heights, and with everything he has gone through, I would not doubt that he does. For talent’s sake, take another look at the Home Run Derby highlights from last year, and that should suffice.
– Matthew Kikkert
World Series MVP:
I’m pretty sure this is the only World Series MVP prediction that anybody signed up to write, so it has to be right. Look. If you ignore that one time that Panda hit 3 HR in a playoff game, Justin Verlander is the king of postseason pitching. When Oakland A’s fans go to sleep and have nightmares, they see Justin Verlander. The Tigers make an impossible run this year and Verlander is the dominant force behind this, posting an 8.0 rWAR to top his 6.6 rWAR in 2016. His playoff performances are why he wins World Series MVP, however. After two CGSOs in Game 5 of the ALDS and Game 7 of the ALCS, Verlander gets two Ws in the World Series to take the World Series MVP award.
– Zane Harding
AL Cy Young:
Surprise, it’s me again! I honestly don’t know what to tell you here. I just said that Verlander is going to have an rWAR of 8.0 in 2017. Guess how many AL pitchers have had an rWAR above 8.0 in the 2010s? One. That man? 2011 Justin Verlander. Who came closest besides 2011 Justin Verlander? 2012 Justin Verlander, with an rWAR of 7.7. JV managed a 6.6 rWAR in 2016 with a 4.07 first half ERA. Must See JV finished his adjustment in 2016. In 2017, he is the best pitcher in the Big Leagues, as his league-high four-seam fastball spin rate continues to headline an incredible pitch repertoire that baffles hitters.
– Zane Harding
After consecutive great years in ’14 and ’15, Archer was a letdown last year, finishing with a mediocre 4.02 ERA. Archer’s season, however, was a tale of two halves. His first half ERA of 4.66 and FIP of 4.25 were not too surprising given an unusually high BB/9 of 3.93, almost one walk per nine above his career average, not to mention an unlucky HR/9 of 1.47, over .5 above his career average. In the second half, however, Archer was dominant. His BB/9 dropped by over two walks per nine down to 1.87 BB/9, and his HR/9 dropped to 1.18, yielding a second half ERA and FIP combo of 3.25 and 3.29, respectively. In his 28-year-old season, expect Archer to build on his second half success in 2016 and win his first AL Cy Young award.
– Griffin Murphy
While the intense Porcello vs. Verlander debate dominated the 2016 AL Cy Young news cycle (thanks in part to the lovely but not always soft-spoken Kate Upton), a resurgent 2016 season by Corey Kluber did not quite get the credit it deserved.
Kluber trailed Porcello and Verlander by only 0.1 fWAR for the lead among all AL pitchers, as Cleveland’s ace put up 5.1 wins above replacement, good for his third straight 5 fWAR season, an achievement only Chris Sale can match amongst American League pitchers from 2014-2016. Known for his filthy repertoire, Kluber did his reputation justice by leading all MLB pitchers in weighted Curveball runs above average according to FanGraphs, as his 21.8 wCB led second place Rich Hill by 5.8 and made him one of only three pitchers total with a double-digit wCB.
As the Indians look to repeat as both AL Central and AL champions, a lot of their success will hinge on Kluber anchoring their rotation, and if his past few seasons are any indicator, he has the ability to not only lead the team to glory but add a second Cy Young award to his personal trophy case.
– Max Smith
NL Cy Young:
For years, Kershaw has been the unequivocal best pitcher in the majors, and he has shown no signs of slowing down. From 2011-2016, his ERA and WHIP were a preposterous 2.08 and 0.908, as he put up 42.8 fWAR and won 3 Cy Young awards. His abbreviated 2016 season may have even his best ever, with a walk rate half his previous best, and an incredible 0.725 WHIP, which would have been the best of all time if he qualified, which he nearly did. His 230 ERA+, would have been the 11th best of all time. At 29, only injury can slow him down, and if last year is any indication, not even that can. Whatever way you slice it, the Cy Young award is once again Kershaw’s to lose.
– Cam Cain
Mad Bum has done it all. Four straight all-star appearances, two-time silver slugger as the scariest hitting pitcher in all of baseball, three World Series rings, and a World Series MVP. He has just about all the hardware a pitcher can get in a career (already, at just 27 years old!), but he is missing the crown jewel of individual pitching awards. The CY Young. In every season since his first full year, he has struck out 190+ batters and pitched 200+ innings. The last four years have seen sub 3.00 ERAs and 12 total complete games. He is the definition of a workhorse. Yet somehow, he has never finished higher than fourth in the CY Young voting?!? That absurdity comes to an end in 2017 as Mad Bum brings home the big prize and reminds everybody just how dominant of a pitcher he is.
