Bryce Harper didn’t hit a home run, but the Washington Nationals still pulled out a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies as a result of their superstar right fielder’s clutch hitting and outstanding defense. Harper went 2-for-3 with two singles, two RBIs, a walk, and a run scored. He saw 20 total pitches, more than anyone else in the game. Plus, Harper made an impact defensively, throwing out Odubel Herrera advancing from first to second on a single to right by Cameron Rupp in the top of the seventh inning.
On the season, the 22-year old phenom is hitting .333/.471/.728 with 16 home runs, 41 RBIs, 39 runs scored, and 39 walks. Over these 44 games, Harper has accumulated an astounding 3.7 WAR, far and away the best in baseball. He’s remained healthy so far this season, starting in every game for Washington. How valuable has he been to the Nationals’ lineup? Their overall slash line is .258/.326/.416. Without him? A shocking .249/.304/.381.
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So, as we are now at Memorial Day, the first unofficial checkpoint of the MLB season, it is time to look at some possible early candidates for MVP. Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon, Dodgers first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, and Cubs first baseman Anthony Rizzo (.316, 9 HR, 29 RBI’s) are some early season frontrunners, but where does Harper rank amongst the candidates?
He has to be the favorite considering the start he’s gotten off too. Is it even really that close? Sure, Dee Gordon is hitting a ridiculous .376, and Adrian Gonzalez has 48 extra base hits, but no one has been the complete player like Bryce Harper. As long as he remains healthy, he should prove to remain in the conversation deep into September.
But back to yesterday’s game. Harper has proven that he doesn’t need to be hitting homers over the fence to help out his team. He drove in two runs, and scored one himself, off a walk, an infield hit, and a bloop single to right field. He then helped prevent one from scoring when he gunned out Herrera at second base. While he has the ability to put the ball into the seats (seemingly at will), he knows when to slow it down and take what the game gives him. He’s swinging at less pitches, both inside and outside the zone, and making the best of every opportunity.
Bryce Harper may not have been the phenom that he was expected to be over his first three seasons in the majors, but he has mightily put his critics to rest with his ridiculous numbers so far this season. This is the Harper that Nationals fans have been waiting for since he was drafted with the first pick in the 2010 MLB Draft. Take a seat and relax folks, this is going to be good.