The Phillies incredible signing of Bryce Harper last week opened a lot of wallets. Start with owner John Middleton and his partners, who committed $330 million to Harper over the next 13 seasons. Add in fans, who rushed to buy an estimated 100,000 tickets just the day news broke.
And then, tip a cap to the gamblers wise enough to find a betting window over the weekend and put their shekels on Harper and the Phils.
I told you in this space a few weeks back to invest in the “over” when Vegas placed the Phils at 84.5 wins. I hope you did, because that slam dunk is now off the table. The oddsmakers briefly took the Phils off the board after the Harper signing and, as of a few days ago, the new number was fluctuating wildly. At this point, don’t touch it until it settles.
But right now you can bet at some casinos just on what the Phillies’ newest slugger will accomplish in 2019. Don’t tell anyone, but I broke into my wife’s Mah Jongg stash the other day to grab a few crumpled bills for investment. She’ll be happy when I reward her with a spa day at the end of the season.
According to Bovada, an online site that sets odds on most everything, here are Harper’s over/unders as a first-year Phillie rightfielder:
Batting average – .267
Home runs – 33.5
RBIs – 95.5
Runs scored – 97.5
Hmmm. Let’s see. Harper’s career batting average is .279. But he has fluctuated wildly in recent seasons – from .330 in 2015, down to .243 the following season, back up to .319 and down to just .249 last year. So I’m not touching the batting average prop bet.
Before I advise you to bet the “over” on the others (guess I just did), here’s the caveat: Harper could tear his knee (again) in April and never get the chance to reach those lofty totals. He has managed just two seasons of 150-plus games in his seven-year career, suffering through injuries to his hip, knee, thumb, neck and shoulder.
But if he does stay healthy . . .
Well, I’m not sure there’s been a ballpark since “The House that Ruth Built” as tailor-made for a slugger as perfectly as Citizens Bank Park is designed for Harper.
This is a left-handed slugger who’s played half his games trying to launch one out of Yosemite – also known as Nationals Park. Now he gets to take aim at a cozy 369-foot right-field power alley and a 330-foot right-field line.
In 179 career at-bats in South Philly, Harper has 14 homers, 32 RBIs and has scored 33 runs. He’s got a .564 slugging percentage and .930 OPS. He will be in heaven.
He’ll be helped, too, by the potent lineup surrounding him. With guys like Jean Segura, Andrew McCutchen and perhaps Cesar Hernandez batting in front of him, the RBI chances will come. And with boppers like Rhys Hoskins and J.T. Realmuto behind him, Harper can easily expect to cross home plate 100 times.
In fact, that’s my favorite of the props here – over 97.5 runs. Even if Harper doesn’t hit for average, he’s on on-base machine, averaging 104 walks and a .410 OBP the last four years. Simply said: He’ll get on, they’ll drive him in.
So that’s where my investment is going. Now, I just have to figure out what to tell my wife when she heads out for Mah Jongg later this week.