– Josh Rusgo
Syndergaard has an overpowering presence on the mound. With a fastball that reaches 100 mph, a wipeout power curveball, and a slider which is commonly referred to as “Thor’s Hammer,” it is obvious why. Then when looking at his stats from a year ago, this choice becomes even more clear. 1st in fWAR at 6.5, 1st in FIP at 2.29, 3rd in ERA at 2.60, as well as 1st in HR/9 and 4th in K/9. This was all done at just 23 years old. Now at 24, Syndergaard will take his game to new heights and take his first of many Cy Young crowns.
– Matthew Kikkert
Clayton Kershaw (are you surprised to see him again? Really?)
Let me begin by saying that I am the single most optimistic Nationals and DC sports fan I know. Yet when the bullpen door swung open in the 9th inning of Game 5 of the 2016 NLDS and #22 began his determined march towards the mound, even I knew. A pop out, a strikeout and a jubilant fist pump by the wrong team’s pitcher later it was officially over.
When it comes to Clayton Kershaw, the numbers are one thing. Yes, he did lead all pitchers with 6.5 fWAR despite pitching 10 fewer games than second place Noah Syndergaard. And yes, he did post a 15.6 K/BB ratio in the 149 innings he pitched while throwing in an MLB record-low .725 WHIP just for good measure (the previous all-time season records were 11.6 and .737 by Phil Hughes in 2014 and Pedro Martinez in 2000 respectively). And yes, in 2015 he did become the first pitcher since 2002 to strike out 300 batters in a season. But to me—even as a true numbers guy—when I think of Kershaw, I think of how the mere sight of him taking the field at Nationals Park last October 13 made me lose all hope. Barring another injury, batters and the rest of the 2017 NL Cy Young field will become all too familiar with that impending sense of hopelessness as Clayton Kershaw looks to add a fourth Cy Young to a resume that might one day make him the greatest pitcher of all time.
– Max Smith
AL Rookie of the Year:
Yes, he’s the guy that got $31.5 million just for signing his name on a piece of paper for the Boston Red Sox. Now, he is in the White Sox organization via the Chris Sale trade. He was brought up at the tail end of a pennant race last year in Boston and only saw limited at-bats. He struggled (as expected) because he jumped straight up from AA to the majors. Looking back at his year in AA ball, all signs point to Moncada becoming a monster soon. His ISO was .254, and that simply measures raw power by a hitter. His K% is very high, but that always seems to be a downside to most young, raw hitters. He was named MLB Future Game MVP last year and ended the season slotted as the #1 prospect in all of baseball by MLB.com. The White Sox have Tyler Saladino starting at 2B to start the season, but that might be over by the start of June as Moncada starts his rookie of the year campaign.
– Hunter Satterthwaite
Just because he might never be the best outfielder on his own team (see: Betts, Mookie), does not mean that Baseball America, MLB.com, and ESPN’s consensus #1 overall prospect Andrew Benintendi will not become a star in his own right. Following a brief 2016 regular season cameo in which he slashed .295/.359/.476, the 22-year old former Golden Spikes winner made a name for himself by hitting a home run in his first ever post-season at-bat and was just about the only silver lining in Boston’s disappointing 3-game playoff exit.
Coming into 2017, Benintendi has locked up the starting left field job for the prohibitive AL East favorite Red Sox. His prominent role alone in what could be a 100-win season if Boston plays up to its potential, make him the favorite for this award, and that is without even considering the excellent numbers I envision him putting him up in his first full year in the majors. Yoan Moncada might make things close, but I think Boston new what they were doing when they parted ways with the electric Cuban second basemen in favor of soon to be 2017 AL Rookie of the Year Benintendi.
– Max Smith
Acquired from Arizona this past offseason in the Jean Segura trade, Haniger has mashed everywhere he has played, and he has earned a spot in the Mariners’ lineup to start the season. In 5 seasons in the minors, the former first round pick never had a wRC+ below 100, save for a 4 game rehab stint in rookie ball in 2014. His 2016 season in AAA Reno was his best yet, where he had a whopping 1.098 OPS and 20 homers in only 261 at bats. Haniger struggled in his short time in the majors last year, but his .256 BABIP shows he is due for some positive regression to the mean. Also, for what it’s worth, he has hit .389 this spring with three stolen bases. It’s obviously unreasonable to expect that kind of production, but if Haniger can show some of the pop he did in the minors, he could put up an incredible rookie season.
