He’s touchin’ em all. Will bettors too?
Bryce Harper’s run toward the National League MVP Award has been exhilarating, and captivating, for Phillies fans and New Jersey online sports bettors.
The crescendo rises with “MVP” “MVP” shouts erupting from Citizens Bank Park. It’s on the talk shows. It’s rippling through social media.
It is hot, hot. HOT.
Bryce Harper is the MVP, We’re Just Waiting to Make it Official
Harper has nearly pulled even with MVP leader Fernando Tatis of the San Diego Padres, setting up an exciting season finish.
The betting crowd cheers them like two champion thoroughbreds dueling in the Kentucky Derby homestretch.
What Harper has done lately is not merely exemplary. It’s insane.
In the stretch of a few days:
He went 13 for 25.
That’s a .520 batting average, for more than a week.
- And that’s only part of it. Harper walked 10 times too.
- Add that to the hits and he reached base 25 times in 36 plate appearances.
- Seriously? That’s an on-base percentage of just under 66%.
The walks constitute a serious advantage he’s given the team. Opponents got wise to his sizzle-streak and would like to pitch around him. Because he won’t bite, Harper is sometimes in the middle of rallies rather than leading them. A walk often is as good as a hit.
You can’t blame the pitchers for walking him. They don’t have to look at his monstrous OPS, a league-leading 1.055, to know they should avoid him.
OPS adds on-base percentage and slugging percentage to get one number that unites the two. It’s meant to combine how well a hitter can reach base, with how well he can hit for average and for power.
How good is Harper’s number?
The career-high, applied to players who competed in another era, is 1.16. It belongs to a guy named Babe Ruth.
Another legend, Ted Williams, is 1.15.
Millville Mike Trout, another budding Hall of Famer, has a career mark of 1.019. And he hasn’t captured just one MVP award. He has three.
Bryce is raking even above Millville Mike, which says a lot.
The Harper MVP sentiment became loudest in the Phillies’ series finale with the Chicago Cubs.
- Harper doubled to start a seven-run, game-tying rally in the fourth inning.
- Doubled in the go-ahead run in the sixth and sealed the Phillies’ 17-8 win over on Thursday night with a three-run homer in the seventh.
- He was a decisive force in three rallies that marked a game the Phillies could not afford to lose.
THE LEADERSHIP FACTOR
Here’s another major plus for Harper. He’s kept the Phillies in a division and wild-card race they have no business being in.
At one time the MVP race only meant a player the team could not have won a pennant without. With expanded playoffs, that enlarged the number of candidates who could meet the standards. A mediocre team that has simply been lifted into the off-season by a great player could set the groundwork for an MVP. That’s the Phillies’ potential.
Harper has helped the Phillies battle numerous, self-inflicted deficiencies.
They will establish an MLB record for blown saves in a season. The Phillies will finish at least 10 wins shy of where they should have been (some blown saves are misleading, because eighth-inning stats count too).
Zach Efflin was supposed to be the NO. 3 starter. He’s nowhere. Aaron Nola, the ace, has not been.
And the bullpen? That’s been feeding time for the over. Bettors have loved it, fans have chafed.
In one stretch, the Phillies blew saves in four straight saves. In one contest, they squandered leads of 5-0, 9-5 and 12-11. The pen gave up 11 runs in two middle innings and the Phillies still had the lead in the ninth. But they lost.
There are always more nails in the coffin, like closer Ian Kennedy throwing an off-speed pitch one strike away from a looming victory over the Colorado Rockies last week. He imploded and they lost, launching a 1-3 mark against a non-playoff club.
The team has endured crushing injuries to Rhys Hoskins, J.T. Realmuto, Didi Gregorious and Andrew McCutchen. Earlier in the season, that list included Harper.
But entering the Mets series, somehow this team hadn’t eliminated itself.
Somehow, by Sept. 17, the Phillies were:
Three games behind the Atlanta Braves to win the NL East
A stretch of 1 1-2 -2 1-2 back in the wild-card chase against the Padres, Cincinnati Reds and St. Louis Cardinals. The Phillies or one of those teams will get the second playoff berth behind either the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.
They have upcoming series’ against the Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates, the bottom of the barrel. If the Phillies don’t make the playoffs, they will point to the recent series against the Rockies and a late-August three-game Road sweep suffered against the Arizona Cardinals as major contributors.
They should be out of the running, but, as of Sept 17, not yet.
And after the 7-0 deficit Thursday against the Cubs, they teetered on another costly loss.
But Harper said no.
Can this team follow his lead until the end of the season?
WHAT IF YOU BET HIM EARLY?
The beauty of MVP races is the ability to make a value-added bet late into the season.
Witness the National League Cy Young Award race where Mighty Max Scherzer of the Los Angeles Dodgers rose from +1400 at the trade deadline to be the frontrunner in mid-September.
- The NL MVP race looked like Jacob deGrom of the New York Mets against the world in June.
- He was pitching to historic standards and took the lead over Tatis.
- The Cy Young Award was considered a given. But he got hurt.
That created an opening. Harper, well into double-digits, was enduring difficult luck. He missed 18 of the team’s first 65 games, including about two weeks in late May, early June, after being hit in the face by a pitch.
He had back spasms. He was removed from a game in July. And them. And then.
Harper has a tailwind now.
This has been something special. How far will it go and will the gamblers, some of whom took him in double-digits weeks ago, be rewarded?