Are we expecting too much from Josh Harrison?


The Pittsburgh Pirates have a 27 year old starting third baseman named Josh Harrison.  He is coming off an all-star season in which he hit .315/.347/.490 with 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases in 550 plate appearances. That sentence is all true and it has Pirate fans gushing over what’s to come from the hot corner in 2015. However, it may not be so simple.

His above average speed also helped raise his BABIP, but most of the extra 53 points probably came from being lucky.

Nobody has to mention how surprising Harrison’s 2014 season was and how vital he was to the team’s success, that was pretty much said every single day of the summer after he started getting regular playing time. Now that our sights have shifted to the 2015 season, we begin to wonder if Harrison will be able to replicate his successes.  Before 2014, Harrison was a .250/.282/.367 big league hitter, somewhat respectable but not exactly numbers you’re looking for in a starting third baseman or outfielder. Harrison was always a successful hitter in the minors (.309/.360/.440), but his size, makeup, and peripherals didn’t have the Cubs or the Pirates ever expecting him to turn into a big league regular. All it took was one legitimate chance and J-Hay took the reigns and never looked back. But was it for real?

Let’s take a quick look at some of Harrison’s advanced stats in 2014 against the league averages.

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As you can see from there, Harrison was very fortunate with his batting average on balls in play, which was only helped slightly by his slightly elevated line drive percentage. His above average speed also helped raise his BABIP, but most of the extra 53 points probably came from being lucky. His 4% walk rate is quite literally one of the worst in the league, especially for a guy that’s going to hit lead off. He also strikes out more than you’d like to see from a lead off guy, but he does manage to limit his pop-ups and fly balls, which is always good for batting average. There is big league talent there, but statistically it’s hard to believe that he’ll repeat his 2014 success.

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There are the less statistical arguments present as well. Harrison had a lot to prove last year and he did it, but it didn’t result in a big contract quite yet. He has a firm hold on a starting job, but his leash is certainly a lot shorter than some of the other guys around him – and I’m sure he knows that. All of the motivation to keep performing is still there for him just like it was last year, and that should help. Just don’t forget that there were reasons why big league coaches, managers, and scouts never thought much of him despite his solid performance in his minor league career.

Bottom line is that you shouldn’t be expecting another all-star year from Josh Harrison. The good news is that the Pirates don’t need him to be an all-star. He’s a solid piece to the lineup but he’s certainly not the most important guy. He’s got good bats behind him and the Pirates can definitely absorb a step backwards from Harrison – let’s just hope that they won’t have to.