– Cam Cain
NL Rookie of the Year:
Are 80% of this pick the name and the hair? Yes, absolutely. Are the other 20% firmly backed up by the flashes he showed in the big leagues at the end of last season? Also yes. Despite a seemingly lucky .383 BABIP, a .302/.361/.442 triple slash line in a 38 game sample is nothing to scoff at. Widely regarded as the most pro-ready prospect at the time of the 2015 MLB draft, the 23-year old Swanson now finds himself entrenched at SS and in the two-hole for the Braves, and 600 at bats coming his way should lead to impressive counting statistics at the very least.
Experts may not view Swanson’s upside on par with that of budding superstar shortstops à la Corey Seager, Carlos Correa, or Francisco Lindor, but he won’t need that to separate himself from this year’s NL Rookie class. Expect Swanson—and his magnificent head of hair—to become a household name and a bright spot in what will likely be an otherwise tough year in Atlanta.
– Max Smith
Not to be confused with Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game-winning touchdown for Clemson in the National Championship this January, Renfroe (with an ‘e’) is one of baseball’s most intriguing young players. A top 100 prospect for the past 3 years, Renfroe was Pacific Coast League MVP in 2016 after hitting .306 with 30 home runs for the El Paso Chihuahuas. He was even more impressive in his short time in the majors, where he slugged .800 with 4 home runs in 11 games. His one weakness appears to be his eye, as he had a walk rate of only 6.5% in the minor leagues, and that went down as he climbed the ladder. If he can improve in that respect, the hard-hitting Renfroe can make an immediate impact in the majors.
– Cam Cain
AL Manager of the Year:
I’d like to begin by acknowledging that I have no reason whatsoever to suspect Alex Rodriguez will be the American League’s Manager of the Year award winner in 2017.
Okay, with that out of the way, here we go.
Imagine this scenario: Joe Girardi struggles to handle a young and slightly immature Yankees team early in the season. Gary Sanchez thinks he’s better than everyone else. Girardi, a former catcher himself, doesn’t like this. The front office refuses to call up top prospect Gleyber Torres, even with shortstop Didi Gregorius on the DL. Girardi hates this. Then the contract dispute starts. Hal Steinbrenner remembers that his skipper’s contract is up at the end of 2017. Then he realizes something previously unheard-of in the Bronx: The Yankees haven’t won a playoff series since 2012. Even that year, they narrowly edged the Orioles in the division series before being embarrassed by the Tigers in the ALCS. Steinbrenner doesn’t like this. So amid a disappointing season and complaints from Girardi about management’s handling of Torres, Hal Steinbrenner, in true Steinbrennerian form, fires the Yankee manager in mid-May. He immediately turns to Alexander Emmanuel Rodriguez to ascend to the throne.
The rest is simple: A-Rod, a former stud prospect who knows what it’s like both to handle the spotlight at a young age and deal with a challenging New York media, beautifully crafts the Baby Bombers. He uses his charm to convince Steinbrenner to call Torres to the majors in early June and gives young sluggers Sanchez, Greg Bird, and Aaron Judge some help—albeit not necessarily MLB-legal—in mashing home runs on a daily basis. The team wins 95 games and takes the AL East. By now it doesn’t matter what happens in the playoffs because A-Rod the manager is the league’s finest.
– Billy Stampfl
NL Manager of the Year:
Tied for the 6th lowest winning percentage in the bigs, the D-backs had a rough going in 2016. Solid offensive production (largely due to breakouts by Jean Segura and Yasmany Tomas) left the D-backs with the 10th best offense in the league in terms of runs scored, but only the 20th best offense in terms of wRC+. The offense could not offset their atrocious pitching, however, which finished dead last in runs allowed and 20th in xFIP. So, where is there optimism for Lovullo and the Diamondbacks? 2015 fringe MVP candidate A.J. Pollock returns after sitting out most of 2016 with injury and should be the leader of an outfield with the potential to produce between him, Tomas, and David Peralta, who also struggled with injuries through 2016. Jake Lamb took big strides in 2016, finishing 48th in wOBA and 63rd in wRC+, so don’t be surprised if he gets even better in his age-26 season. Many analysts like Brandon Drury and Chris Owings to make progress this year as well. This should be the best lineup Goldschmidt has been in yet, so it’s not crazy to expect a career year out of him, either. The biggest question mark is their starting rotation, anchored by Zach Greinke and new-arrival Taijuan Walker, who could be in for a breakout season. The back end of their rotation has high potential in Robbie Ray, Shelby Miller, and Patrick Corbin, who have all flashed all-star potential but have not had the consistency to establish themselves in the league. In 2017, Lovullo will bring a long-lost winning vibe back to the D-backs, pushing them into the wildcard and leaving Giants and Rockies fans disappointed.
