For the first time in his seven-year career, Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper has reached triple digits in RBI. The 25-year-old lifted a sacrifice fly to left field to plate Adam Eaton in the bottom of the fourth inning of Monday night’s game against the Marlins, pushing the Nationals’ lead to 3-1.
Harper finished the 2015 season with a career-high 99 RBI en route to winning the NL MVP Award. His next-highest RBI total was 87 last year and 86 in ’16.
That a player as talented as Harper never reached 100 RBI prior to this year shows the fatal flaw in RBI as a statistic. Having a lot of RBI is very dependent on having RBI opportunities. Last year, Harper had the likes of Brian Goodwin, Wilmer Difo, and a past-his-prime Jayson Werth batting in front of him — none of the three exactly mavens of reaching base, at least as far as last year is concerned. Harper, of course, has also struggled to stay healthy — he has crossed 140 games in a season just three times — which has also been a factor in his depressed RBI totals.
Harper is a free agent after the season. Due to sky-high expectations, his 2018 has often been thought of as a disappointment, but he entered Monday batting .245/.391/.495 with 34 homers, 98 runs scored, and 126 walks (tops in the majors). In this day and age, hitting 100 RBI won’t move the needle too much towards a payday, but it doesn’t hurt. Those other numbers, which are excellent, will do most of the talking.