Is Odubel Herrera Back?

Odubel Herrera ended the month of May sporting a 51 wRC+ and just 0.3 WAR. After two seasons in which the Rule 5 pick was arguably the Phillies’ best player, Herrera received a five year extension that established him as the first building block of the rebuild to be signed long term. He was one of several Phillies, including Jerad Eickhoff, Maikel Franco, and Tommy Joseph, who have experienced significant drop-offs in production the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Monstars roamed the earth.

Since the calendar turned to June, coinciding with a several-game sabbatical imposed by Pete Mackanin, Herrera has done nothing but tear the cover off the ball. In five games, Herrera has hit .550/.571/1.300 including 2 home runs and 9 doubles. He also recorded his first walk in nearly a month. The outburst has raised Herrera’s wRC+ 31 points to a somewhat respectable 82. He’s accumulated 0.9 WAR in that time, and now rates middle-of-the-pack among centerfielders in terms of value.

All of a sudden, Herrera is back on pace for his third consecutive 3+ WAR season. But the question remains: Is this a one-week aberration, or is Odubel Herrera truly back? Let’s see if his underlying tendencies have shifted.

You’ll notice the low O-Swing% and Z-Swing% correspond with a higher Contact% for both the first month of the season and the past few games. At the end of April, Herrera had a 99 wRC+ and 0.7 WAR. For the month of May, Herrera was all out of sorts, swinging at everything and missing too much. He posted a 25.9 K-BB% that would rank 5th worst in baseball for the full season.

This lends credence to the idea that Herrera was trying to “do too much” to combat the Phillies’ terrible play, trying to hit a five-run homer every time he’s at the plate, and making little contact as a result. We don’t often talk about the mental factors here on this fine statistics-based blog. But sometimes the narrative and the stats line up in a way that’s hard to ignore.

To Herrera’s credit, his defense has not suffered while he was mired in his slump. So far, he’s posted the best defensive numbers of his career. He’s currently tied with another former Phillies Rule 5 pick, Ender Inciarte, atop the defensive value leaderboards on FanGraphs. He’s also 5th among centerfielders in DRS with +7, already besting his total from last year and well ahead of the pace to beat his 2015 as well. It’s encouraging to see a player leave his struggles in the batters’ box when he takes the field.

Of course, we all realize that it’s too soon to declare Herrera “back”. It’s only been 5 games. But what we can say is that Herrera is swinging at better pitches and making more and better contact. His defense has been strong, and it seems like his approach is back in the right place. Things are trending up for the 25-year-old Venezuelan, and that puts the Phillies future just a little more in focus.

* All stats current entering play on Thursday.

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  1. Steve

    June 09, 2017 10:28 AM

    Sorry, but what do O-Swing% and Z-swing % represent?

    • JW

      June 09, 2017 12:13 PM

      I believe it is O-swing – out of zone vs Z swing – strikes.

  2. Michael C Lorah

    June 09, 2017 11:12 AM

    As bad as the Phillies were in May, I actually wasn’t worried much about Odubel. I’ll trust his two-years successful track record over his one-month slump. I’m a little concerned about Eickhoff right now, but again, his track record makes him less a concern than everybody else not named Nola in the current rotation (crossing my fingers for Lively – I’ll feel better about him a second time through the league when we see if his lack of Ks is going to be a problem). I think Jerad’ll figure it out again.

    Now Franco, he’s another story…

  3. Paul

    June 09, 2017 12:07 PM

    Wow, a Space Jam reference? Booooooooo!!! (And boo myself for knowing that.)

    • Keith

      June 10, 2017 12:38 PM

      Seriously? Hating on space jam?

  4. Romus

    June 09, 2017 03:54 PM

    If Herrera can keep this offensive spurt going for a 2/3 more months, coupled with his outstanding defensive metrics…he could be a strong candidate for Gold Glove consideration this season.
    Apparently GG nominees need to have some offensive clout backing up their defensive prowess.

    • Steve

      June 10, 2017 09:17 AM

      Not according to Kevin Keirmairer haha. but youre not wrong either, it does seem to factor in to the decision.

    • ed

      June 10, 2017 03:08 PM

      Herrera is never going to win a GG. He is too inconsistent.

      • Romus

        June 10, 2017 06:06 PM

        Too inconsistent where…at the plate or in the field?
        He is sitting at tied at numero uno right now defensively in baseball….that’s out of a total of 169 position players. As the above 6th paragraph states.
        He plays at this level for two and half more months, he will be a finalist in CF with Inciarte for the award.

      • Mike Fassano

        June 11, 2017 07:30 AM

        I have mixed feelings on Herrera. On the one hand, I feel his “hot dogging” will eventually get himself or a teammate plunked by a pitch. On the other hand, I love his enthusiasm. On a whim last winter I looked up the stats for Herrera’s first two years and compared them to Roberto Clemente. I chose Clemente because he, like Herrera, was a free swinger. He could get out of bed in January and hit line drives, and he could drive a ball that was high, low, inside, or outside. I found that Herrera’s numbers were equal to, or better than, Clemente’s numbers. Granted, I used the old “eye test”, comparing numbers, instead of all the new fangled statistics that are used today, but I was pleasantly surprised.
        When I see Freddie Galvis swing and miss a pitch that’s out of the strike zone, I want to pull my hair out. When I see Herrera swing at the same pitch, I know, from his track record that he’s going to put wood on the ball.

      • Steve

        June 11, 2017 05:41 PM

        Vlad Guererro was another one who was great at hitting pitches out of the strike zone.

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