Every baseball season brings new data, and revisions to reputations. But this year has been especially revealing about Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, two of the game's most scrutinized players. Strasburg is rocketing up the game's "respectrum," while Harper, one year from free agency, now shows a few cracks. Just 17 months ago, when Strasburg signed a seven-year, $175 million contract extension, many Nationals fans were pleased. But they also wondered, "Why Strasburg? Why not save all that money to keep Bryce?" The day the Strasburg deal was announced, Harper was not only the reigning National League MVP but was on pace for 51 homers and 134 RBI with an OPS of 1.095. At that moment, Strasburg was the pitcher famous for his injuries and a need for gentle handling. Harper seemed on the verge of finishing high in MVP voting for years to come in the NL, just as Mike Trout had done in the American League. How times change. Now, Strasburg seems relatively durable, and Harper might not be. Over the past five years, Strasburg ranks 30th in MLB in games started with 139. That's two fewer than Clayton Kershaw, the same as David Price and more than Felix Hernandez. In those same five years, Harper ranks 90th in games played, just 126 a season, and now he says he should have skipped quite a few more games in 2016 when he had a balky shoulder. That's almost six weeks out per season. Strasburg showed he can be dominant in the postseason, although in a losing cause last week. He rose to the occasion to start Game 1 when Max Scherzer couldn't, then pitched sick to save the season in Game 4. His ERA: 0.00, bringing his three-start postseason career ERA to 0.49. Harper, for the fourth time, failed to lead his team out of the first round and has career playoff batting average and OPS marks of .215 and .801. By the high standards of right fielders, he's Mr. Average in October.
Bryce Harper is a year from free agency. So what's he really worth?
Chicago Tribune | Oct 20