WASHINGTON — Bryce Harper was the unanimous 2015 National League MVP. Daniel Murphy came in second place in the 2016 National League MVP voting. Both players played for the Washington Nationals when they had their respective incredible seasons. Both players still play for the Washington Nationals.
But only one of them is part of the best hitting duo in baseball so far this season: Harper. His raking colleague? Mr. Ryan Zimmerman, who is on pace to easily surpass his total hits (179), home runs (31) and RBIs (119) of the past two seasons combined.
Zimmerman, at age 32, is leading the league in batting average (.385), slugging percentage (.792), RBIs (36), total bases (103) extra-base hits (27). That’s not bad for a guy who appeared to be heading toward an early retirement after playing in just 271 games over the past three seasons.
Harper, for his part, is destroying baseballs at a criminal rate, putting together a .384/.500/.752 line (*double-checks*) that would make Willie Mays blush.
No, really. If you mix-and-match Mays’ best seasons, you get a .347/.425/.667 line. Nobody is expecting Harper to continue at this rate, but he’s on pace to absolutely obliterate each of the best marks Mays, a Hall of Famer who hit .302 for his career and once had 52 home runs while hitting .314 for the season, set over the course of his 22-year career. In one season.
In 1956, when he was 24 years old, Mickey Mantle hit 52 home runs and batted .353, one of the greatest seasons in baseball history. He had a 1.169 OPS that season.
Harper is on pace for a 1.252 season.
If Harper continues at this pace — and mind you, he won’t — he’ll finish with the 14th best season in MLB history, per OPS+, behind a trio of fellows named Babe (5 times), Barry (4 times) and Ted (2 times), as well as Ross Barnes and Fred Dunlap from the 19th century.
He’s also 24 years old. (And due for a new contract in less than two years.)
Meanwhile, Murphy is hitting a measly .317/.385/.531 and in the top 20 in average, RBIs and doubles, all while striking out just 17 times in 161 plate appearances.
Maybe he’ll catch up soon, the slacker.