Bryce Harper was unequivocally the best player in the game last year. I say that as a Nationals fan, and as a HUGE Bryce Harper fan. So yeah, I may be a little biased coming into this, but stats and logic back up just about everything that I will claim in this piece. But try and figure out which one of these stat lines is Harper’s from 2015 without cheating:
Player A: .341 BA, 45 HRs, 90 RBIs. MVP, 9.2 WAR
Player B: .330 BA, 44 HRs, 139 RBIs, MVP, 7.2 WAR
Player C: .330 BA, 42 HRs, 99 RBIs, MVP, 9.9 WAR
Player D: .342 BA, 38 HRs, 123 RBIs, MVP, 10.9 WAR
Do you think you know which one was Harper’s stat line? Do you have any idea who the other players were? Let’s see how you did:
Player A: Barry Bonds’ 2003 season
Player B: Miguel Cabrera’s 2012 season
Player C: Bryce Harper’s 2015 season
Player D: Ted Williams’ 1946 season.
Harper’s 2015 season was one of the better seasons in MLB history, yet people still believed he did not deserve the MVP. This guy was tops in the MLB in OBP, slugging, OPS, WAR, isolated power, runs created, and runs created per 27 outs. He finished 2nd in walks, walks per plate appearance, and at- bats per HR. He finished 3rd in HRs, batting average, and intentional walks. Going back to WAR, he was worth 9.9 wins to his team, keeping in mind a WAR of 6+ is generally considered supreme. That is good for 56th of all time. Of all the players and great seasons that the MLB has seen in, Harper’s was near one of the top 50. Yet people still believed that he was undeserving of the MVP award.
Of course, if you asked many of the national baseball writers they would tell you Harper absolutely deserved to win the MVP in a unanimous fashion, something that he ended up doing. However, many fans were not convinced, something that was arguably the product of the hate of Harper. It really seemed that the hate for Harper drove people to look for any candidates that could theoretically have a shot at dethroning him(see Cespedes, Yoenis).
One of the main arguments used against Harper was that his team did not make the playoffs, so how valuable can he really be. While that logic is completely idiotic just on the surface(so Giancarlo Stanton is not really that valuable to the Marlins, or Mike Trout was not all that valuable to the Angels except in 2014), it quickly swept throughout the nation. One of the poster boys for this was Yoenis Cespedes. With the Mets making a run to the playoffs there were some fans that believed Cespedes deserved MVP. Don’t get me wrong, he played very well; however, he only played in the NL for two months. there is no way he could have been the most valuable player in the entire league.
However, when the BBWAA announced the finalists for the NL MVP, they picked Harper, Paul Goldschmidt, and Joey Votto. Neither of those three guys played on teams in the playoffs, so the argument that Harper did not make the postseason is irrelevant. The other players that were in consideration either played for a team that had success due to the entire 25 man group(heyward, Rizzo), or just did not have a season that could compare to Harper’s(McCutchen). There are basically no valid excuses for why Harper did not deserve the MVP award.
The idea that Harper was not valuable to his team is also false. Not only was he worth the most wins to his team out of any one player, but he was doing all of that with basically little help from the Nats lineup. Bryce Harper was the lone bright spot outside of Max Scherzer in the Nationals 2015 season. Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Denard Span, Jayson Werth missed a combined 267 games this season. Those four, plus Ian Desmond who enjoyed his own streaky season, were the main protection in the Nationals lineup for Harper. The fact that Harper was able to still put up the numbers he did despite being the only threat in the lineup is impressive, and speaks to the immense talent he possesses.
The Nationals without Harper this season would have been a train wreck without a good player in the everyday lineup. Lucky for them they had the best player from last season on their team to life them up, and help keep them in games. It felt like at least a dozen times last season Bryce would hit a HR in the 7th or 8th inning of a close game that would either give the team a spark or provide an insurance run to give them a win.
Overall, Harper’s 2015 season was one for the ages, and could be what we look back on as the launching point for a great career. He either was tops in the league or in the top ten in the majors for nearly all of the major offensive categories. He was worth the most wins to his team(9.9), which is a huge part of the reason that he was the most valuable player in the N.L. Finally, he produced at an elite level despite having basically no protection in the lineup. Bryce Harper was the most valuable player in the N.L. hands down, anyone who does not believe so is ignoring the facts and stats of this past season.
check back later this week or next week for pt.2
Ted Van Green
Spark Sports Analyst