Bryce Harper Betting Props Philadelphia Phillies 2019: Expert Predictions
Bryce Harper has finally found a landing spot - one softened by the $330 million cushion he can land on. Selfishly, I wish he had taken the shorter term and bigger annual money offered by the Dodgers so we could have seen him play himself into free agency again at 30. But securing this kind of guaranteed money is a no-brainer, and Philadelphia should be a decent team for a while with him aboard. Now that he has gotten paid, the attention turns to just how productive the young former MVP can be out of the gate and how quickly he can justify the historic expenditure.
The biggest reason to be optimistic in the short term about his productivity is that little is changing. It can be very tough for a player to switch leagues and learn new pitchers and parks, or even to switch divisions where they see different stadiums more frequently than he is used to. But in this case, he is staying in division and playing in a park he knows very well. He has played 50 games in Citizens Bank Park, hitting .268 with 14 home runs, 32 RBIs, and 33 runs scored. Of note, he has been significantly more productive in Philadelphia - .28 home runs per game - than he was in Washington, where he averaged just .19. He also averaged .64 RBIs per game visiting Philly and .58 in Washington. The sample size is obviously smaller in Philadelphia, but the lesson is still that this is a comfortable park for him where he is able to be productive.
With that in mind, let's look at the props offered at Bovada to see if we can find any nice value:
Batting average - "over/under" .267: The over is the strong favorite at -160, while the under is at +130. His career average is well over this at .279. But he has not at all been consistent. He hit just .249 last year, while he hit .313 in 2017. He was at a dismal .243 in 2016, but a career high .330 the year before. He's all over the place when it comes to average. He has hit .268 career in Philadelphia, which is down significantly from the .284 he hit in Washington. The number feels like it is well set here, though given the price, and the adjustments that could come with joining a new team even in the same division, there is probably a little more value in the under than the over on this one.
Home runs - over/under 33.5: The optimism from bettors continues here, and the over is very strong at -175, while the under is at +145. This feels like an aggressive number. He had 34 home runs last year, and that was just the second time in his seven-year career that he has gone over this number - he had 38 in 2015. Last year he barely went over, and that was in 159 games. You have to wonder if the team will give him more rest knowing that they are invested in him heavily for a very long time. He hits well in this park, which helps, and puts this number more easily in reach even if he is rested. Again, this is a sound number. I would lean slightly to the under given the price, but I'm not looking to take out a second mortgage for this spot.
RBIs - over/under 95.5: Again, the optimists are on the over at -160, with the under at +130. Again, he has gone over this number only twice, with 100 last year and 99 in 2015. But I am more optimistic about the over here than elsewhere. This is a pretty good lineup, so he is going to have guys on base ahead of him, and teams are not going to be able to be too aggressive about pitching around him. He'll get plenty of chances, and his OPS is a nice .930 on his career in Philadelphia and .900 overall, so he will convert on plenty of those chances. I'm again concerned by how many games he will play, and the price of the over robs it of all attractiveness as an investment, but it feels like the right side to be on nonetheless.
Runs scored - over/under 97.5: This is the closest thing to balance action we have, with the over at -125 and the under at -105. As expected, he went over this number both last year and in 2015. But he also went over it as a rookie with 98 runs in just 139 games. And he had 95 runs in only 111 games in 2017. The guy can score runs, and he has the ballpark and the lineup to keep it up here. He should be solidly productive, and this is the most likely over in my eyes. That means it is at least relatively attractive given the price.
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