September 17, 2021
If you've clicked the link to read this article you already know where we're going with this, but indulge us.
Below is a line resume of two baseball players, each of whom is legitimately in the running to win the NL MVP award. In fact, they're the two front-runners.
If the season ended today, and you had the authority to choose, which one would you give the hardware to?
|Player 1||Player 2|
If you haven't guessed by now, Player 1 is Padres outfielder/shortstop Fernando Tatis Jr., and Player 2 is Phillies right fielder Bryce Harper. For a variety of reasons, most of them the modern proclivity to be swooned by homers and RBI (two of the categories Tatis leads Harper in), Tatis is an odds-on favorite, but Harper actually has as strong a case, if not an even stronger one to be named the best player in the National League this year.
Tatis has been slightly better at driving in runs, which is his current perceived edge. He hits .393 with RISP, on contrast to Harper hitting .325 in that same scenario. Each has close to the same number of at-bats. As such, the Padre has a 7.1 offensive WAR (via baseball-reference), with Harper's the second best in the NL at 6.1.
Harper has the second best batting average in the league and is looking to win a batting title for the Phillies. He's also on base more than anyone not named Juan Soto this year, and is in the top five in nearly every offensive category despite having missed 21 games this season. Harper has created 16 more runs than Tatis this season (also via baseball-reference) and has added the most situational wins to any team, as well as having the highest win probability added of any offensive player in the NL.
All of those are fancy ways of saying that Harper could be considered more valuable to the Phillies than Tatis has been to the Padres. As a whole, Philadelphia has a team WAR, without Harper, of -1.1. For San Diego it's -0.2. Neither guy is getting a ton of help, but Harper has had some pretty putrid lineups he has had to lift up.
"Every at bat counts," Harper said Thursday night following a comeback win over the Cubs that saw him on base five times, driving in four RBI. "I don't care what position we're in or how far we're down or how far we're ahead. Each and every guy in that dugout, we have to have that mindset of not giving away at bats, they all matter."
The Padres currently lead the Phillies by two games for the final Wild Card spot in the NL, and perhaps the MVP race will come down to which of these two clubs makes the postseason.
And while it may be tempting to go down to the ballpark and chant "M-V-P" every time Harper steps to the plate, you may want to reconsider that.
"I really don't want to look at my numbers," Harper said. "I don't let Joe [Girardi] show me my numbers, I don't let my friends show me my numbers, or even [Harper's wife] Kayla. "I don't look at it on Instagram. Any time my eyes even come close to looking at something, I am out of out as quick as possible. I really worry about the season, I worry about what we do, from an individual standpoint and team standpoint. I'll look at my numbers at the end of the year. I know it's kind of crazy, I know it doesn't make sense but I don't like MVP talk... I just want to play my game.
"My buddies know. My friends know. They don't text me all that stuff, my pop doesn't either."
So we know there is no chance Harper will read this. But if the man continues to carry the Phillies offense on his back into a postseason slot come October, he should also be adding a shiny new accessory to his trophy case later in the fall.
He's gotta know that too.
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