There exists players in any sport that can seemingly single-handedly defeat their opponent. They get themselves into the middle of everything and profoundly effect the outcome of the game. They just take over a game. When these players get hot and put together long strings of games in which they have “taken over,” typically their teams get hot with them. Sometimes these are the guys who propel their teams into and through the postseason if they’re just hot enough at just the right time.
Phillies fans have, of course, seen this in recent years with Ryan Howard - in his 2007-10 stretch. Sure, he had a cast of supporting players and no, he didn’t do it solely on his own but his contributions were immeasurable and you can look back at those stretches he had in those seasons and see how instrumental he was in willing those teams to victory.
There were 16 games left to play in 2007 when the Phillies started a crucial series with the team directly in front of them, the New York Mets. They were 5.5 games back in the division. Ryan Howard hit nine home runs and had 21 RBI’s in those last 16 games, boasting an OPS of 1.311. We know how that turned out. He didn’t do it alone, but they couldn’t have done it without him.
Bryce Harper can be that type of player. Bryce Harper has been that type of player.
The Phillies currently sit 7.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves, in third in the NL East behind the Washington Nationals. They are a half game out of the second wild card spot.
The good news is, there’s plenty of baseball left to be played and that includes plenty of games against the teams with which they currently find themselves behind.
Enter Bryce Harper.
On this date last season Harper was hitting .218/.366/.475 and the Nationals were in third place, 5.5 games behind the first place Phillies. He finished the season hitting .300/.434/.538 the rest of the way (including a stretch of 40 games where he hit .336/.455/.601) and he was a huge part of the reason the Nationals finish the season in second place, just in front of the Phillies.
How important is Bryce Harper to his team’s win/loss record? Since he entered the league in 2012 Harper’s 1.059 OPS in games in which his team won ranks eighth in all of baseball for a players OPS in wins (active players with a minimum of 1500 PA’s. When he’s going good it effects his team in an extremely positive way. (McCutchen is 19th on this list with .997.)
While his numbers in team wins aren’t that dramatic in his first as a Phillie, there are two numbers that seems to be very telling: RBI’s and Runs. 53 of his 70 RBI’s and 38 of his 57 Runs have come in a game in which the team has won. That’s 75% of his RBI’s and 66% of his runs that have contributed towards the winning effort. 12 of those RBI’s account for him driving himself in via the home run and it’s also interesting to note that he’s only hit five home runs in the team’s losses.
Harper has been way better than some of his numbers indicate this year. But at the same time if/when he increases those numbers this team will/should go on the run that everyone expected they’d go on when he was signed back in February.
At some level, this team will go as Bryce Harper goes, especially with the loss of McCutchen. When he’s mixed up in the offense and contributing in some way the team is winning and when he’s stagnant the team struggles. At some level this is to be expected as he is a middle-of-the-line-up hitter but the extent to which his production has contributed to wins is somewhat telling as to both exactly how important he is and how much this team needs him to get and stay hot.
So yeah, please get hot and stay that way Bryce. Because we kind of need it.