Stats Corner: Pirates' Harrison making history as a utility player
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
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
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pirates notebook: Morton’s return to Pirates means Liz leaves
- Pirates pitcher Morton turns in solid performance in win over Marlins
- Gameday: Pirates vs. Marlins, May 26, 2015
- Pirates notebook: Substance rule a sticky subject
- Former pitcher Allie happily adjusting to outfield
- Book details secret to Pirates’ turnaround
- Starter Liriano strikes out 12, leads Pirates to series sweep of Mets
- THE BLAME GAME
- Cole outduels Mets rookie, carries Pirates to victory
- Pirates chase Mets’ Harvey early in rout
- Biertempfel: Despite Marte’s inconsistency, Pirates’ Hurdle keeping faith