As of Friday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies aren’t in a very good position to contend for a Wild Card spot.
They are, however, still in the hunt, even with a 74-72 record: they are three games out on the National League East’s first place, held by the Atlanta Braves, and they are even closer in the race for the second Wild Card berth, 2.5 games behind the St. Louis Cardinals.
Their minus-12 run differential, as well as their mediocre record, are clear indications that the Phillies aren’t a particularly good team.
Imagine where they would be without outfielder Bryce Harper.
A Leading NL MVP Candidate
A 2018 free agency signing, Harper, one of the best and most divisive players of his generation, is carrying the Phillies on his back as they try to steal one of the playoff berths.
At this point, we can firmly say he is the favorite to win the NL MVP award over Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres.
People are starting to give more recognition, too.
Harper is the phillies offense. Tatis has much more help. Harper should be MVP.
— Delaware resister 812 (@williamfkane2) September 17, 2021
Harper is leading the NL in Wins Above Replacement, or WAR, with 6.2.
Tatis is at 5.9, and Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Trea Turner is at 5.6.
Harper is having one of the finest seasons of his career, slashing .314/.428/.627 with 33 home runs, 92 runs scored, and 77 RBI.
Let’s put it this way: Harper is getting on base comfortably more than 40 percent of the time, which is absolutely amazing.
He is also leading all qualified NL hitters in wRC+.
The wRC+ stat is weighted Runs Created Plus, an all-inclusive offensive stat that is adjusted to external factors such as park and era and is used to determine if a player is above or below-average at the plate.
Harper’s wRC+ is 175, which means he has produced 75 percent more than the average.
The Phillies, with Rhys Hoskins’ injury, have failed to provide Harper with a reliable sidekick, and he’s left doing all the heavy lifting by himself.
After Harper, The Drop-off In Talent On The Phillies Is Considerable
As you can see, there is a noticeable drop-off in talent and overall contributions after Harper.
That’s part of the issue with the Phillies: yes, they have a superstar, but they have mostly failed to develop or acquire talent that can impact the game in a similar way as Harper.
I hope Bryce Harper meets with every FA this winter
WE. NEED. HELP. #Phillies
— Justin Lever 💚⚾️ (@JustinLever3) September 15, 2021
As long as the Phillies have a chance, Harper will do his best to take them to the postseason, even if the odds are against them.
He is one of the hottest hitters in baseball, hitting .500/.613/1.167 with four homers, nine runs, nine RBI, and a stolen base over his last seven games.
The good stretch of games can be extended to his last 15, in which he has slashed .396/.508/.887 with seven round-trippers, and also to his last 30: .365/.481/.827 with 12 blasts.
That’s some superstar production right there, one that the Phillies can count on.
Can they provide production from other sources and reach the postseason?
It seems unlikely at this point, but they are still very much in the race.NEXT: Why Can’t The Phillies Break Away From .500?