Why Is Bryce Harper An All-Star Starter?

The 2018 All-Star lineups were announced on Sunday, and for the sixth time, the National League roster will be highlighted by none other than hometown slugger Bryce Harper. Going into this season, if you would have told me that Bryce Harper would be a starting outfielder on this year’s NL All-Star team, I wouldn’t have batted an eye, but this isn’t the beginning of the season. Harper has been a shell of his former self at the plate this season as he is currently batting .218 and has 91 strikeouts. These stats both rank bottom 20 in the entire MLB, and if we’re focusing on just the NL, he is tied for sixth in most strikeouts and has the fourth-worst batting average in the NL among qualifying players. In addition to a tough stat-line at the plate, Harper hasn’t exactly been dazzling in the field either as he hasn’t recorded a single outfield assist this year, and for you analytic folks, currently has a -1.6 Defensive WAR rating (DWAR for short). Despite all of this, Harper has found a way to be productive for the Nats, as it seems all of his hits have been big hits. The Nationals star currently ranks third in the NL with 21 home runs and has 50 RBIs to go with it, good enough for seventeenth in the NL.

While the home run and rbi numbers may be good enough to merit an all-star appearance, should Harper really be there, let alone starting in centerfield? Let’s take a look at the outfielders joining Harper in D.C. Alongside him in the starting lineup will be Dodgers Matt Kemp, and the Braves Nick Markakis. Both of these were obvious choices to headline the NL outfield as both are batting above the .300 mark, and have come up big for their teams all season. Kemp is currently batting .319 with 15 home runs and 57 RBIs, while Markakis has a slight edge, batting .322 with 10 home runs and 59 RBIs. To put that into perspective, both Kemp and Markakis are batting at least a full .100 points better than Harper, with more RBIs and if you combined the two only have 18 more strikeouts total (109) than Harper (91).

In addition to Kemp and Markakis, Harper will also be joined by reserves Charlie Blackmon, Christian Yelich, and Lorenzo Cain. While all of these guys have been good this year, none of them have been great. Blackmon is having a down year batting .276 with 17 home runs and 40 RBIs, and many are questioning whether or not he should have even been voted in, especially considering he’s had a rough season defensively as well with a -2.2 DWAR rating. Yelich and Cain, on the other hand, seem to have found their niche in Milwaukee, Yelich batting .285 with 11 home runs and 36 RBIs, and Cain batting .290 with 8 home runs and 26 RBIs as well as providing some incredible defensive work. That being said, there are a few names that aren’t on the all-star roster that fans could argue should have made it, the most shocking name of the list is Albert Almora Jr. who is tied for the NL lead batting .326. One could also make a case for players such as David Peralta or Odubel Herrera, who are both having stellar first half’s. Peralta batting .291 with 15 home runs and 49 RBIs, and Herrera coming in at .281 also with 15 home runs and 51 RBIs.

Regardless of who you feel could have made it, it is fair to say that the NL outfield options aren’t quite as deep as they have been in years past, and if that isn’t enough, we all know how questionable the selection process actually is. A process where players such as Jesus Aguilar who is batting .306 with 22 home runs and 63 RBIs and Blake Snell, who is 12-4 with an AL lowest 2.09 ERA got left out. So with the All-Star game being in D.C. after all, and Harper being one of if not, the most polarizing player in the MLB in recent years maybe it makes sense that he got in; but just because it makes sense, doesn’t mean that it’s right.

So what do you think? 

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