- - Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Philadelphia Phillies didn’t sign Bryce Harper to a record-breaking $330 million contract for him to be above average.

They most likely envisioned the former National putting up Hall of Fame-like numbers — even though he had just one of those seasons during his career with Washington.

Perhaps Phillies fans should appreciate what they have in Harper: A productive hitter in the middle of the lineup who allows Rhys Hoskins (24 homers through Wednesday), batting behind him most of the time, to be an even more feared hitter.

Maybe those fans should ignore Harper’s high strikeout total and low batting average, something that Nationals fans who feel scorned for his departure are quick to point out whenever the left-handed hitting slugger is in a downward funk.

Harper averaged just over 26.3 homers a season in his seven years in Washington.

In the first 114 games of this season for the Phillies, Harper had 20 homers to put him on pace to hit 28.4 this year. He was tied for 32nd in the National League in homers through Wednesday.

“If you average 26 homers a year you are a pretty good player, but you are not a Hall of Famer,” baseball historian and MASN contributor Phil Wood said. “Will he be one of the best Phillies of all-time? He is not as good as Mike Schmidt, clearly.”

Harper averaged 74.4 RBI, 87.1 runs and 119 strikeouts with Washington and had a batting average of .279 with an OPS of .900.

Going into Thursday night’s game in San Francisco, he was hitting .251 with an OPS of .838 and was on pace to have 105 RBI. Yet, he had already fanned 132 times. Harper shaved his trademark beard Monday — perhaps trying to stay cool as the Phillies began a series in Arizona.

The Las Vegas native’s best year remains 2015, when hit .330 with 42 homers and 99 RBI with 1.109 OPS and was the Most Valuable Player
in the National League.

“Offensively, he has these years where he opens up and pulls off everything, then the next year he seems to concentrate more on staying in and going the other way and his numbers improve,” a veteran major league scout told The Washington Times.

He struck out a career-high 169 times last year and had a league-high 130 walks.

His defense, which appeared to suffer in his last season with the Nationals has been a bright spot this year. Keep in mind though, free agency was looming, so there was no crashing into walls like earlier in his career.

In an early July game against the Nationals at Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, the 26-year-old uncorked a throw of 310 feet at nearly 92 mph that caught Washington’s Victor Robles trying to stretch a double into a triple. The throw was shown repeatedly for the next few hours on ESPN.

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