The phrase in sports that largely defined the past year in terms of grit, hustle, overcoming adversity, or capability of performing when the lights shined the brightest?

“He’s got that dawg in him!”

Coming off of leading the Phillies to the World Series in 2023 by getting hot at the right time, rallying the clubhouse around the interim manager, and playing with an electric intensity that livened up the entire organization, Bryce Harper defined having that dawg in him. While it just fell short of taking a team that finished third in their division to achieving immortality, it felt magical at the time with every emphatic bomb he hit to put the team on his back in their sports-crazed town. This is also the same Bryce Harper that took a pay cut to sign a longer contract when he hit free agency because he wanted the stability of staying with the same organization through the ups and downs of the deal to build a culture.

Now, as the Phils started off the season with the injury bug and beginning the year 5-10 after their miraculous run, Harper was supposed to be out for a significant amount of time after undergoing offseason Tommy John Surgery.

So, what did he do? He decided to learn a new position.

Tommy John normally knocks pitchers out for around a full season. It took 159 days for Harper to say, “That’s it. The boys are struggling. I’m playing DH and learning first base.” and getting back into the lineup. The man is playing with a bionic arm in order to turn the early season woes around to inspire his team. In his 47 at-bats so far, he’s batting .319 with 12 runs and even knocked out a couple of homers. He’s threatening to fight the entire Rockies team that even has his childhood best friend on it, Kris Bryant, and calling them a loser organization from the dugout in what’s the most chef’s kiss disrespect ever. While the Phillies are 3-7 in his 10 games back, the energy around his return feels different, and that may be all they need.

In a sport obsessed with numbers, how do you quantify that? There are no advanced analytics, so we’ve created one: Dawgmetrics. How much dawg do you have in you? What kind of dawg is it in the aura you bring to the clubhouse? Bryce Harper is a rottweiler. His loyalty, miraculous comeback, and fight in him carries the Phils.

Let’s take a look at some other dawgmetrics around the league- numbers that are a cross-of-the-eye test, the storylines, and the actual production on the field when it comes to success, energy, and grit.

Who needs WRC+?

Alek Manoah // Chihuahua

Alek Manoah was a preseason Cy Young Candidate being a 6’6″ flamethrower on an up-and-coming, young, and hungry Blue Jays team as he went 16-7 with a 2.24 ERA last year and finished third in the voting. You may remember him from his incredible mic’d up all-star performance, openly speaking in the offseason about how much he hates that cheater Gerrit Cole (“the biggest cheater in baseball”), and for often barking at the opposing dugouts when he gets a strikeout, much to the chagrin of Red Sox Alex Verdugo. He’s fiery, he talks a lot, and there’s a palpable sense of charisma when he’s on the mound, but this season has been all bark and no bite despite a Blue Jays lineup that can hit. Manoah has started off 2023 with a 1-4 record, a 5.40 ERA, and pitchers are dominating the count with him due to his poor strike-to-walk ratio as he’s given up the 2nd-most walks.

That’s a Chihuahua- all protective bark and no bite in their tiny body, dawgmetric right there to start the year. Maybe he can turn it around and improve that analytic on a Blue Jays team that needs to make up ground in the East.

Mookie Betts // Golden Retriever

There’s a loyalty, a joyous aura, an eagerness to play, and a calm demeanor that comes with the family and fun-loving golden retriever, and that is precisely the manner in which Mookie Betts plays with 100% of the time in Hollywood for one of the premier franchises in sports, the Los Angeles Dodgers.

You instantaneously smile merely at the name “Mookie,” but his cool shades, the way the ball streamline pops off the bat in the leadoff spot in the sunshine, and the trot he makes after making a diving play in the outfield is something to behold in Dodger Stadium. Mookie plays with such a confident passion that the Dodgers even asked him to suit up at shortstop one night, to which he just said, “Sure!” and went on to turn a double-play at Wrigley despite never playing that glamorous position before.

The Dodgers were perceived as having a less-than-loaded roster than usual going into 2023. However, Mookie’s continuous golden retriever-level joy as their model superstar has made them the usual suspect at the top of the NL West. Despite being one of the numerous Dodgers that missed time due to paternity leave, it still feels like he’s always the one that shows up in the brightest moments, eager to perform with a smile on his face like his clutch game-tying home run against the Padres last week followed by another go-ahead homer against them again.

Mookie’s got that dawg in him, but it would feel off referring to him as a breed that isn’t as bubbly and dutiful as a golden retriever.

Adley Rutschman // Beagle Puppy

Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman has already taken the Birds to new heights this season after making his long-awaited rookie debut last year that started off guns a-blazing. While just 25, the former #1 overall pick is like an energetic beagle slowly learning how to control all of its capabilities, running down the stairs and falling all over itself before being the strong and powerful dog that it will eventually become. We already see the potential MVP candidacy in him as he’s been a major part of taking this Orioles team, a former laughing stock, to a team that’s rallied together and feels like all the youthful prospects they’ve accumulated have that chemistry of a college baseball team that works together to create chaos. Please refer to their dugout celebrations for homers and extra-base hits if you need a reference point.

Playing a catching position that is in such a dearth for offensive position has made Adley all the more valuable as he continues to grow into his baseball-playing body and voice of the team- he’s got the second-most hits amongst catchers to start the year, 5 homers, and the Orioles have the third-best record in all of baseball to start the season at 24-13, and the second-best record over the last 162 games played going back to last year

Photo: Gail Burton / Baltimore Banner

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