The Philadelphia Phillies are about to get their superstar back. Interim manager Rob Thomson announced to the media Thursday that reigning MVP Bryce Harper will return to the Phillies Friday as they start a three-game series with the Pittsburgh Pirates. Harper missed 51 games after suffering a broken thumb June 25th in San Diego. He was hitting .318 with a .985 OPS and had 15 home runs through 64 games.
Bryce Harper will be activated tomorrow, Rob Thomson said.— Todd Zolecki (@ToddZolecki) August 25, 2022
The plan originally was for Harper to play Tuesday through Saturday at Lehigh Valley and then to rejoin the team Monday in Arizona after an off day. It appears the star DH and the team decided that was no longer necessary, as Harper has made easy work of Triple A pitching. Through two games with the Iron Pigs, Harper was 5-8 with 2 home runs, 2 doubles, and 2 walks. He clubbed both home runs in his first game, including his first at-bat, and then won his second game with a walk-off double.
Life without the MVP
The Phillies were 38-35 the night an errant Blake Snell fastball hit Harper in the thumb. They were 3.5 games out of a postseason spot. The most optimistic of rational fans would’ve told you that they were hoping for the team to play .500 ball to stay afloat until Harper returned.
Instead, they went 31-20 and climbed into the second Wild Card spot, now sitting two games up over the Padres and for the third spot and 3.5 games ahead of the Brewers for any spot. Credit goes to Rob Thomson and the Phillies other big-name hitters as well as the younger players for turning their season around and landing them in prime position to end their decade long playoff drought.
J.T. Realmuto was hitting .237 with a .680 OPS when Harper was injured. In the 41 games he’s played since, Realmuto has hit .329 with 9 home runs and an OPS of .999. Realmuto has raised his season batting line to .273/.341/.462. Him turning his season around is one of the biggest reasons the Phillies have been able to not only stay afloat but thrive without Harper. Much of the same could be said about Rhys Hoskins and Kyle Schwarber as well. The pair combined to slug 27 home runs in 51 games to help make up for the loss of Harper’s power.
Alec Bohm’s turnaround has arguably been just as instrumental as Realmuto’s. He was hitting .260 with an OPS of .651 on June 25th. Since then, he’s slashed .339/.370/.494 with 6 home runs in 46 games. Bohm has recently begun to occupy Harper’s third spot in the order where he’s hitting .290 with a .764 OPS.
The emergence of Bryson Stott has been crucial as well. He’s hitting .286 with a .782 OPS and 4 home runs in 47 games without Harper. Stott also seems to have inherited his former roommate’s flair for the dramatic as well. He has a 1.046 OPS in high leverage situations from the eighth inning on.
Darick Hall was the obvious choice to potentially be an internal option for offense following Harper’s injury. Hall played in 37 games with the Phillies and hit 9 home runs and had an OPS of .847. His ability to crush right-handed pitching from the left-handed batter’s box greatly mitigated the loss of Harper’s lefty bat.