Harper shines among MLB's youngest MVPs
Mike Trout's MVP year in 2014 saw him play his final game that season at the age of 23 years and 52 days; few had ever been younger in the concluding contest of an MVP campaign. Trout's bragging rights among active players didn't last very long, for Bryce Harper -- the 2015 National League MVP -- played his last game this season at 22 years and 353 days old. This angle is just one that is worth exploring when it comes to the extraordinary year authored by the Nationals outfielder.
With Harper submarining Trout, the five youngest position player MVPs -- as identified by their age in the final regular-season game of that MVP campaign -- follow below. Utilizing a contemporary approach to value and production for each member in this quintet, Harper shines:
• In 1970, Johnny Bench was 22 years and 298 days old. The Reds catcher produced a 141 OPS+, a 144 wRC+ (Weighted Runs Created Plus), and a 7.4 WAR (all WAR values via Baseball Reference).
• In 1943, Stan Musial was 22 years and 316 days old. The Cardinals outfielder authored a 177 OPS+, a 180 wRC+, and a 9.4 WAR.
• In 2015, Harper was 22 years and 353 days old. The numbers: a 195 OPS+, a 197 wRC+, and a 9.9 WAR.
• In 1983, Cal Ripken Jr. was 23 years and 39 days old. The Orioles shortstop produced a 144 OPS+, a 146 wRC+, and an 8.2 WAR.
• In 2014, Trout -- at the age of 23 years and 52 days -- completed his MVP season with a 168 OPS+, a 167 wRC+, and a 7.9 WAR.
Of course, there are some players who put together historically notable seasons at a markedly young age, but did not win an MVP (for example: in his age-22 season in 1941, Ted Williams -- with his .406 batting average -- finished second in the MVP race to Joe DiMaggio). With this in mind, here is a contextual look at some of the more notable numbers entwined in Harper's campaign.
• Harper's 42 homers are tied for the fifth most for a player in an age-22 or younger season. Mel Ott had 42 in 1929, and in 1998, Alex Rodriguez claimed the same tally (neither was an MVP that year). Eddie Mathews (second in MVP voting) hit 47 in 1953 while DiMaggio had 46 in 1937 (and was second in MVP balloting). MVP winner Bench bashed 45 in 1970, and Juan Gonzalez clubbed 43 in 1992 (finishing 16th in the MVP vote).
• Harper's 124 walks stand as the third most for a player in an age-22 or younger season, behind Williams' 147 in 1941 and Adam Dunn's 128 in 2002 (Dunn did not receive any votes in MVP balloting).
• Harper's .460 on-base percentage stands as the fourth highest since 1893 for a qualifying player in an age-22 or younger campaign, and is the highest since Williams posted a .553 in '41. The other two: Joe Kelley's .502 in 1894 (no MVP award), and Jimmie Foxx's .463 in 1929 (no MVP in the AL that year).
• Harper's .649 slugging percentage -- among qualifiers in age-22 or younger seasons since 1893 -- takes a back seat to only Williams' .735 in 1941 and DiMaggio's .673 in '37.
• Harper's 1.109 OPS is the second highest among qualifiers in age-22 or younger seasons since 1893, with Williams posting a 1.287 in 1941. Williams (235) and Harper (195) are also ranked 1-2, respectively, in OPS+.
• Harper's 9.9 WAR is tied for third among players in age-22 or younger seasons, behind the values given to a pair of runner-up MVPs: Trout with his 10.8 in 2012 and Williams' 10.6 in 1941. Rogers Hornsby owned a 9.9 for his 1917 output (no MVP that year).
Alongside really young MVPs, among young players overall, Harper's 2015 campaign claims a special corner of consideration and celebration. Only 10 position players in the past 100 years have produced multiple seasons of 9.9 WAR; only 27 position players have garnered multiple MVP Awards -- Harper seemingly has plenty of time to do both.