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2020 Player reviews: Bryce Harper gave the Phillies what they paid for

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Harper was the team’s true superstar, which is exactly what they are paying him to be.

Philadelphia Phillies v Washington Nationals - Game One Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images

The Numbers

In 58 games Harper hit .268/.420/.542 with 13 HRs, 33 RBIs, and 41 runs with a 1.6 fWAR and 1.7 bWAR.

The Background

If you don’t know how the Phillies got Bryce Harper I really don’t know what to tell ya. He was signed by team owner John Middleton prior to the 2019 season to a 13-year, $330 million contract with a full no-trade clause.

The Good

It’s fair to wonder what Bryce Harper thinks of the Phillies organization right now, as the team talks about trimming payroll, has spoken pessimistically about the chances of returning his pal J.T. Realmuto, seemed content to enter the 2021 season without a new general manager and has missed the postseason in each of his first two seasons, but one thing is clear.

Phillies fans have been happy with Bryce Harper.

When Harper signed with the Phils, it was expected he would become the face of the franchise and the team’s No. 1 star. And while his first season was perhaps a bit below expectations, his performance in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season was just what the fanbase and front office needed.

Over a 162-game season that WAR would have prorated to about 4.7, close to the 4.6 he put up last season. While 1.6 fWAR was only tied for 21st in the National League, much of that was due to a decrease in his defensive metrics. Offensively, his wRC+ of 151 was far better than the 125 he put up last season and was his best offensive season since 2017, when he posted a 155 wRC+ in 111 games for Washington. It also ranked tied for 10th in the NL, while his .962 OPS was 8th, his .420 OBP was 4th, and his BB-K rate was 3rd.

Whenever Harper did well, the Phillies generally did, too. In wins, Harper’s OPS was 1.071 while it was .859 in the team’s losses, still a pretty good number. He was just as good at home as on the road and, despite a two-week slide in early September, played pretty consistently throughout the season.

Harper’s reputation around baseball is that he’s overrated and, truthfully, that may be true. He’ll likely never return to the heights of his MVP season of 2015, with an OPS of 1.109, 42 homers and WAR of 9.7. But as the team’s lone player capable of putting up 5-win seasons on a consistent basis, Harper gives the Phillies exactly what they need — a consistent superstar in the middle of the lineup.

The Bad

His defensive metrics took a dip in 2020, going from a 0.3 dWAR in 2019 to -0.3, although that’s still not bad. Among NL right fielders, he totaled -1 Defensive Run Saved (DRS), far lower than his 10 DRS in 2019, and still a massive improvement from the astonishing -24 DRS he put up in ‘18.

When the worst thing you can say about Harper is that his defense wasn’t quite as good as last season, you’re doing just fine.

The Future

So what does 2021 have in store? According to PointsBet.com, Harper has the 9th-shortest odds to win NL MVP next season, an interesting bet considering he did not receiver a single MVP vote this past season.