Phillies finally getting the Bryce Harper they paid for
Bryce Harper got off to a relatively slow start to his time with the Phillies, but he is finally looking like the player he got paid to be.
Anytime a player signs a large contract, no matter the sport, expectations are raised exponentially. At every step, someone will be asking if they are worth the money. So when the Phillies signed Bryce Harper to a then-record-setting 13-year, $330 million deal, the magnifying glass quickly honed in on Harper.
Harper opened the season with a bang with three home runs in his first four games. However, his bat quickly fell silent (by his standards) with a meager .233/.345/.411 line with 89 strikeouts in 70 games from April 3 to June 20. The team’s winning record primarily masked his struggles, but as the wheels fell off on June, Harper received plenty of criticism.
While those numbers could be serviceable from someone who doesn’t play a significant role, they won’t do for a player who got paid the gross domestic product of a small island nation. Thankfully, Harper appears to have turned a corner in the last month.
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In the last four weeks before Thursday’s game, Harper had a .296/.418/.543 line with five home runs, 17 runs batted in, and a 149 OPS+. His strikeout-to-walk ratio is almost even with 16 walks compared to 17 strikeouts in 98 plate appearances. That doesn’t factor in his 2-for-4, two-RBI performance in Thursday’s win.
Not only is Harper performing well, but he’s also coming through in clutch situations. He drove in a season-high five runs in Tuesday’s win, including a walk-off double after a blown lead in the top of the ninth. Harper turned what could have been yet another disastrous loss into one of the season highlights.
Harper then played a crucial role in Thursday’s win as well, driving in the tying run in the seventh inning before later coming around to score. After how poorly the series started with the Dodgers winning 16-2 in one of the worst losses of the season, Harper helped prevent the series from getting out of hand.
The Phillies will need their star players (Harper, Rhys Hoskins, and Aaron Nola) to play like stars in the final two months of the season if they have any chance of making the playoffs. All three are trending upwards, giving the team a fighting chance down the stretch.