Bryce Harper and J.T. Realmuto, the Phillies’ two true superstar players, are off to the best starts of their respective careers so far this season.
Through 17 games (70 plate appearances), Harper is hitting .364/.493/.673 with four home runs, 17 runs scored and 12 RBIs with a wRC+ of 212, 2nd only to Cincinnati’s Jesse Winker (219) in the National League. Realmuto is batting .300/.354/.717 with a team-leading eight dingers, 13 runs and a Phillies-best 20 RBIs with a wRC+ of 182 that is 6th in the NL.
Harper and Realmuto have been hot since the season’s opening bell and, despite the one-week interruption after their three-game series against the Marlins to start the year, haven’t stopped hitting. Harper has demonstrated outstanding plate discipline, too, with a 17.1% walk rate that is 5th-best in the NL and a whiff rate of just 15.7%. Realmuto, hitting a bit further down in the lineup, has been a run-producing machine, 3rd in the NL in RBIs despite playing 5-7 games fewer than the two players in front of him (Charlie Blackmon and Fernando Tatis, Jr.). His .717 slugging percentage is best in the National League and he’s been far and away the best offensive catcher in baseball.
Both have also excelled defensively, too, making some spectacular plays in the early going.
Absolute dart from Realmuto. Stance variation awareness. 3-2 with Gardner on 1B. Expecting him to run on pitch. Put self in position to execute throw. Stance depends on runner, count, score, Etc. pic.twitter.com/qBd1YfBYCn— Vinnie (@vinnielopez) August 7, 2020
Part of the fun of sports is deciding which players are doing better, which are more “valuable,” and which you could least afford to lose. With Harper and Realmuto, the choices are hard.
Based off Wins Above Replacement, both Fangraphs and Baseball Reference have Harper as the better player so far this season. Harper’s 1.2 fWAR is slightly higher than Realmuto’s 1.0, and they’re even closer in bWAR, with Harper’s 1.0 edging Realmuto’s 0.9 ever-so-slightly. From a pure numbers perspective, Harper would appear to be having the better season, by a hair.
Who the more “valuable” player is is a trickier question to answer because those considerations are about more than just stats. If the Phils were to lose Harper, they would obviously be missing the most important bat in their lineup and it would crate a gaping hole large enough to drive the Phanatic’s ATV through. But given the number of capable outfielders the Phils have on the roster (Jay Bruce, Andrew McCutchen, Adam Haseley, Roman Quinn, Scott Kingery and even Kyle Garlick) they would likely be able to withstand a Harper injury better than if Realmuto went down.
Back-up catcher Andrew Knapp has gotten off to a strong start this season. The fourth-year vet is batting .417/.462/.500 in his first 13 plate appearances, an extremely encouraging development. However, Knapp has a career .670 OPS and his defensive skills are not anywhere near Realmuto’s, so of all the position players on the Phillies’ roster, Realmuto is the one they could least afford to lose.
Happily, both players are healthy and killing the baseball. And while it’s unfathomable to think the Phillies could potentially let Realmuto walk in free agency (Pay JT!!!), both are producing in the here and now and shouldering most of the load for the Phils’ offense so far in 2020. Sit back and enjoy it while it lasts.
On Episode 408 of Hittin’ Season, Liz Roscher, Justin Klugh and I discussed the Harper vs. Realmuto debate, also a Realmuto vs. Aaron Nola debate, recapped the weekend series sweep of the Mets and took a deep dive into our collective Gabe Kapler psychosis.
Who has been better so far this year?
This poll is closed