The Philadelphia Phillies may be in first place in the National League East, 40 games into the season, but the club's success so far has not been largely helped by what most fans would have expected at the onset — Bryce Harper's bat.
Harper, who signed at the time a record-breaking 13-year, $330 million contract with the Phillies just over two months ago, has found himself into a noticeable, recent slump.
Since his career-high five-hit game, away against the Colorado Rockies on April 19, Harper has slashed just .151/.295/.329, striking out in 29 of his 88 plate appearances. He has as many walks as RBI over this stretch (14), while also producing four singles, four doubles, three home runs and 12 runs scored over the 21 games.
Prior to the Phillies' Tuesday evening contest opposite the Milwaukee Brewers at Citizens Bank Park, General Manager Matt Klentak said he is not concerned about Harper's slump. "A 26-year-old with a track record like he has, I'm going to trust that track record," Klentak said. "He's leading our team in doubles, and he's leading our team in walks."
"He still has a .370 on-base [percentage], and he's making plays like he did last night in right field to help us win games even when he's not hitting."
Klentak added that we should recognize that all players, "including the best players in the league" will go through stretches "where they're not at their best."
"Bryce has had these before; he had a stretch like this early last year, in fact," Klentak added. "What great players do is they work themselves out of it."
Harper's 14 walks alone, over the aforementioned 21-game slumping stretch, would be the fifth-most on the team behind Andrew McCutchen (30), Rhys Hoskins (28), Maikel Franco (16) and Cesar Hernandez (15). The slugger's .367 on-base percentage still ranks 21st-best among qualified National League batters. He is still finding ways to get on base.
"I think one of the things I like about Bryce's style of play is, that even when he is struggling offensively, he takes his walks," Klentak said. "It's hard for players to really get into prolonged slumps when they have the patience that Bryce has."
"That's why we can see right now, that even though he may not be getting the hits that he's hoping to get, he's still reaching base at a good clip and positively impacting our club."