Bryce Harper’s hot start to the 2020 season was a big reason why the Phillies’ offense was among the best in baseball. For his team to make the postseason for the first time in nine years, he needs to get that magic back.
Through the opening four weeks of this truncated season, Harper came out like a house on fire, ranking in the top 10 in MLB in runs scored, batting average, OBP, slugging percentage, and OPS. In the last two weeks, however, his numbers have crashed back to earth. He’s hitting just .146 (6-for-41), which ranks 121st among 125 hitters with 45+ plate appearances over that span. He has one extra base hit over the past 14 days; his SLG% (.171) is next to last in the majors.
Remarkably, despite his lack of production, he continues to get on base with inexplicable regularity. He played 13 games over the past 14 days. He’s managed to reach base, by hit or walk, in every single game. In fact, Harper has reached base in 36 of the 37 games he’s played this season. And no one has more walks (13) than Harper over the past two weeks.
Tuesday’s doubleheader split with the Red Sox was disappointing. Harper went 0-for-5 with two walks, but a look at the two balls he put in play in Game 2 could be a very good sign. In the 1st inning, he hit a sinker from Chris Mazza to the fence in dead center field, 108 mph off the bat. In the 6th, he hit a tracer the opposite way off Phillips Valdez that was snapped off the turf by a sliding Jose Peraza, which came at him at 103 mph.
The upcoming, very-2020 seven-games-in-five-days series beginning today against the Miami Marlins could very well make or break the season for the Phillies. And Harper could loom very large toward whether his team sinks or swims against the Fish.
His career numbers against members of the current Marlins pitching staff are strong: a .350 career batting average, with a 1.101 career OPS. Harper is 6-for-15 lifetime against the probable starter for today’s opener, Sandy Alcantara, although Harper went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against him in both teams’ 2020 season opener on July 24th.
Knowing what we already know about the Phillies’ leaky bullpen, the offense will very likely need to carry this team to the finish line if they want to play October baseball. This upcoming stretch is precisely why owner John Middleton brought the $330 Million Dollar Man to Philadelphia.