MLB

Slowly, but surely, Bryce Harper is back

Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

They say good things come to those who wait. The Philadelphia faithful waited 118 days until a 26-year-old slugger signed on the dotted line.

Bryce Harper’s first month+ in Philadelphia has been met with mixed feelings, although much more of the positive variety. Old-school baseball lifers may scoff at giving any athlete $330 million over a 13 year period, but in today’s game, a $25.38 million AAV (average annual value) is an absolute steal for the face of baseball in the prime of his career.

Harper had a down April, hitting .240 with 38 strikeouts. While the punchouts have still been extremely high, 63 in 207 plate appearances, Harper has begun to turn a corner at the plate.

On May 7 against the St. Louis Cardinals, Harper smashed a grand slam in an 11-1 Phillies route. From that game on, Harper has collected 11 of his 39 hits, albeit with 18 “punchies.”

It has been the last week, however, where Harper has really begun to show signs of breaking out of his season-long slump. In the last seven days, he is hitting .292 with three doubles, two home runs, six RBI and only seven strikeouts.

He mashed a few homers over the weekend against the Rockies that may not have landed yet. One traveled an estimated 466 feet onto Ashburn Alley. He is still on pace for 31 homers and 107 RBI for the season; all while he has not fully hit his stride.

Even on a night like Monday, where he went 0-for-4, Harper gunned down Cubs 1B Anthony Rizzo on a bullet from right field with the bases loaded for an inning-ending double play. According to Statcast, the throw traveled 264 feet in the air at 96 miles per hour. The ball never touched the ground. The Phillies went on to win 5-4 in 10 innings.

The underlying numbers are not very concerning, showing that he can easily get back on track by simply cutting down the strikeouts. His 35 walks rank third in baseball behind Mike Trout (41) and teammate Andrew McCutchen (36). He is hitting .293 with runners in scoring position, .292 overall against lefties, has a .306 BAbip and 56 percent of all of his hits are for extra bases. In fact, he is averaging an RBI every 5.5 at-bats, which is almost an AB lower than his career mark of 6.3.

Harper will face three tough lefties for the remainder of Cubs series in Jose Quintana, Cole Hamels (we love you) and Jon Lester before heading to Milwaukee for a revenge series against the Brewers. The Phillies will need their three-hole hitter in a big way to finish May on a positive note. Jon Jansen has a full preview of the series, in which he also highlights Harper’s recent success!

It looks like the wait is over. It was money well spent.


You can follow Greg Hall on Twitter (@WePodAndWeKnow) and e-mail him at PiGregHall@gmail.com.

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