There was no doubt Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was going to win the National League MVP award midway through the season. The MVP candidate has been putting up incredible statistics in his best season yet, batting a .332 average and hitting 31 homers.
The Nationals ended the first half of the season with 48-39 and remained as a competitor in the NL East division. For the first time in years, the Nationals showed consistency and were paving a return to the post-season.
The All-Star Game came, however, and stole the charm with it. According to ESPN’s current ranking, the Nationals are currently out of the playoff picture, overtaken by the New York Mets, and Harper’s lead in the MVP talks looks shaky.
Harper is having a career-defining season in 2015. According to ESPN and Fangraphs.com, Harper is currently tied at first place for homeruns with 31, and at second for the highest batting average in the National League at a .332.
Even more impressive is his 8.0 WAR rating, the highest in both the American League and the National League. WAR, or Wins Above Replacement, reflects a summary of several metric ratings which indicate a player’s overall contribution to the team. The normal player averages a 0-1 WAR rating and Harper’s 8.0 WAR rating reflects how valuable his efforts have been thus far.
The Nationals nonetheless are having a regrettable season. After ending last season with a 59 percent winning record, the team looked strong through the first half of the season, ending with a 55 percent winning record at the All-Star Game. Following the game, however, the team lost its first place ranking in the East division.
The inconsistency in their gameplay and the rising of the New York Mets in the division contributed to the Nationals’ fall from grace. Taking these factors into account, the current 51 percent record does not bode well for their post-season hopes.
The lackluster record also harms Harper’s chances at capturing the NL MVP award. Recent past MVP winners of either the AL or NL have pushed their teams to the post season’s division playoffs. The team performance, while not a direct indicator in choosing the MVP, does show the efforts of MVP candidates.
Harper’s ability to deliver homeruns and provide strong contributions may not eclipse the current state of the team. While Harper has finally cemented his credibility as a game-changing slugger, the Nationals’ inability to overcome a competitive division puts their post-season hopes and Harper’s MVP candidacy in jeopardy.
-Bar Hass ’16, Senior Sports Editor