Mr. Stats Notes: The Bryce Harper/Juan Soto matchup

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On Sunday morning, the Philadelphia Phillies play at Washington in a game that can be streamed on Peacock starting at 12pm ET. It’s a great chance to check in on two of the premiere talents in the game, Bryce Harper and Juan Soto.

Harper is the reigning National League MVP, coming off a season that he slugged .615 and had an OPS of 1.044.

Harper’s slugging, OPS, and OPS+ is a touch higher this year. Still not 30 years old, his career .920 OPS and OPS+ of 144 puts him in the stratosphere of players. Entering Thursday, Harper is batting .364/.444/.675 with 6 HR, 19 RBI over his past 20 games.  And this weekend, Bryce will bat against a Washington pitching staff that has allowed the most home runs in baseball.

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While his offensive production is still there, he has been limited to being a designated hitter due to his strained right elbow. To say the Phillies need him in the outfield is an understatement.

There’s one thing missing from Bryce’s resume. He hasn’t played in the postseason since joining the Phillies in 2019. Harper has played in four postseason series, and his teams are 0-4.

Worse, the team he left — the Nationals — won the World Series in 2019, the first season after his departure.

One of the main reasons Washington won the World Series was the play of then 20-years old Juan Soto. Soto was second in 2018 in the Rookie of the Year voting to Ronald Acuna, Jr. Soto finished second in the N.L. MVP voting last year to his former teammate Harper.

Juan Soto’s production has fallen this year, and for a good reason. There is absolutely no reason to pitch to him, and let him beat you. He leads the majors in walks. By a lot.  Entering Thursday, Soto had been walked 52 times (pace of 130).  The Nationals’ Kyle Schwarber is second in MLB with 40 walks.

Soto remained out of the lineup for the second game in a row on June 15 after he banged his right knee on the corner of the dugout bench on June 13. What a frustrating season.

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Maybe the Washington Nationals figure out how to surround Soto with talent, and find the resources to keep him long-term. It is hard to forget how important he was to the 2019 championship. In the World Series against Houston, Soto batted .333 (9-27 AB) with 3 HR, 7 RBI, a .741 SLG and 1.178 OPS.  He had 20 total bases in the seven games. His fifth inning homer off Justin Verlander put the Nats on top in Game 6. He got on base three times in Game 7.

Bryce Harper has never appeared in a World Series. He has never appeared in a Championship Series. Before the 2019 season, he signed a whopping 13-year, $330 million dollar contract. At signing, it was the most lucrative contract in baseball history.

While Harper is committed to Philadelphia for the rest of the decade, Soto avoided arbitration by signing a $17.1 million dollar contract that takes him through 2022.

Maybe it will be Soto that will sign the most lucrative contract in baseball history. For now, the two old teammates will see each other this weekend in D.C.

It must be frustrating for both to see division rival Atlanta win the 2021 World Series. It must be so frustrating to see the Mets jump out on top in 2022 and have the resources to spend whatever it takes to win.

Both are marvelous talents, and they’ll be on display Sunday. And the Phillies have won 11 of 13 after Wednesday afternoon’s victory over the Marlins. Fangraphs has the Fightin Phils’ chances of making the playoffs at slightly more than 35%.

And the Phillies even have a 2.5% chance of winning the World Series.

It would be nice to see Bryce on the biggest of stages. It seems like he’s been around forever.

It’s Father’s Day baseball…and we’re giving you…a tie.

One player averages a HR every 18.16 at-bats for his career. The other player averages a HR every 17.25 at-bats.

One player has a career OPS+ of 140.  The other player has an OPS+ for his career of 137.

The first player is Hall of Famer Vladimir Guerrero.  The second player is his son, Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

When Vlad Jr. finishes his career, there is no reason to think his offensive numbers will look much different than his dad’s, who was elected into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2018 in his second year of eligibility.

A tie for Father’s Day.

And what a tie!

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Vladimir, the father, was born February 9, 1975 in Nizao, Dominican Republic, where Guerrero played baseball barefoot as a youth, using a stick for a bat and lemons wrapped in rags for balls. There was no roof over his head for awhile, literally, the result of a hurricane blowing the roof off his family’s small home, leaving seven family members sharing two beds in a tiny room.  According to Dan Le Batard’s 2002 feature article in ESPN: The Magazine, the family drank from puddles.

