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Can Bryce Harper still have a successful season?

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Chicago Cubs v Philadelphia Phillies Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

I’ve been meaning to write this piece for a couple of weeks now, but last night’s walk-off grand slam heroics gave me the kick in the butt I needed to finally post it. So here’s the basic question - what would it take for you to consider Bryce Harper’s 2019 season a success?

The reason for the question isn’t that hard to discern. After Harper signed a then-record-setting contract in the off-season, most Phillies fans would have argued, some quite vociferously, that his 2019 season has been a bust. Sure, he has over 12 years left to prove to us that he’s worth the $330 million, but there were already whispers that the Phillies were not getting what they bargained for, with some wondering whether the team made a mistake by not signing Manny Machado instead of Harper.

The basic argument was this - a decent-fielding right fielder with a low .800s OPS is a nice thing to have, but it’s not so nice that it deserves a sport-changing and franchise-altering contract. Plus, the strikeouts and the fastball struggles and the .787 OPS in the first 22 games after the All-Star Break and analysts saying that his 2015 season was an all-time fluke . . . . You get the point. It was reasonable to wonder if we had acquired a decent right-fielder for Hall-of-Famer money.

That is, until the last 8 games. Over this stretch, Harper has a 1.360 OPS with a phenomenal .931 SLG and .621 ISO. If you like counting stats, he has 6 home runs and 14 RBI. He’s still striking out a lot (10 Ks), but this is undoubtedly the Bryce Harper everyone was looking forward to having on the team when he signed with the Phillies in the off-season.

So now to the big question - can you imagine a situation where, given where he is now, Harper’s season winds up being a success? The poll is open below with these options. (And you can share other possibilities in the comments.)

1) He can’t.

This is for the naysayers and negadelphians out there who think there’s just no way for Harper to have a successful season at this point. Through roughly 75% of the season, he’s been middling. He’s 41st in baseball in fWAR (you have to go to the second page forchrissakes!) and 44th in wOBA. He isn’t even the best hitter on his own team (J.T. Realmuto is by fWAR, and Rhys Hoskins is by wOBA and wRC+. These rankings might change by the end of the season, but to be this lackluster through 121 games (including his recent hot streak!) does not constitute a successful season.

2) His hot streak continues through season’s end.

Maybe he can’t post a 1.360 OPS for another 6 weeks and have a slugging percentage approaching 1.000 for that long, but if he posts numbers reasonably approximating what he’s done for the last week, his season will be a success. That will mean that every night for the next month-plus, we will watch the Phillies knowing that Harper greatness is almost bound to happen. That spark that we saw the first few weeks of the season is back, and we are thrilled by it. If that happens, he will have given us an almost-two-month run of superstar level baseball, which is what the Phillies were paying for in the first place.

3) His final numbers put him among the elite.

The hot streak isn’t enough. What matters is his final numbers. His 2.9 fWAR needs to end the season above 5, maybe even 6 (which would be extremely difficult, but that’s what you want). His OPS needs to approach .950, his wRC+ of 122 needs to wind up around 150, and he needs to finish with 35 HRs and 120 RBI (currently at 25 and 87). With numbers like these, the early season will be erased, and he will have been a success.

4) The Phillies make the playoffs riding his performance.

If the Phillies make the playoffs because Harper propels the team to just enough victories to get in, the money will have been worth it, and Harper will have accomplished what we needed him to have done. Numbers don’t matter. Results do.

5) The Phillies make a deep run in the playoffs riding his performance.

More extreme than #4, numbers don’t matter, and bare minimum results are fine, but what really matters is not just getting to the playoffs but succeeding in the playoffs. If Harper’s performance not only gets the team in but also gets them deep into the playoffs (and especially if it means a World Series ring), his first season in red pinstripes will have been a (wild) success.

6) It already is.

Bryce Harper — BRYCE HARPER — is a Philadelphia Phillie and will be for 12 more years. ‘Nuff said.

*****

No doubt last night’s walk-off grand slam was a season highlight. But will this turn the fanbase’s sense of Bryce Harper’s season around? And will we look back on his first season here as a success?

Poll

What will it take for you to consider Bryce Harper’s season a success?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    It can’t be.
    (45 votes)
  • 16%
    His hot streak continues through season’s end.
    (193 votes)
  • 8%
    His final numbers put him among the elite.
    (97 votes)
  • 37%
    The Phillies make the playoffs riding his performance.
    (448 votes)
  • 6%
    The Phillies make a deep run in the playoffs riding his performance.
    (78 votes)
  • 27%
    It already is.
    (335 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (explain in the comments).
    (4 votes)
1200 votes total Vote Now