As you roll into downtown Cleveland, there's a pedestrian overpass across Ontario Street with a huge All-Star banner draped along the length of the bridge to promote the week's festivities. It features the faces of several of baseball's biggest stars.
One of those stars is Bryce Harper, the biggest name and most recognizable player in the sport.
The only problem, of course, is that Harper is not an All-Star. He's not in Cleveland. He had a good first half, hitting .253/.370/.470 with 16 home runs and 62 RBIs. But it wasn't a great first half, and for the first time since 2014, the fans did not vote him in as a starter. The players didn't vote him in as a reserve and the league selected J.T. Realmuto as the Philadelphia Phillies' rep.
So no Harper in Cleveland. Christian Yelich and Cody Bellinger, putting together monster seasons, will start in the National League outfield alongside the Atlanta Braves' 21-year-old phenom, Ronald Acuna Jr. Harper was once that phenom, but now he's a 26-year-old veteran with the expectations that come with a $330 million contract.
Harper's numbers are down a bit from last season -- an .889 OPS compared to .839 in 2019 -- and he's still on pace to hit 29 home runs. That's fine, except everyone is hitting home runs now. Yelich and Bellinger have already reached 30. Harper is on pace to whiff 189 times, and when you're striking out that much, you're not going to hit .300 like Harper did in 2015 and 2017. His swing-and-miss rate continues to escalate, raising concern about his long-term level of production:
2017: 26.8 percent
2018: 31.4 percent
2019: 33.3 percent
It's also half a season. He cut his strikeout rate in June. One hot streak and the overall numbers will look a lot better. He's also not the only big name not here in Cleveland.