The race for October push is in full swing with teams from both the NL & AL conferences having teams fighting to secure a playoff spot. As the season changes, we will not only figure out who will make the final ten teams but the individual awards as well. The AL seems to have a clear outright winner for MVP with Shohei Ohtani, who is putting up amazing numbers from the mound and the plate. The NL is another story.
The NL MVP race is a lot closer between Bryce Harper and Fernando Tatis in terms of individual numbers and team performance. The Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres have very similar records as of this week and both are sitting just outside the playoff race in their respective decisions. Both of their stars are the driving factors for keeping their teams in the race, but who deserves the award. No Philly bias here, but it should be Bryce Harper.
Batting average isn’t as popular of a metric as it used to be with advanced data driving a lot of baseball analysts and fanatics. However, batting average is still used to crown the batting title, which carries a large weight still. Harper is currently at a batting average of .315, which trails Trea Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers by a mere one point. A Phillies player has not won the batting title since 1958 with Richie Ashburn hitting .350 for the regular season. If Harper can bring home the batting title, the MVP award becomes an immediate mortal lock.
OPS is another great metric to take a peek at when discussing player performance and how it can boost a team. Currently, Harper leads both the AL & NL in OPS with 1.050. What exactly does that mean? An OPS of 1.050 places him 85% better than league average. Harper is producing almost double than the average hitter in the league. Since 1900, only one player has had a better OPS rating in comparison to the league average. Oddly enough, that player was a Phillie as well, Mike Schmidt. Schmidt took home his second straight MVP that season. Harper’s OPS of this current season is also very similar to his 2015 MVP Campaign where he took home the award with the Washington Nationals.
OPS can be dived into further. Let’s take a look at just the second half of the season since the best players show up during crunch time. A strong finish is extremely important to ensure that your strong play is the last thing MLB fans and analysts see before voting. It is also crucial to your team with playoffs on the line which furthers shows the value of the particular player being a part of the organization.
Since 1933, only five players have had a better second-half OPS. Those players are Ryan Howard, Barry Bonds, Ted Williams, Jim Thome, and Albert Belle. Since Bonds and Williams did it multiple times, there have been nine total seasons with a better second-half OPS than Harper’s 1.247. Five of those nine seasons have resulted in an MVP award being crowned to the leader. Nothing can steal last-minute votes better than a strong finish.
A lot of discussions have been active surrounding Harper’s current home runs and runs batted in (RBIs). In comparison to Fernando Tatis, he falls short in both categories. However, you must account for his lack of opportunities. Only 21% of Harper’s plate appearances have come with runners in scoring position, which speaks to how awful his surrounding cast really is. This ranks Harper at a mere 84th in terms of plate appearances with runners in scoring position. Harper’s slugging percentage gives you a better idea of his numbers if he had more hitting surrounding him in the lineup. Harper ranks 1st in the entire league in terms of slugging percentage with .621.
Lastly, Harper’s durability is a great statistic to look at that helps pad the rest of his numbers. As of recently, Harper started his 55th consecutive game since missing time in late June due to being beaned in the face. Harper has been on the record and vocal that he is currently battling a back injury that requires daily management. This type of durability makes all his feats that much more impressive. If Harper continues to put up this face and the Phillies make a strong finish, the MV3 nickname will come to life again in Philadelphia.
I hope you enjoyed this read!