When the Phillies signed Bryce Harper in February of 2019, expectations were naturally high. After all, Harper showed in Washington that he was one of the top power hitters in the league with a Rookie of the Year and NL MVP on his resume. Although he hit 35 home runs and knocked in 114 during his first year in the red pinstripes, many fans were still expecting more.
During the COVID-19 shortened 2020 season, Harper put together better overall numbers. In 60 games, he led the league in walks, and had a higher batting average, on-base percentage, and slugging percentage than the previous season. One could only guess what Harper could do in a full 2021 season with 40 home runs and 120 RBI not out of the question.
Things don’t always go as planned, and Harper has ended up missing significant time due to various injuries. First, one can’t forget the blow to the face from a 97 mph fastball, fortunately, it was more of a glancing blow, but still landed Harper on the injured list. Add in nagging back issues, wrist and forearm injuries and Harper has missed 21 games. Despite that, he is on pace for an MVP season, and at the very least in the middle of the conversation.
Phillies’ Bryce Harper should be the NL MVP this year
A casual observer might see his 23 home runs and 50-plus RBI and think there is no chance Bryce Harper can win the MVP. After all, he ranks 17th in the NL in home runs (as of Monday) and 43rd in RBI. Take a closer look and you notice he is second in the NL in on-base percentage, first in slugging percentage, and in OPS. In addition, he is ranked 8th in the league in hitting with a .297 average.
The MVP isn’t necessarily for the best player in the league. It’s for the Most Valuable Player and where would the Phillies be without Harper in the lineup? How about the overall hustle and intangibles? If you want to go by just the raw power numbers, consider that if Harper had missed only a handful of games due to occasional days off, you’re looking at probably 26 or 27 home runs and 30 doubles, both would rank in the top five in the NL.
For fans that think Harper’s underperformed in Philadelphia, and believe it or not there are some, again take a closer look. While his batting average is slightly lower than in Washington, his on-base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS are all higher. In addition, his home run and RBI total per 162 games are also higher.
There are still over 40 games remaining in the season the anything can happen, but if Bryce Harper keeps up his pace, he not only could lead a relatively mediocre team to the playoffs for the first time since 2011 but also hoist his second NL MVP award.