Despite Hardships, Phillies Still in Contention
The Philadelphia Phillies have had their fair share of ups and downs this season. They’ve dealt with injuries throughout the bullpen. Leadoff hitter and former All-Star, Andrew McCutchen was lost for the year to a torn ACL. Outside of Aaron Nola, the rotation has struggled mightily and the offense has been streaky to say the least. Despite all this, they are still 66-60 and just 1 1/2 games out of the second Wild Card spot. This is in no small part thanks to clutch hitting offseason addition, Bryce Harper.
Harper, like the rest of the offense, certainly has had some bad games. He’s struck out way more than the fans want to see. They have questioned if he was worth such a big investment, but when the Phillies have needed a big hit, Harper has answered the call.
Bryce Harper Coming Through in the Clutch
Although he’s hitting just .254 for the season, that number increases dramatically to .379 with runners in scoring position. That explains how Harper has still managed to drive in 92 runs, which is good for seventh in all of baseball.
In fact, Harper is currently the most “clutch” hitter in baseball this season. According to FanGraphs, clutch is calculated by the following formula: (WPA / pLI) – WPA/LI). In layman’s terms, the formula measures, “…how much better or worse a player does in high leverage situations than he would have done in a context neutral environment.”
The list below represents a player’s clutch factor:
Home runs have been a big factor in Harper’s clutch factor. It’s no coincidence that the Phillies are 19-6 in games when Harper homers.
Harper Heating Up At the Right Time
Harper has been especially clutch in August as the Phillies make a push for a Wild Card berth. From the 13th-15th, he played a pivotal role in a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs. He went 4-11 (.364) with three homers and seven RBI.
It was in the final game of that series that Harper provided the Phillies’ biggest hit of the season. With the team trailing the Cubs 5-2 in the bottom of the ninth, Harper stepped up to the plate with the bases loaded and demolished a walk-off grand slam into the second deck.
If the Phillies can clinch a playoff spot, that will almost surely be known as the turning point of the season. As if that wasn’t enough, Harper homered the next day to provide insurance in an eventual 8-4 win over the San Diego Padres.
Fast forward to last night and Harper was at it again. With the Phillies losing to Boston 2-1 in the top of the fifth, Harper launched an opposite-field two-run homer over the Green Monster. The Phillies would never look back and eventually won 5-2, completing their first series sweep of Boston since 2000.
Can He Continue to Carry the Load?
After last night’s performance, Harper has homered in four of the last seven games to go along with 12 RBI. In 19 games this month, Harper is batting .264. While that doesn’t jump off the page, it is significantly better than his .254 mark for the year. What really stands out is his 16 runs scored, nine home runs, and 20 RBI.
The Phillies will continue to rely heavily on Harper’s bat to have any chance at making the playoffs, but if the pitchers can do their part and at least keep them in games, Harper is more than willing to bear the load.
Harper had this to say of hitting with the game on the line, “I love those moments. I love those opportunities.” Manager Gabe Kapler certainly loves watching them. “Bryce is enormous in those moments, right?” he said. “He’s kind of built for them.”
It remains to be seen if the pitching will hold up enough for the Phillies to sneak into the playoffs, but rest assured knowing that Bryce Harper is heading into September as hot as he’s been all year. That might just be enough to get the Phillies into the playoffs.
Embed from Getty Images