Analyzing How Much Better Bryce Harper Will Be in 2013

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Analyzing How Much Better Bryce Harper Will Be in 2013
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

Bryce Harper had an outstanding 2012 MLB season, setting the National League record for home runs by a teenager while being selected to the All-Star Game and winning NL Rookie of the Year.

But 2012 is over.

How will Bryce Harper play in 2013?

To predict the answer to that question, we will analyze Harper's statistics from 2012.

Before anything else, we must analyze Harper's strikeouts. This number predicts Harper's success better than any other single statistic, acting as the first domino to fall in establishing the overall design of Harper's statistical output. If he can reduce his strikeouts, Harper can improve the rest of his offensive numbers.

In 2012, Bryce Harper played in 139 games and totaled 120 strikeouts in 533 at-bats. Harper finished tied for 31st in the National League in strikeouts, whiffing at a rate of 4.44 at-bats per strikeout (AB/SO).

But remember, Harper did not make his major league debut until April 28, missing the first 20 games of the season while still in the minors. So, he played in 139 of 142 possible regular season games, or 98 percent.

For the purpose of this analysis, let's assume that Harper will not only stay healthy, but that he will play in the exact same percentage of games. Over an entire season, that means Harper would play in 158 games for the Nats.

In 2012, Harper had 533 at-bats in 139 games, or 3.83 at-bats per game. Over the course of the hypothetical 2013 season, Harper would receive 605 at-bats.

Now it's time to stop assuming, and start predicting. If we assume that Harper will maintain an AB/SO ratio of 4.44 over 158 games, he would total 136 strikeouts. In 2012, this would have ranked him 17th in the National League in strikeouts (ESPN.com).

Instead, Harper should strive for an AB/SO ratio of 5.50, more than one entire at-bat greater than his ratio in 2012. Over 158 games, this would equate to 110 strikeouts. And with this vital statistic improved, Harper will see the rest of his stats improve as well.

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By working to reduce his strikeouts, Harper would therefore improve his patience at the plate. This newfound patience would allow him to draw more walks. In 2012, Harper had 56 base on balls. In 2013, he can improve to 75 walks on the season.

With an improved batting eye and increased patience, Harper can then improve two offensive statistics considered the heartbeat of every major league hitter: batting average and on-base percentage. By reducing his strikeouts and increasing his base on balls, Harper will get better pitches to hit, and can realistically bat .285 over the course of the season, a noticeable increase from his 2012 average of .270. By hitting .285 over 605 at-bats, Harper would tally 172 base hits.

Now, to predict Harper's on-base percentage, we must look at Harper's hits, along with several other statistics. Baseball Reference calculates on-base percentage (OBP) with the following formula:

(H + BB + HBP) / (AB + BB + HBP + SF) = OBP

In this formula, HBP stands for times hit by a pitch, while SF stands for sacrifice flies. In 2012, Harper had two HBP and three SF. We will assume the same number for each in 2013.

So, plugging in the projected statistics we have already established, Harper's 2013 OBP would look something like this:

(172 + 75 + 2) / (605 + 75 + 2 + 3) = OBP

249 / 685 = .364

This OBP would be an improvement over 2012, when Harper had an already respectable OBP of .340.

Next, Harper can also improve all of his power numbers. Last season, Harper hit 22 home runs, with 24.2 at-bats per home run (AB/HR). If Harper improves that rate to 20.0, he will reach the 30 home run plateau.

Now, it would be a stretch for Harper to also reach the 100 RBI plateau, based on last season's performance. In 2012, Harper collected 59 RBI, with 9.0 at-bats per run batted in (AB/RBI). To achieve 100 RBI, Harper would need an AB/RBI ratio of 6.0. A tall order. As a compromise, I'll predict that Harper will use an AB/RBI ratio of 7.5 to finish with 80 RBI.

Last season, Harper hit 40 percent of all hits for extra bases (XB/H%). An improvement to 45% in this category would allow Harper to collect 77 extra base hits, based on the predicted total of 172 hits. Harper's 30 home runs leaves 47 extra base hits. In 2012, Harper had 26 doubles and nine triples. With an upward trend, Harper can be predicted to hit 35 doubles and 12 triples.

Last but not least, we'll predict Harper's slugging percentage. Baseball Reference defines slugging percentage (SLG) as the following:

(1B + (2 X 2B) + (3 X 3B) + (4 X HR)) / AB = SLG

Using the 2013 predictions, Harper's SLG would be as follows:

(95 + (2 X 35) + (3 X 12) + (4 X 30)) / 605 = SLG

(95 + 70 + 36 + 120) / 605 = SLG

321 / 605 = .531

With Harper's slugging percentage calculated, we can now take a look at all of his predicted statistics for 2013.

According to this hypothetical analysis, Harper would hit .285 in 605 at-bats over 158 games. He would have 172 hits with 35 doubles, 12 triples and 30 home runs, to go with 80 RBI, 75 walks and 110 strikeouts. Finally, Harper would have a .364 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage.

Of course, Harper cannot repeat as NL Rookie of the Year, even with these numbers. But he might garner a few votes for NL MVP.

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