Washington Nationals Rapid Reaction: Bryce Harper Should Be the Unanimous National League MVP

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The Washington Nationals (78-71) beat the Miami Marlins (64-86) 13-3 Sunday afternoon behind a 3-for-4 performance from All-Star right fielder Bryce Harper, who scored three runs and walked once. While the Nats’ season might not be resulting in October baseball, Harper is most certainly deserving of the National League MVP. Even though his numbers this season have been remarkable, his most impressive feat has been the improvement he has shown from previous seasons. 

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According to Fangraphs, Bryce has improved in nearly every aspect of his game. His walk rate has jumped from 9.6% in 2014 to 18.9% this season. Similarly, his strikeout percentage has declined from 26.3% to 20.1%. The biggest reason for his offensive surge has been his improved plate discipline. His percentage of swings at balls outside the zone has plummeted from 33.7% in his rookie season to 28.1% in 2015. The results from his increased patience have been superstar-caliber. Entering this season, Bryce had 154 walks in 356 games (0.43 BB/G). In 2015, he has 115 walks 142 contests (0.81 BB/G).

Harper’s 2015 season hasn’t just been phenomenal, it’s been historic. Currently holder of an OPS+ of 204, Bryce would be the first player not named Barry Bonds to post on OPS+ over 200 in the 21st century. At the young age of 22-years old, he is also only the seventh player to hit 40 or more home runs in a season before his 23rd birthday, joining a list that includes Hall of Famers such as Mel Ott (1929), Joe DiMaggio (1937), Eddie Mathews (1953 and 1954) and Johnny Bench (1970). His WAR of 10.1, according to baseball-reference (subscription required), ranks 3rd all-time among players in their 22-year old season or younger, trailing only Mike Trout’s rookie season (2012) and Ted Williams’ year in which he hit .406 (1941).

If the more traditional statistics suite you, then look no further than Bryce Harper, who has the edge in a variety of categories. Leading the National League in batting average (.343), on-base percentage (.470), slugging percentage (.674), home runs (41), and runs scored (116), Harper has been the best player on the field no matter how you look at it. However, he will most likely be falling short of the Triple Crown in the RBI category. His current total of 95 RBI’s is 19 behind Rockies’ third baseman Nolan Arenado for the league lead. The only case that could really be made against him receiving MVP is the Nationals’ place in the playoff race. With how dominant his performance has been however, there is no one more deserving.

Next: Success Of Nats Offense Gives Harper More Pitches To Hit

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