“I just got to keep going,” he said earlier this month. “That’s what this organization expects. That’s what these fans expect as well. No matter who’s on the mound or how I’m feeling, I got to keep posting every day.”
Harper’s surge has sent him shooting up the M.L.B. leaderboards for the season: .312 average (sixth), 33 home runs and a 1.050 O.P.S. (first).
“You know people say that they’re on fire and they’re hot for like a week or a couple of weeks ago,” said the Phillies’ first base coach, Paco Figueroa, who also oversees the outfield and base running in instruction. “He’s been hot since about since the All-Star break. And it’s impressive to watch. Every single pitch, everyone’s staring.”
While the A.L. M.V.P. race appears to be between the Los Angeles Angels pitcher and hitter extraordinaire Shohei Ohtani, who has been the favorite for much of this season, and Toronto Blue Jays first baseman Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who leads the A.L. in many offensive categories, the N.L. race feels far murkier.
Some advanced statistics position Harper as the best hitter in the N.L., followed by right fielder Juan Soto of the Washington Nationals (.325 average and 1.029 O.P.S.) and then Tatis. But if their entire bodies of work are taken into consideration, Tatis plays a more demanding position in the field and is a better base runner.
“There’s a lot of really good players in the National League, and I’m not saying anything against them, but I just get a chance to see what he does every day, and that’s an advantage for me,” Phillies Manager Joe Girardi said of Harper. “The walks, the base running, the defense, what he’s been able to do on a daily basis — so I’m a little partial.”