Phillies: Bryce Harper is last person to blame for team’s struggles
Bryce Harper draws criticism for any lousy performance, but he is far from the reason the Phillies have not lived up to expectations this year.
If there’s one thing that draws the ire of fans of every sport from every city, it’s a player that doesn’t mean expectations of any contract they sign. Once Bryce Harper signed his megadeal with the Phillies, a giant bullseye was painted on his back.
Expectations were set high for Harper from the get-go as he became the franchise icon in a flash (although the courting period was excruciatingly long). Unfortunately, his numbers have not been entirely up to par this year.
In 123 games this year, Harper has a .254/.374/.492 line, 120 OPS+, 26 home runs, and 90 runs batted in. He ranks eighth in the National League with 90 runs batted in and second with 84 walks. However, he also leads the league with 145 strikeouts, albeit he ranks 13th among qualified hitters with a 26.7% strikeout rate.
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Harper’s numbers this year aren’t what is typically expected from him. He is on pace to match his home run total from last year of 34 and leads the Phillies, but at this rate, he won’t crack the top 30 MLB-wide.
While it is easy to bag on Harper for his relative lack of performance, he is still far from the reason why Philadelphia is stuck on the outside looking in for the playoffs. For starters, Harper still leads the team in slugging percentage, OPS, home runs, and runs batted in, which is what he was brought in to do.
Further, when Harper comes up in crucial situations, he is one of the best in the league in converting those opportunities.
Harper ranks fifth in batting average and eighth in runs batted in with runners in scoring position among all qualified hitters; no other Phillie cracks the top 50 in either category. This is what makes Harper one of the league’s best in win probability added.
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If there’s anyone to blame for this year’s shortcomings, it’s any pitcher not named Aaron Nola. Philadelphia’s pitching staff ranks among the leagues worst in every significant category. A boatload of injuries has exposed their lack of depth in both the rotation and bullpen, only making matters worse.
In addition, now-former hitting coach John Mallee will be the scapegoat for many of the team’s offensive struggles.
Mallee’s hitting philosophy will be blamed plenty, even though his approach is one used top to bottom in the organization.
When this season reaches its inevitable, likely disappointing end, the blame will be thrown around like a cafeteria food fight. Everyone will receive criticism in one way or another, but Harper should not be the one thrown under the bus.