What's the one thing that can keep Bryce Harper from winning NL MVP?


What’s the one thing that can keep Bryce Harper from winning NL MVP? originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Last night, Bryce Harper added to his already torrid month of June with three extra-base hits and five RBIs in another Phillies win. He is the hottest hitter in the National League this month and it isn’t close.

Thus far this month, Harper leads all NL players in hitting (.385), extra-base hits (14), slugging percentage (.718) and OPS (1.185!). He was already the NL Player of the Month in May.

So, to this point, he’s the MVP in a landslide, no?

No.

That’s because for all his mashing, being the best position player in the league for two months solid, there is another player who continues to match him, step for step, and actually exceed his crazy numbers.

It’s a guy who knows a thing or two about hitting. And pitching. And winning MVP awards.

It’s Dodgers megastar Shohei Ohtani.

As good as Harper has been this season, Ohtani has actually been better somehow. In fact, Ohtani has been better in every statistical category, with the exception of OBP, where Harper has a marginal lead (.401 to .395).

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Fanatics currently has Ohtani at better than even-money to win the MVP, at -120 odds, implying a 54.55% of winning. Harper is second, at +185, or a 35.1% chance.

Both players are gunning for his third career MVP award. Ohtani won the MVP with the Angels in 2021 and 2023. Harper won his in 2015 with the Nationals, and 2021 with the Phillies.

This has a very Embiid vs. Jokic feel to it. Two players at the very top of the sport, both balling out, and really, leaving it up to the voters.

So what does Harper have to do, or what does Ohtani not have to do — barring injury — to overtake his rival and with his third MVP?

Harper seems to be closing fast. Even yesterday, he was at +230 to win. The main issue has been his start to the season, vs Ohtani’s April. In the season’s first month, the two had similar HR/RBI numbers, but Ohtani slashed .336/.399/.618/1.017, compared with Harper’s .230/.345/.460/.805.

There’s your difference right there.

Since May 1, here are the slash lines for the MVP front-runners:

Harper: .345/.433/.644/1.077

Ohtani: .305/.393/.632/1.025

To put a finer point on it, those figures for Harper are all the best in the NL since May 1. All four.

But Ohtani has been so good as keeping pace, he’s staying ahead because his April was so good.

The upshot here is that half of the regular season remains. Three full months of battling the numbers, the National League, and each other. One thing is certain: this is going to be one helluva MVP race.



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