Analysis

Calm down, Bryce Harper will be just fine



Bryce Harper has been in a two-week slump that has coincided with a rash of injuries and a Phillies tailspin. (Ian D’Andrea)

Entering the 2019 season, the Philadelphia Phillies had suffered through six consecutive losing seasons and seven straight non-winning campaigns.

Today, in the midst of a rough stretch in which the club has last six of its last eight games, the Phillies are a winning team. Despite the recent losing the Phillies are 13-12 and just a half-game behind the first place New York Mets in the National League East Division standings.

Still, there are fans who left these comments as responses on our Phillies Nation feed at Twitter following Thursday night’s loss to Miami:

Maybe Phil’s should sign Schmidt and Carlton anyone better than this current line up 500 ball club pitiful!

This team (bleep)-ing blows. Something has to change, and fast.

Phillies stink

Spend 500 mil and this club close to being a 500 ball club are you kidding me!

One major factor during the skid has been a sudden rash of major injuries hitting the club all at once. Starting center fielder Odubel Herrera and his backup Roman Quinn are both on the Injured List. Starting shortstop Jean Segura and his backup, the club’s primary bench player Scott Kingery, are both on the IL. Key reliever David Robertston is out as well.

The injuries have affected manager Gabe Kapler‘s ability to put out a starting lineup over the last week or so that matches the depth of talent he had at the beginning of the year.

However, there is another factor hurting the club as well. A slump by its biggest name at the same time as the injuries have hit. Superstar right fielder Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $300 million contract as a free agent back at the start of March. Everyone was excited at the time. For some Phillies fans, that excitement seems to have worn off way too quickly.

It is true that Harper is in the midst of a slump. But here is my advice to fans who think these Phillies “stink” and that something is wrong with Harper: calm down. Take a breath. Chill out. Relax. It will all be fine.

I’ve lived in Philly for my entire 57-year life and been a sports fan since at least age nine back in 1971, the first season that I began following the Phillies with the opening of Veteran’s Stadium. I am well aware of the passion of Philly sports fans. I’m also well aware of the fact that many of those fans come with incredibly terrible takes at times. This is one such time.

These 2019 Phillies are, to any educated fan of the game, obviously improved over the 2018 club. That team held first place in the NL East for over a month and finished two games below the .500 mark. This team is much better. They will be a winning team. They will contend for a playoff berth. They certainly do not “stink” nor do they “bleep-ing blow“, to quote two such panicky fans.

The Phillies get shortstop Jean Segura back this weekend which should help jump-start their offensive attack.(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)

Harper will be just fine as well. Despite a deep slump that has him slashing just .196/.305/.333 over his last 13 games and 59 plate appearances, he remains pretty much on track for a solid season.

At his current pace and assuming a full, healthy season, Harper would finish with 30 home runs, 90 RBIs, 90 runs scored, 42 doubles and 120 walks. His current on-base percentage of .393 is higher than his career .388 mark. While his batting average of .253 is well below his career .278 average, it should be noted that he hit just .249 last year and .243 in the 2016 season.

Harper has gone into deep slumps any number of times over the course of his previous seven big-league seasons. He came out of them. He will come out of this one. When he does, and that is likely to happen soon, he can carry this team for two weeks.

There are some of those mercurial fans who seem to think that just because Harper will make $330 million from the Phillies, that he should be cranking out 50 home runs, driving in 130, and hitting .330 every year. News flash: it ain’t happening. At least not most years.

Harper was the 2015 National League Most Valuable Player and won a Silver Slugger Award for a season in which he slashed .330/.460/.649 with a 1.109 OPS, 42 homers, 99 RBI, 38 doubles and 118 runs scored. That is likely his peak capability when fully healthy. The Phillies are as likely as not to get a couple of seasons like that out of him over the next half-dozen. But it won’t be every year.

Last night in the bottom of the 6th inning of a 1-1 game, Harper stepped to the plate with Andrew McCutchen at third base and one out. He popped out to third base in foul territory and McCutchen would be stranded. When the Phillies lost by 3-1 in 10 innings, Harper took the blame per Jim Salisbury at NBC Sports Philadelphia:

It’s on me. With a guy at third base, less than two outs, I’ve got to get that job done. We wouldn’t be in that predicament in that situation…I’ve got to be better personally. Guy on third, less than two outs, I’ve got to get the job done.

I know this is a difficult thought for many fans with a football mentality, where every single game matters, to wrap their heads around and to both accept and embrace. But in baseball, there are 162 games. You play almost every single day. There will be good days and bad, good weeks and bad. Sometimes there will be good months and bad.

Sure, there are weaknesses to be addressed still. Yes, the team is banged up and not producing right now. But the Philadelphia Phillies will be just fine. And yes, he is in a slump and has disappointed over the last couple of weeks. But Bryce Harper will be just fine as well. Settle in, fans. We’re just one month into a six-month season.

 

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