Bryce Harper homered and drove in four runs Saturday night as the Phillies evened their series in Cleveland.
“We win when Harper hits,” manager Gabe Kapler said afterward.
Those five words are more accurate than the 2019 Phillies would have liked.
The Phillies are 24-7 this season when Harper homers. They are 42–17 when he drives in a run.
That means they are 37-57 (20 games under .500!) when Harper does not drive in a run.
When it’s all said and done, Harper will almost certainly end 2019 with the second-most plate appearances, home runs and doubles of his career. Two homers and two doubles would give him more than he’s had in any season other than 2015, when he won NL MVP.
Through 148 games, Harper has hit .256/.372/.500 with 33 HR and 108 RBI. A good game Sunday would result in his slugging percentage and OPS reaching their highest point since the end of April.
It has been a very good season from Harper, just not a superhuman one that made up for the Phillies’ many deficiencies. Given what we know about the 2019 Phillies, it would have taken a Christian Yelich- or Anthony Rendon-like 2019 season from Harper to maybe carry the Phils into the postseason.
This team is more heavily dependent on Harper than it would have hoped. That 37-57 record in games Harper doesn’t drive in a run would likely be better if Rhys Hoskins wasn’t hitting .172 with a .688 OPS over his last 50 games.
The Phillies’ best hitter (Harper) is fine. One of the questions they must dig deep to answer objectively this offseason is whether their second-best hitter is good enough, whether Hoskins in the cleanup spot provides enough protection moving forward or if it’s a necessity to go acquire another big bat. Rendon will be a free agent. So too might J.D. Martinez, who can opt out of his Red Sox deal after the World Series.
The Phillies this season have performed like a 64-win team when they don’t get an RBI from Harper. That can’t happen again in 2020. The early years of his 13-year contract figure to be the most productive and cannot go to waste.
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