Unreal? Magnificent? Sublime? Breathtaking?
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to come up with new adjectives to describe the season that Bryce Harper is currently having. Simply put, he is putting together arguably the best, most exciting individual offensive season for a Phillies player since Ryan Howard’s 2006 MVP campaign.
And just like the Big Piece, Harper is in a prime position to go home with some hardware of his own at season’s end. You’d be hard-pressed to find a player that has been a better all-around hitter than Harper has been all season. It’s a performance that this writer believes should end with him hoisting an MVP trophy.
There are three major reasons why:
1. His overall offensive output the entire season
Harper currently ranks in the top-five or better in the National League in nine major offensive categories:
- Batting average (.313)
- Home runs (33)
- Doubles (38)
- Total bases (279)
- Runs scored (93)
- On-base percentage (.428)
- Slugging percentage (.624)
- On-base plus slugging (1.052)
- Walks (88)
The last player to post those kinds of numbers over an entire season? Bryce during his 2015 MVP season. He’s one of only twelve other players to do it. Should he maintain those numbers through the rest of the season, he would be just the sixth player to do it in multiple seasons.
The only statistic he currently lags significantly behind in is RBIs. As of right now, he is 23rd in the National League with 80 RBIs, 25 behind current leader Adam Duvall. It’s not to say Harper hasn’t delivered in potential RBI spots, as he has hit .329 this season with runners in scoring position. But he is the number three hitter on a team in which the first and second spots of the lineup rank 29th and 27th, respectively, in on-base percentage in all of baseball.
Regardless, I think it would be fair to assert that the rest of his offensive production more than makes up for his RBI total.
2. He’s been arguably the best hitter in all of baseball for a good while now
The heater that Harper has been riding since the All-Star break has seemed almost superhuman at times.
In 60 games since July 13th, Harper is batting .352 with 18 home runs and 46 RBIs to go along with a league-leading .754 slugging percentage and 1.238 OPS. He has also hit a league-best 24 doubles and drawn the second-most walks (53) in that span.
This most recent stretch of games could very well be what locks him in as MVP. Over his last 25 games, Harper’s hitting .404 with 10 home runs, 28 RBIs and 12 doubles while slugging .876 to go along with an absurd 1.376 OPS. This period has included a 14-game hitting streak and a 15-game on-base streak. His average has risen 22 points over that span.
His MVP odds have risen significantly as a result. After trailing Padres’ star Fernando Tatis Jr. for most of the season, Harper recently surpassed him as the betting favorite for NL MVP with -130 odds to win it, per FanDuel Sportsbook.
3. He’s almost single-handedly keeping the Phillies’ playoff hopes alive
Unsurprising to anyone who has followed the Phillies the last few seasons, it’s been far from a cakewalk going into the home stretch. Since the All-Star break, the team has posted a 31-29 record and are 8-9 in the month of September. Far from a complete collapse, but certainly uneven.
Injuries have played a big factor. Rhys Hoskins, second on the team in home runs, was lost for the rest of the season at the end of August due to abdominal surgery. Zach Eflin was also shut down for the year due to knee issues. Others including J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorius, Andrew McCutchen, and Connor Brogdon have also dealt with a variety of ailments.
But above all, as has been the case for most of the year, the team has been maddeningly inconsistent. They followed up their rousing eight-game winning streak in early August by losing seven of their next nine, including a sweep at the hands of the lowly Arizona Diamondbacks. And prior to their recent four-game winning streak, they dropped three of four *at home* to the Colorado Rockies, a team with one of the worst road records in all of baseball.
Putting the team on his back
Yet in spite of all of that, the Phillies are very much in playoff contention. They currently sit two games back of the Atlanta Braves in the N.L. East and 3.5 games back of the St. Louis Cardinals for the second Wild Card spot with 14 games to play.
Harper’s second half surge has been more or less the biggest reason why the Phillies still find themselves competing for a spot in the playoffs. He’s been the one source of consistent production in the Phillies’ lineup and has delivered in some huge ways of late. Whether it’s getting the Phillies on the board to start a game, coming through with momentum-shifting hits, or delivering a dagger to put a game away, he’s answered the call and more than lived up to his superstar-level billing.
Should the Phillies end up in the playoffs, it would just be the cherry on top to a season that Harper deserves to take home an MVP trophy for.