Harper's durability has enabled MVP surge

September 21st, 2021

PHILADELPHIA -- missed 20 of the Phillies’ 88 games before the All-Star break because of a balky back, a sore right shoulder and the fallout from being hit in the face by a 96.9-mph fastball on April 28 in St. Louis.

Harper has played 62 of 63 games since the break, including the last 61 in a row.

“You know, I think he's probably holding up about as well as he can,” Phillies manager Joe Girardi said before Tuesday night’s game against the Orioles at Citizens Bank Park. “I mean, I still see him taking good swings. I see him making good defensive plays, staying in the zone as a hitter. But I think he's doing an incredible job.”

In the past several weeks, Harper has emerged as a favorite to win his second National League Most Valuable Player Award. He entered Tuesday slashing .311/.427/.620 with 38 doubles, 1 triple, 33 home runs, 80 RBIs, a 1.047 OPS, a .181 OPS+ and a 6.3 WAR, according to FanGraphs. He leads the Majors in OPS and OPS+. He leads the NL in WAR, slugging percentage and extra-base hits (72). He is second in the league in doubles, on-base percentage and walks (89). He is fourth in home runs, batting average and runs (93).

Harper said a few weeks ago that he has thought about asking for a day off, but once he gets to the ballpark he changes his mind.

“Well, I think you'd have to give the medical staff the most credit, and Bryce, the work that he puts in to be out there every day,” Girardi said. “The player has to be willing to put the work in every day, and he is. And the medical staff does an incredible job with him.”

The Phillies will need Harper to stay in the lineup the rest of the way to give themselves any chance at catching the Braves in the NL East. They entered Tuesday three games behind Atlanta.

“I think he's had a complete season,” Girardi said. “The average, power, RBIs, walks, on-base, stolen bases, baserunning, defense. I know in Pittsburgh he had an interesting day [in right field], but you take that away and some of the plays that he's made, it's been a complete year. He's done everything that you would ask from a right fielder.”