Simon: Running on Bryce Harper’s arm

From SABR member Mark Simon at ACTA Sports on March 5, 2019:

One of the storylines to follow for new Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper this season will be how he fares defensively. Harper’s defense cost the Nationals 26 runs last season, tied with new teammate Rhys Hoskins for second-worst in the majors. Harper struggled defensively in both right field, where he’ll likely play for the Phillies, and center field, where he played just under 500 innings for the Nationals in 2018.

Harper’s performance last season was about more than his inability to turn batted balls into outs at a high rate. Harper also cost his team with his troubles deterring baserunner advancement. Harper had -6 Outfield Arm Runs Saved last season, by far the worst total of his career (he saved five runs in the previous two seasons combined). He cost the Nationals five of those six runs in right field. From that position, Harper did not record any baserunner “kills” (a BIS term for throwing out a runner trying to advance without the help of a cutoff man). From 2015 to 2017, Harper totaled 16 assists in right field without using a cutoff man.

Baseball Info Solutions Video Scouts chart defensive plays, categorizing them as “Good Fielding Plays” and “Defensive Misplays & Errors.” Harper had five Defensive Misplays & Errors that were grouped as “Wasted Throw After Hit/Error” that allowed a runner to take an extra base. The only players with more were Billy Hamilton and Ender Inciarte, who had seven.

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Originally published: March 5, 2019. Last Updated: March 5, 2019.