Is 2015 Bryce Harper back? Has he risen from the grave? After a disappointing 2016 season, Nationals fans want nothing more than the return of MVP Bryce Harper.
It’s nothing new for Harper to have a torrid April. He had a hot start to last season as well. But if he keeps up his current pace, he won’t taper off like he did last year. He is absolutely tearing it up again to start the year. On Monday, Harper was awarded NL Player of the Week. During said week, he hit .550 (going 11-for-20), with 3 home runs, 7 RBI, and 10 runs scored; this includes a grand slam off of frequent victim Julio Teheran of the Braves. This is Harper’s fifth career NL Player of the Week award and second straight year winning the title in April.
So, are we seeing glimpses of the MVP we know and love, or is this just a typical hot start out of the gate? A look back at Harper’s production through the team’s twentieth game of last season shows Harper sporting a .318 average, a .434 on-base percentage, and a 1.252 OPS. So far this season, Harper has a .400 average, a .523 on-base percentage, and a 1.323 OPS. He also has 7 home runs, 21 RBI, 24 runs scored, and 18 walks. That’s not a huge increase in power, but it’s an increase of over 80 points in both average and on-base percentage. His power has only gone up a shade, but he has gotten on base over half the time, which ultimately means more to the team than a few pretty home runs (albeit they’d take some of those, too).
After a quick turnaround getting out of New York, Harper didn’t start in the opener against the Rockies, but he joined the Coors Field party on Tuesday going 2-for-4 with 1 RBI, 1 walk, and 2 runs scored. This might not look like a lot for a game in which 27 total runs were scored, but if Bryce doesn’t keep the line moving in a personally below-the-radar night, the rest of the lineup doesn’t get to cause damage, and Trea Turner doesn’t get to make Nationals history by hitting the team’s first cycle in nine years.
When at the plate, Harper has looked mature and confident. He’s making the most of his at-bats by taking his walks when he’s given them and not looking for a home run every time. He hits what he’s given, and he uses all parts of the field. Harper’s teammates are hitting too well behind him in the lineup for pitchers to avoid his hot bat with walks, so he’s back to being a pain in opposing teams’ backsides.
Harper has also proven himself capable in the clutch yet again. This season Harper has already hit a walk-off home run in addition to a monster three-run homer against the Phillies and a grand slam against the Braves, both of which were during the Nationals recent seven-game winning streak.
It looks like Harper is setting himself up to be That Man again. It’s too early to tell if he’ll keep up the production for an entire season, but things are looking up for Harper. If nothing else, it gets a Nats fan excited again for the potential monster season. And if we’re lucky, we could have a chance at another Harper MVP. If he keeps it up.Tags: Bryce Harper, Nationals, Nats, Washington Nationals