Vladimir, the son, was born March 16, 1999. At the time, the new father was establishing himself as one of the brightest stars in the game, albeit for a bad Expos team. Vlad would finish his Hall of Fame career in 2011, having earned more than $125 million dollars playing in the majors.

The father didn’t have enough money for a bat or ball. The son was born, figuratively, on third base.

Earlier this season, on April 13, Vlad had a signature game against the Yankees in New York.  He went 4-4 AB, including three home runs and a double in a 6-4 victory.

Vlad Senior never did that to the Yankees. But oh boy, could he be a pain to the Bronx Bombers.

Vlad Senior played playoff games against the Yankees in 2005, 2009, and 2010. All he did in the 17 postseason games vs. New York was bat .324. He batted .333 in the Division Series in 2005 for the Angels that eliminated the Yankees. He knocked in 3 runs in the clinching Game 6 of the 2010 ALCS for the Rangers that eliminated the Yankees. He batted .370 (10-27 AB) with a HR and a .985 OPS in the 2009 ALCS, a series the Yankees won.

The Yankees once had to contend with Vladimir Guerrero, an unconventional five-tool player that was electrifying. And now, they have to face his son — in the same division.

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When it’s all said and done, I’m not sure there will be much to differentiate between Vlad the father and Vlad the son.

A Father’s Day tie.

Look at the other great father/son combinations in MLB history. Usually, one is much better. On the Blue Jays, infielder Cavan Biggio is in his fourth season. No one would ever confuse the back of his baseball card with his father, Craig Biggio.

Bobby Bonds was a tremendous player (OPS+ 129), but not close to his son Barry (OPS+182).  Even if you discount (or throw out entirely) everything after 1998, Barry was far superior (OPS+ 164 through the 1998 season).

Ken Griffey was a very, very good player, but not close to his son Ken Griffey Jr., along with Barry Bonds the best player in the 1990s.

Dante Bichette had a very good career, which might have been even better if not for injuries.  In 1995, he finished second in the MVP vote to Barry Larkin. Bichette slugged .630 and hit 40 HR that season.  Of course, 31 of the 40 homers came in Coors Field. That season, Dante slugged .755 at home with a 1.153 OPS and slugged .473 with an OPS of .802 on the road. Last year, the Jays’ shortstop Bo Bichette hit 29 home runs. Bo’s power is down this year, and it seems unlikely that he’ll ever hit 40 in a season.

The only father/son combination that each had a 40+ HR season in their career besides the Guerrero’s were the Fielders. Cecil Fielder and Prince Fielder each had a 50 HR season.

Prince Fielder had 50 HR in 2007. Cecil had 51 HR in 1990.

Toronto had a winning April (14-8), a winning May (14-12), and a winning June so far (9-5).  They may not catch the Yankees for the division, but they’ll almost assuredly be a playoff team.

And if the Yankees have to contend with Vladimir Guerrero again in the postseason — this time, the son — then look out New York.

Not all major league players have fathers that played in the big leagues. Obviously, most don’t.  The Phillies’ shortstop Didi Greorius grew up in Curacao. Both his older brother, Johnny, and his father played baseball for the Curacao National Team.

Some fathers don’t play baseball, but pass on their love for the game. The Phillies Rhys Hoskins is from Sacramento, and his father Paul grew up a huge Willie Mays fan.

Not every man or woman working in baseball has a father that is skilled or passionate about the game.  My own dad, Lenny Kalb, is a man of many, varied interests, but baseball is not one of them. He did think it was important to introduce me to the game at a young age. And when he took me to my first game — at Dodger Stadium — probably in the summer of 1970 — it was soon after he and my mom took my siblings and I to Disneyland for the first time. Entering the gates of Dodger Stadium, I had one thought that has stayed with me for all these years. “Why on earth do they call Disneyland the ‘Magic Kingdom.’

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

How to watch the Philadelphia Phillies vs Washington Nationals on Peacock

  • When: Sunday, June 19
  • Where: Nationals Park in Washington D.C.
  • Time: 12:00 p.m ET (live coverage begins at 11:30)
  • Live Stream: Watch live on Peacock

Father’s Day is here and NBC Sports has you covered with gift ideas for this year