Late surge sparks Harper's victory

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
7:41
PM ET
Rob Carr/Getty ImagesBryce Harper hit like a seasoned pro in the latter part of 2012.
As the second-youngest player to win Rookie of the Year honors, Bryce Harper finds himself in memorable statistical company.

The only player younger than Harper to win Rookie of the Year was Dwight Gooden for the New York Mets in 1984.

The player who was the youngest position player to win Rookie of the Year was one of the sports all-time greats, Hall-of-Famer Willie Mays.

What else was notable about Harper’s selection? Let’s take a look.

The History
Harper is the third player in Nationals/Expos franchise history to bring home the Rookie of the Year – the previous two were pitcher Carl Morton in 1970 outfielder Andre Dawson in 1977.

He’s the third player from a Washington-based franchise to win Rookie of the Year, an award given out since 1947. The other two were members of the Washington Senators- Albie Pearson in 1958 and Bob Allison in 1959.

The Numbers
Harper had the most Wins Above Replacement (5.0) of any player in his age 19-or younger season in baseball’s modern era (since 1900), surpassing the mark previously set by New York Giants outfielder Mel Ott (3.7) in 1928.

Harper was the newest statistical standard-setter among baseball teenagers. His 57 extra-base hits were the most by a player in his age 19-or-younger season (age computed as of June 30 of that season).

The only player to have more home runs in a season as a teenager than Harper’s 22 was Tony Conigliaro, who had 24 for the 1964 Boston Red Sox.

How he won
Harper won the season buoyed by a strong finish. He had a .333/.394/.660 batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage slashline in his last 38 games, which helped raise his OPS from .732 to .817.

His 1.053 OPS over that span was the best in the National League and fourth-best in the majors.

Harper took after AL Rookie of the Year winner Mike Trout in that he became a much more impactful hitter on pitches in the lower half of the strike zone.

Harper hit .321 with a .957 OPS in at-bats ending with pitches to that location over his last 38 games. Prior to that, he hit just .210 with a .601 OPS against those pitches.

Harper was also significantly more effective in two-strike counts, as highlighted in the chart on the right.

Had Harper maintained that .145 two-strike batting average throughout the season, it would have cost him 15 points on his end-of-year .270 batting average.

More than that, it might have cost him Rookie of the Year honors.

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