With the Phillies surging to the top of the NL East, Bryce Harper and his majestic flow are galloping to the top of the MVP race.
If there’s any player who personifies the word “polarizing” in baseball for the last decade, Harper’s picture has to be next to the definition.
Despite winning the NL MVP award in 2015, critics have pointed to declining production numbers and have already labeled his 13 year contract with the Philadelphia as a waste.
Sure, there were unforgettable moments like Harper winning the Home Run Derby in his home ballpark in his last year as a National, or the incredible grand slam against the Chicago Cubs; however, critics routinely pointed to his squads’ lack of playoff success.
Combine the sight of the Nationals capturing the World Series title in their first campaign without Harper, baseball analysts and talking heads across various networks called for Harper to produce in his third season with Philadelphia.
And boy, has he given those people the double birds.
In the 2020 campaign, Harper has posted his best season since 2017, the last year he was even near the MVP conversation, finishing in twelfth place in voting.
Let’s start with the basic numbers because some of the advanced analytics make my head hurt.
The Las Vegas native posted a .319/.595/1.008 slashline in 2017 before sliding in each category, most notably not posting above .270 in batting average the following four years.
In 2021, Harper’s slashline has skyrocketed to .302/.570/.983, and has been much more aggressive on the basepaths, stealing over ten bases for the first time since 2019.
Even if you want to narrow down the time frame to this year, Harper’s numbers are eye popping.
In the last 34 games, Harper has posted an absurd .353 battering average coupled with an OPS of 1.173. Over that same span, Harper has launched nine home runs and racked up 24 RBIs all the while in one of the tightest division races in recent memory.
Make no mistake about it, this division was the New York Mets’ to lose. On the morning of August 1, the Mets were 4.5 games up on the THIRD-PLACE (remember that fact.) Phillies and four games up on the Atlanta Braves.
By August 6, the Phillies hopped the Braves for second place AND closed the deficit to just half a game heading into a three-game stretch with the division-leading Mets.
So what did Harper do? He launched BOMBS because that’s what he does best.
In the first matchup of the three-game series, No. 3 took Edwin Diaz yard to provide two key insurance runs that gave the Phillies the win in the opening game.
With the sweep on the line in the series finale, Harper smashed a dagger homer in the bottom of the 6th inning, giving the Phillies a 3-0 lead on the Mets.
With the Phillies seeking their first postseason berth since 2011, Harper is playing his best baseball and rightly deserves the proper recognition. The numbers are there, the wins are stacking up and the city is embracing him in a way that no one could’ve ever expected.