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Bryce Harper’s August run invoking memories of Ryan Howard

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Harper has been on a run reminiscent to Ryan Howard’s streaks of greatness.

This is why the Phillies gave Bryce Harper all that money.

The face of the franchise did it once again last night, doing his part to help keep the Phils’ postseason hopes afloat in their 7-4 win over the Nationals in Washington. The red-hot right fielder went 2-for-5 with a tone-setting two-run blast in the bottom of the first inning against his former team that scraped the clouds above Nats Stadium.

Harper has been on an unrelenting tear over the past month and has haunted the Nationals all season long, especially in his old stomping grounds.

But over the last month, neither the opponent nor the city in which he’s playing has mattered. In 27 games he’s hit .323/.444/.774 with an OPS of 1.219. He’s slugged 10 home runs this month, stroked 10 doubles, and has walked 21 times. This production comes on the heels of an also-outstanding July in which he posted an OPS of 1.023 with 11 doubles and three bombs.

Needless to say, he’s very much in the NL MVP picture.

NL MVP Race Stats

Player Games fWAR bWAR OPS OPS+ wRC+ HR
Player Games fWAR bWAR OPS OPS+ wRC+ HR
Bryce Harper 110 5.1 4.3 1.008 175 164 26
Fernando Tatis Jr. 101 5.1 5.4 1.004 176 162 36
Trea Turner 118 5.1 4.9 0.881 143 135 20
Max Muncy 114 4.8 5.4 0.932 153 152 29

The race is too close to call and the season’s final month will determine who emerges on top, but all indications are the MVP race will go down to the wire, regardless of whether the Phils make the playoffs or not.

Harper’s late summer push is reminiscent of another former Phillies slugger who used to do this on the regular during the team’s glory run of the mid-to-late 2000s. Ryan Howard won the NL MVP in 2006, finished 5th in ‘07, and 2nd in 2008 thanks in large part to some insane late-season runs of production that carried the team to the finish line.

Howard & Harper

Player Year AVG OBP SLG OPS HR
Player Year AVG OBP SLG OPS HR
Ryan Howard 2006 (Aug-Sep) 0.365 0.513 0.75 1.263 23
Ryan Howard 2007 (Sep) 0.26 0.413 0.63 1.043 11
Ryan Howard 2008 (Sep) 0.352 0.422 0.852 1.274 11
Ryan Howard 2009 (Aug-Sep) 0.301 0.375 0.629 1.003 19
Bryce Harper 2021 (Jul-Aug) 0.328 0.448 0.678 1.126 13

In ‘06, the Phils finished three games short of the wild card but won the first three of their five division titles during those ‘07-09 runs, including their two World Series appearances and title in 2008. The Big Piece carried the team during those stretch runs, and Harper in many ways is following suit.

As the team suffers injuries around him, Harper is going to have to keep it up and hope some of his mates can elevate their games as well. Odubel Herrera has gotten hot again (.333/.389/.630 over the last 30 days) and J.T. Realmuto has been fine, although he’s dealing with nagging injuries to his shoulder and ankle. Jean Segura will have to regain the early-season stroke that abandoned him for the better part of August, and the veterans Joe Girardi loves so much (Brad Miller, Ronald Torreyes, Travis Jankowski, Freddy Galvis et al.) will need to do more than one should reasonably expect them to do in the absence of Rhys Hoskins and Alec Bohm. If his teammates fail, Harper won’t see much to hit over the season’s final month.

It’s a tall order, but Harper is hitting as well as at any time in his career since his MVP season in 2015.

The Big Piece, II?