Harper vs. Trout

The Harper vs. Trout debate irritates me to no end. Let’s run some basic numbers first. Trout is 20, Harper is 19. Trout has 273 PA at the Major League level (over two stints), Harper has 129 PA. Trout has 286 career Minor League games under his belt, Harper has 129. The point is easily seen that not only has Trout had 40 additional games at the Major League level to become acclimated, he also had well over twice the amount of prep time in the minors that Harper did. 

Statistically, I have serious issues with trying to take anything meaningful from sample sizes of 129 PA and 273 PA, as both are short of even half a season of baseball. But since the worldwide leader, among others, felt the need to make this an issue, I’m going to indulge.

Harper is currently 30 games and 129 PA’s into his Major League career and his current stats look like this: 

Harper Through 129 PA

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 19 WSN 30 129 113 21 31 6 4 4 11 2 2 14 21 .274 .357 .504 .861

 

Trout took 39 games (31 started) to get his first 131 PA’s, his line at that point looked like this: 

Trout Through 131 PA

Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2011 19 LAA 39 131 119 20 25 6 0 5 16 4 0 9 29 .210 .275 .387 .661

Purely looking at similar time periods of exceptionally small size, Harper is off to a much better start than Trout was through his first ~130 PA’s. Not only by OPS, but Harper’s K:BB is 1.5:1 whereas Trout’s through the same period was 3.2:1. Let’s fast forward to this year for our comparison. Harper’s numbers obviously stay the same, but Trout is off to a blazing start in his 31 games since being recalled from AAA on the same day that Bryce was:

Trout in 2012
Year Age Tm G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 20 LAA 31 138 123 22 38 7 3 5 19 8 2 12 30 .309 .370 .537 .906

There is no doubting Trout is having a great start this year, but the biggest difference between him and Harper this year is that Trout has a 60 point advantage (.367) in Batting Average on Balls In Play (BABIP). Harper’s BABIP is currently .303 and actually low, for him, considering how hard he hits the ball and how fast he is. I ran the numbers on what Harper’s stat line would look like with that 60-point bump in BABIP, and the results are quite interesting. It resulted in an additional 5 hits for Harper, one of which I recorded as a 2B because currently just under 20% of his hits are 2B’s. Given that adjustment, Harper exceeds even what Trout is doing to start the season:

Harper in 2012 with and without BABIP Bump
Year BABIP G PA AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI SB CS BB SO BA OBP SLG OPS
2012 .303 30 129 113 21 31 6 4 4 11 2 2 14 21 .274 .357 .504 .861
2012 .363 30 129 113 21 36 7 4 4 11 2 2 14 21 .319 .398 .558 .956
Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

 

Long story short, anything written about Trout being a better player than Harper simply isn’t looking at the scope of the situation, and is relying way too much on very little data. Ultimately these stats too are based on small sample sizes and will not mean a whole lot in the long run. But in the short term, they serve as a good reminder that these two phenoms truly are equals and are doing some incredible things to begin their Major League careers. Let’s enjoy it.

One comment

  1. If you want to see this debate at it's strangest, visit Freedom Card Board or any other baseball card trading/fan site. It's amazing the vitriol that some folks have against Harper (much of which is driven by the hope the value of his card goes down).I think there is a palpable level of "Hater's gonna hate" when it comes to Harper, none of which is based in fact (as you've put so eloquently here). I think Trout, who is every bit the solid player folks think he is, comes out as the Anti-Harper. A place for folks who are sick of the hype (which wasn't originally generated by Bryce, btw) go to on an emotional level.I agree. These guys are both great. No reason to not enjoy them both.

    Like

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