Odubel Herrera Isn’t Walking Anymore

Aside from a shockingly positive win-loss record, the most talked about development of the early Phillies’ 2016 season was the explosion of Odubel Herrera‘s walk rate. Herrera said that he was disappointed with his rookie season strike out, and merely worked in the offseason to improve on his discipline. Whatever he did, it certainly worked early on – through the end of April, his 22.1 percent walk rate was tied for the league lead with Paul Goldschmidt.

However, much like that unexpected early season success, Odubel hasn’t maintained the walk rate. He’s still been a productive hitter (126 wRC+), but a rate that was tied for the league lead in April became tied for 69th in May, and has only been tied for the 114th-highest June walk rate (through 6/21). His cumulative 13.3 percent walk rate is still among league leaders – it just appears to have regressed to the mean over the last two months.

Month O-Swing% SwStr% F-Strike% BB% K% BB/K
Mar/Apr 21.1% 8.6% 51.0% 22.1% 17.3% 1.28
May 32.9% 9.6% 62.4% 9.4% 18.8% 0.50
Jun 39.7% 12.3% 71.2% 6.8% 20.5% 0.33
Season 30.2% 9.8% 60.5% 13.3% 18.7% 0.71

Obviously, Herrera’s walked less and struck out more as each month has progressed. What was once one of the lower outside swing rates in baseball has increased significantly – and it’s interesting that pitchers have made sure to throw more and more first strikes despite this trend. It’s completely possible that there is noise with monthly sample sizes, or even that first-strike rate is a lagging indicator. The book on Herrera is still that he is a prolific walker, and until enough time has passed and that perception has faded, pitchers will continue to place extra emphasis on getting ahead early in counts.

My least favorite net result of this regression is the number of pitches he sees per plate appearance. In April, Herrera saw a staggering 4.70 pitches per appearance. In May, that number fell to 4.08, and in June, it currently sits at 3.62 pitches per plate appearance. He’s not working later counts as much as he was earlier in the season, and the increased whiff rate means he’s not fouling off as many pitches – a key factor in working counts.

The below is an aggregation of Herrera’s swing rate data from Brooks Baseball.

Count April May June
0-0 20.6% 31.0% 28.8%
0-1 50.4% 39.7% 48.9%
0-2 59.2% 46.4% 79.3%
1-0 36.6% 45.5% 40.9%
1-1 45.8% 46.9% 56.7%
1-2 54.5% 58.5% 85.2%
2-0 26.9% 50.0% 50.0%
2-1 45.1% 66.7% 61.5%
2-2 52.5% 51.4% 66.7%
3-0 0.0% 0.0% 0.0%
3-1 38.8% 55.6% 75.0%
3-2 71.5% 85.0% 42.9%

Odubel still hasn’t swung at a 3-0 pitch all year, which is promising. In general, he has maintained a reluctance to swinging with no strikes called. However, it does look like he is swinging significantly more often with two strikes than in April. In fact, using Baseball Savant, we can see where he’s swinging in those counts.

Odubel Herrera Two-Strike Swings, April 2016
Odubel Herrera Two-Strike Swings, May 2016Odubel Herrera Two-Strike Swings, June 2016

What was, early on, a clear preference on pitches up and in appears to have morphed into a less focused heatmap. It is always completely possible that midway through the season, he adjusts and returns to his early season habits. Right now though, this loss of two-strike approach could be contributing to what is a relatively tepid (84 wRC+) June for Herrera.

The increase in whiffs is a little bit concerning, but even in this small June sample, Herrera is still striking out less and walking more than in 2015, when he already was a really valuable player. Regression is pretty much always smart to expect, and his walk rate was no different. Odubel made important strides in April, and he’ll either retain some of that residual ability moving forward, or he’ll return to something approximating his (still productive) 2015 self.

Either way, he’s still literally the 25th-most concerning player on Phillies’ roster.

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7 comments

  1. @phungo2008

    June 22, 2016 08:49 AM

    1) Herrera’s isolated June16 Numbers appear to remain better than is 2015 so that is a plus
    2) He only swung once on 3-0 In 2015. His approach there may just be an organizational directive for inexperienced players.

  2. White Boy Cool

    June 22, 2016 08:52 AM

    With the way the Phillies are hitting, and Cesar Hernandez not living up to his minor league success, do you think there is a way Odebul goes back to 2B….they won’t have a place for Roman Quinn if Dylan Cozens and Nick Williams come up next year.

    • Romus

      June 22, 2016 03:52 PM

      Herrera did win a gold glove at 2nd base in 2014 with Frisco in the Texas League, a little less than 100 games with a .975%….but there are only 8 teams in that league.

  3. smittyboy

    June 22, 2016 11:08 AM

    After watching him last night in the Minnesota swingfest I thought his final 2 AB’s summarized your data above. He looked awful on the second to last AB – striking out on a pitch that was about 4 feet outside and low – seemingly giving up and just hacking. Whereas, on his final AB he took alot of pitches, fouled off even more, and finally ended up walking. Despite the stat analysis, is it possible that 1) he feels more pressure to perform because the team is so poor offensively, or 2) his early success has led him to have a more cavalier approach at the plate. ? Finally, is there any sort of a “weariness” and hopelessness with the current team’s performance this month ? It has always struck me that he will always be somewhat of a “bad-ball” hitter and is dangerous because he has the ability to punch the ball around no matter where it is pitched. In June, he seems to be doing less of that – as per your stats – he seems to be just hacking on occasion.

    • Romus

      June 22, 2016 03:40 PM

      Not so different than Maikel Franco in these last three weeks.
      As the manager said…’they need to be disciplined professional hitters’, but can you expect that from 23-year olds.
      OTOH……Last year Marlins struggled with Ozuna and sent him down for awhile, and he has resonded well this year.
      This years Cardinals did it with Wong and Grichuk and the Mets are debating the same with last year’s sensation, Michael Conforto……before that there was Castellanos and Wil Myers struggling.
      Young hitters have growing pains.

    • Romus

      June 22, 2016 03:41 PM

      Not so different than Maikel Franco in these last three weeks.
      As the manager said…’they need to be disciplined professional hitters’, but can you expect that from 23-year olds.
      OTOH……Last year Marlins struggled with Ozuna and sent him down for awhile, and he has responded well this year.
      This years Cardinals did it with Wong and Grichuk and the Mets are debating the same with last year’s sensation, Michael Conforto……before that there was Castellanos and Wil Myers struggling.
      Young hitters have growing pains.

  4. Bill Gorman

    June 22, 2016 12:40 PM

    I’d say he’s the 24th-most concerning player, with Nola being 25th.

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