TribLIVE

| Sports


 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Stats Corner: Pirates' Harrison making history as a utility player

Pirates/MLB Videos

By David Golebiewski
Saturday, July 19, 2014, 9:10 p.m.
 

Josh Harrison shuttled between Triple-A and Pittsburgh last season, serving as a late-inning defensive replacement and striking out five times as often as he walked. Harrison still does not have a set position, but manager Clint Hurdle is penciling him into the lineup almost daily because of the newly minted All-Star's defensive versatility and drastically improved bat. Few players in history have manned so many positions while manhandling pitchers.

Entering 2014, Harrison's career park-and-league adjusted on-base percentage (OPS+) was 20 percent below the MLB average. But his OPS is 19 percent above average this year, trailing only Andrew McCutchen (177 OPS+), Russell Martin (126) and Neil Walker (122) among Pirates hitters. Harrison has accomplished that while playing 10-plus games at right field, third base, left field and second base. Only three players in big league history have posted a better OPS+ playing double-digit games at those positions.

Player Year OPS+

Russ Wrightstone 1925 139

Frank Catalanotto 2001 128

Tony Phillips 1991 122

Josh Harrison 2014 119

Tony Phillips 1992 119

Source: Baseball-Reference.com

Harrison's showing serious range at those spots, too, saving a combined 4.2 runs compared to an average player according to Fangraphs' ultimate zone rating. He is driving in more runs by drilling fastballs. Harrison has been -0.4 runs below average per 100 fastballs seen during his career, but he is at 1.55 runs above average this year.

Harrison joins a proud Pirates tradition of multiposition offensive threats. Honus Wagner is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife slugger, posting a 162 OPS+ in 1902 while appearing in 10-plus games at shortstop, first base and all three outfield spots. Craig Wilson (146 OPS+ in 2001 as a catcher, first baseman and right fielder), Bill Robinson (143 OPS+ in 1976 at third base and corner outfield spots) and Freddy Sanchez (119 OPS+ in 2006 at shortstop, second and third base) also brought their bats — and many different gloves — to the ballpark.

David Golebiewski is a freelance writer.

 

 
 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Pirates

  1. Pirates to end spring in Philadelphia again, sign Stinson to minor league deal
  2. Pirates organization to continue pursuing value free agents in offseason
  3. Pirates face mound of decisions in offseason
  4. Pirates will implement price increase for 2015 tickets
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.