Using FanGraphs to Find Bryce Harper Facts

There are a lot of reasons you might have arrived at FanGraphs. Perhaps you’re here for the articles or you’re just trying to find a detailed fantasy baseball game, but there’s a good chance that our various statistics are a big part of the draw for you. We host a lot of numbers and there’s a lot you can do with them if you know where to look. Last year, I put together a primer on how to use the FanGraphs Leaderboards to aid readers in their efforts to manage the information we provide.

If you’re new to the site, that’s a great place to start, but if you’re somewhere between newbie and expert, this post might help you get the most out of what we have to offer. When you’re thinking about baseball, there are a lot of questions you might want to answer. How do these two players compare? How does this player measure up historically? How rare is this particular thing?

Today, we’re going to use Bryce Harper‘s exciting 2015 season to explore some of the features available at FanGraphs. This isn’t an exhaustive run down of the tools, simply an explanation of some of the more useful ones that don’t get enough recognition. If you’re reading this in the future, the screen grabs for 2015 are current through July 18, 2015, but the links will update automatically with new data.

Let’s start with something very basic. If you go to the main FanGraphs leaderboard, Bryce Haper is at the top with 160 other players listed below him. To get to the main page, you want to hover over the word Leaders at the top of any page and click “2015” under Batting Leaders. You’ll arrive at a page which includes something like this:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.19.33 PM

Bryce Haper leads the league in WAR as of this writing. You can sort all of those columns and see where he stacks up with everyone, but what if you want to compare Harper to a player who isn’t right next to him on the list? Is it a hassle to compare Harper with Justin Upton?

Not at all, and we can do so without flipping back and forth between their player pages. Scroll down to the bottom of any leaderboard page to the section that looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.25.41 PM

Yours will look like this except your custom reports will be different because you’re not me, and those are based on your account. To compare the stats of Harper and Upton, all you have to do is type their names (Last Name, First Name) into the Custom Players “Add Players” section. You’ll start typing and then you click on their names. Once you have the names you want, click Create Custom Player List and you’ll get a page like this:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.28.32 PM

Voila! Your leaderboard is only a comparison of Harper and Upton. The URL is permanent, so you can share the comparison with other people and show them how much better Harper is than Upton at everything except base running. These reports can include multiple players, can be filtered and adjusted like any other leaderboard, and you can save them for future use.

Now that we’ve done that, let’s think about where Harper’s season ranks offensively as of late. Bryce Harper was born in October of 1992, so the first baseball season of his life was the 1993 season. Can we figure out where Harper’s 2015 wRC+ ranks among single seasons since then?

Start by going to any batting leaderboard. You need to make two simple changes to the top panel of settings to answer this question. You want to put a check in the box next to Split Seasons and then you want to change the season range to 1993 to 2015. It will look like this:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.34.38 PM

If you’ve done it right and hit submit, you’re leaderboard will show up below sorted by WAR. Since we care about wRC+, I’ve then proceeded to click on wRC+ to sort the board. It now looks like this:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.36.19 PM

Wow, Bryce Harper is having the fourth best offensive season since he was born and the only three ahead of him are Barry Bonds. That’s very impressive, and something we learned using the leaderboards at FanGraphs. You can select any year range, change the PA threshold, look at multiple years instead of split seasons, isolate positions, and much more. Want to know who the best hitter was from 1947 to 1960 by OBP? You can do that. It was Ted Williams by a lot.

There are a lot of other things you can do on the site, but we’ll just look at one more today. One of the amazing things about Bryce Harper is how well he’s performing at such a young age. 2015 is Harper’s age 22 season. Can we figure out where his bat ranks through age 22?

To do this, the fastest option is to hover over Leaders at the top of any page, and click Career under Batting Leaders (you can get there other ways, this will just save clicks). Once you’re there, you want to go to the Filter Age option and change 58 to 22, like so:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.44.55 PM

Now we have every player’s career covering their age 14 to 22 seasons. I’ve again sorted by wRC+ to get this:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.46.26 PM

As of July 18, Harper had a 142 wRC+ for his career, which was 16th among qualified hitters through age 22. He trails guys like Joe Jackson, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, and Mike Trout, but if he stays hot down the stretch he could easily launch himself into the top ten. You can do the age filter on top of any of your other filters. For example, let’s use the same data but split the seasons to see how Harper’s 2015 ranks as an individual wRC+ season for a player 22 or younger:

Screenshot 2015-07-19 at 9.49.40 PM

Wow! Harper is having the second best offensive season by a player age 22 or younger in MLB history. That’s incredible. Even Mike Trout didn’t hit this well this young.

There are all sorts of other questions we can answer with the tools on FanGraphs, but we’ll leave it there for today. If you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or reach me on Twitter. Other sites have great tools for answering these types of questions, but if you’re looking for information on a FanGraphs only stat, or prefer our setup for another reason, there’s usually a way to adjust the leaderboard to give you exactly what you need.



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Neil Weinberg is the Site Educator at FanGraphs and can be found writing enthusiastically about the Detroit Tigers at New English D. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @NeilWeinberg44.


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Derek
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Derek

Is “off” a counting stat, a rate stat, or some sort of hybrid (like WAR)? I’m asking because I’m trying to place Harper’s season in the context of the best offensive seasons in Washington baseball history. Right now he’s at 47.1, which would place him fifth all time for all players that have played for a Washington team (in only 84 games played – for him).

If (god forbid) he didn’t play another game all season, would he finish at 47.1 or would his number go down because the runs created by the average player would increase as the number of games increases? Does that mean for him to stay at 47.1, he’d have to contribute runs at the average rate for the rest of the season?