MIAMI – Ryan Howard had a 1,259 OPS after the 2006 All-Star Game. He hit 30 home runs in 75 games. No player has had a better second-half OPS since. Only two have butted more homers.
Howard’s dominant second half of the season catapulted him into the NL MVP award, despite the Phillies missing out of the postseason, 12 games behind the Mets in the NL East. Howard can appreciate Bryce Harper’s second half of the season in 2021, which could lead to the same accolade – despite the Phillies missing the playoffs for the 10th consecutive season.
“What’s the criteria for MVP?” Howard asked this week at Truist Park. “Well, they may not make the postseason, but if you took him out of the lineup, how far would they be from the qualification fight? Would we be having this conversation if he wasn’t doing what he’s doing? Would they be 10 games away, instead of qualifying (until this week)?
“I think when it comes to MVP, it’s like, if you take this person out of the lineup, what would happen?”
Harper came into Saturday batting .308 with 41 doubles, a triple, 35 homers, 84 RBIs, 100 runs, 99 walks, a 1,043 OPS, 179 OPS + and a 5.8 WAR, according to Baseball-Reference.
Harper is the only major league player to have a batting line of at least .300 / .400 / .600. He needs just one more ticket to become the eighth patrolman in history to have at least 40 doubles, 30 home runs and 100 walks in a year, joining Babe Ruth, Earl Averill, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Barry Bonds, Venezuelan Bob Abreu and Lance Berkman.
“What Bryce is doing is incredible,” Howard said. “It’s Bryce being Bryce. I think what he is doing is what people expect of him ”.
Harper is one of the National MVP favorites. The other candidates are Juan Soto and Fernando Tatis Jr., Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner, Austin Riley and Brandon Crawford.
“It probably all comes down to Bryce and Freddie,” says Howard. “They are probably my two favorites right now. I think what Bryce is doing and the numbers he’s putting in, yeah, you have to consider it. And I think, with all the ups and downs of the Phillies in the year, he always stayed consistent. ”
Fifteen years have passed since Howard was MVP. Ten since the Phillies qualified for the postseason. It is the longest drought in club history without a playoffs.
But Howard sees better things on the horizon.
“You’re starting to get back to racing, to the point where in the penultimate series of the season, you’re still alive,” Howard said. “They are on the right track, because they are beginning to fight. It is about overcoming that valley ”.