Josh Harrison put up career numbers during the Pirates 2017 season despite having to miss the remainder of the year due to injury.
It’s relatively difficult to find many positives surrounding the Pittsburgh Pirates as of late. The Bucs, who at one point in July were within just four games of first place in the National League Central, have taken a few steps back. They lost 11 of their last 16 games to end the month of August and currently hold a 65-72 record, sitting 10.5 games back in the central. It’s been a disappointing year to say the least. It’s been one that has included glimpses of progress, providing fans with a little bit of hope that the team could somehow win the division filled with lackluster teams. But it has primarily included frustrating moments, long-lasting struggles and concern and aggravation with Pirates management. However, though the Pirates playoff hopes continue to lessen each day, there have been some individual performers that have given Pirates fans something to cheer about. Trevor Williams has improved with every start, Andrew McCutchen – despite hitting just .222 in August – regained his form for the most part this season, Josh Bell has had a phenomenal rookie campaign and Josh Harrison had arguably the best year of his career.
Harrison for Pirates MVP?
While frustrating to watch at times, Harrison has been a clear bright spot this season. However, his year ended prematurely when he sustained a broken finger when he was hit by a pitch for the league leading 23rd time of the season Saturday. Despite the early end to Harrison’s season, it doesn’t diminish what he was able to accomplish. His 90 strikeouts and less than 30 walks were unfavorable statistics to have and he struggled at times defensively, but according to a tweet from MLB.com’s Adam Berry, Baseball Reference’s WAR statistic proves that Harrison was more valuable to the Pirates than some people may think.
Tough way for Josh Harrison to end the season, his best since 2014. By @baseball_ref WAR, he’s been the Pirates’ most valuable player.
— Adam Berry (@adamdberry) September 3, 2017
According to Baseball Reference, Harrison’s WAR of 3.2 not only leads the team, it is his highest accumulated WAR since 2014 when it stood at 5.3. Speaking of his 2014 season, it might be plausible to compare this season to the one he had a few years ago. While it might be difficult to say this year was better than 2014 when he made his first All-Star game and finished ninth in NL MVP voting, in some ways, he was better this year.
Harrison’s 2014 vs. 2017
In 2014, Harrison was a big reason why the Bucs made another appearance in the NL Wild Card game and finished 88-74. A pivotal bench player in years prior, Harrison hit .315 with 13 home runs and 52 RBIs in 520 at-bats through 143 games in 2014 while finishing with 38 doubles, seven triples and an on-base percentage of .347. Compare that to this season and, while they may not be as impressive, his numbers do match up. Harrison, who hit a combined eight home runs the past two seasons, set a career high this year with 16 home runs and 28 walks. His .339 on-base percentage was stellar and he scored more runs in years past, finishing with 66. He finished with 47 RBIs, which is less than his career high of 59 he had last season, but taking in to consideration the fact that he played in less games this season, his performance when on the field speaks for itself.
Props to JHay
Credit must be given where credit is due. Harrison, who rebounded to have a stellar month of August after a dreadful July, did his part. There were some down times, but overall it might be safe to say he played a little bit better than expected in 2017. If given more time, Harrison would have finished with career highs in most offensive categories. The injury hurt that possibility, but while it was tough to find light during a dark year for the Pirates, Harrison somehow found a way to shine through.