– Griffin Murphy
AL Comeback Player of the Year:
After posting back-to-back sub 3.00 ERA seasons in 2014 (xFIP 3.20) and 2015 when he won the Cy Young (xFIP 2.75), Keuchel was shellacked in 2016, finishing with an ERA of 4.55, and a so-so xFIP of 3.53. As it turns out, Keuchel was dealing with shoulder pain all through last season until he and doctors called the season quits in late August. Unsurprisingly for someone like Keuchel (who relies heavily on control due to low velocity), a small nagging injury had a great impact on his performance, yielding BB/9 and HR/9 numbers far above those he obtained in ’14 and ’15. Keuchel has seemingly been forgotten in the discussion of top-tier AL pitchers, so don’t be shocked when he finishes with a sub 3.20 ERA and reasserts himself as among the best in the AL.
– Griffin Murphy
Disregard that I picked Dallas Keuchel, this is the real pick. The Red Sox, current AL favorites, come out of the gates struggling. Sale doesn’t turn out to be the ace Boston paid for. Porcello regresses to Porcello-like numbers. Price stays on the DL. Bradley, Bogaerts, and Benintendi struggle to get their bats going, while Mookie is the only member of the offense who is hitting consistently. Replacing Big Papi is an epic failure, as Moreland struggles to hold down first and Hanley falls off, seeing his K-rate spike as he’s chasing homers. Come July 31st, the Sox are nine behind the Blue Jays, five behind the O’s and two back on the Yanks. Rumors begin swirling about an Ortiz return to revamp the Sox struggling offense, though he quickly puts the rumors to rest on Twitter. The following day, Ortiz is seen boarding a two-seater Cessna in the Dominican Republic, and social media explodes. As he lands in Boston reporters surround his plane, only to see the legend himself emerge from the cockpit (as he has taken up piloting in retirement), exclaiming with a cheek-to-cheek grin, “Who’s your Papi?” That very night, Ortiz returns to the lineup against Cleveland and goes 4 for 4 with two bombs and six RBI, beginning one of the most epic tears in MLB history. Big Papi, at the ripe age of 41, goes on to hit .360/.515/.970 in the remaining two months of the season, leading the Red Sox to a 40-14 run, a division title, and a fourth World Series in the Big Papi era, a perfect end to an illustrious, unforgettable career. Not even Hunter Satterthwaite’s article “David Ortiz: The Send-Off of a Lifetime” could have predicted a send-off like this. In unprecedented fashion, Ortiz receives the AL Comeback Player of the Year for coming out of retirement and turning the Red Sox season around, though Red Sox fans claim he’s been snubbed out of the MVP in spite of his appearance in only 48 games.
– Griffin Murphy
NL Comeback Player of the Year:
From a 9.9 rWAR in his 2015 NL MVP season to a 1.6 rWAR in 2016, something was off last year for Bryce Harper. The walks carried over from 2015, but the hits didn’t. That said, Bryce had a rough start to last year. Injury in May and a stretch of 13 walks in four games were… unsettling for Harper to say the least. In fact, 2016 was a weird year for Harper in general. One look at his BABIP by month explains everything. In April/March, Bryce hit for a .286/.406/.714 slash, but his BABIP was .228. How did he pull that off with such bad luck? It’s hard to know for sure, but he couldn’t continue to produce at that level as his BABIP stayed low. In May, his BABIP dropped(!) to .226, as his triple-slash changed to .200/.422/.363. It’s absolutely insane how much his SLG dropped, yet it’s arguably more insane that his OBP rose (that’s what 31 BB:26 K will do for you). In June, his BABIP stayed below the .300 marker at .295, but his AVG climbed back up to .280. July, though, was completely unexplainable. Harper batted .176/.303/.319 with a BABIP of, this is not a joke, .182. How? How does that even happen? I don’t know, but he batted .310 when his BABIP climbed to .348 in August before finishing September and October on a cold streak. Bryce Harper suffered from bad luck and injury in 2016. He had an entire offseason to get healthy, and this year, he will come back as one of the very best in all of baseball.
– Zane Harding