One of These Things Is Not Like the Others: 2017 Odubel Herrera
I wanted to write about Odubel Herrera even before we had to have inane discussion of trading him because of two aesthetically unpleasing plays in Tuesday’s game. Entering Wednesday, Odubel Herrera is now batting .272/.316/.438, and when you combine that with his excellent outfield defense, he is also sporting a 1.8 to 1.9 (f)WAR(P). That is just off of the roughly 4 wins a year he has put up the the previous two seasons, but is on pace to be a valuable major leaguer.
Herrera having a good, but not great season, is not really a reason to write an article, so this is obviously about more than that. So now for a game. Can you spot the difference?
If you found the outlier as C, E, and D, congratulations you have spotted May 2017. The other 4 splits (in order following those May splits) are June 2017, July 2017, 2016 Full Season, and April 2017.
There is obviously some fluctuation month to month like the low walk rate in June 2017 or the high line drive rates in June-July 2017. However, Herrera’s May this year really sticks out as a huge outlier. So what happens when we take away that month?
- 283 PAs
- 7.8% BB%
- 21.6% K%
- 24 Doubles
- 1 Triple
- 9 Home Runs
That is a really good baseball player and if Herrera did it over a full season he would be a near 6 win player. That is Herrera’s splits including April, over the past two months he is hitting .331/.374/.560 with 27 extra base hits in 45 games. According to Fangraphs that makes him the 10th most valuable hitter in baseball this month.
The reality is that Herrera has had these cold streaks before and they are a part of his game. You can read others on Herrera as a person and a baseball player, and why he may not always be the most locked in player in the world. I want to speak to the baseball player part, because it gets lost just how unique Odubel Herrera is. In 2015 he jumped directly from AA to the majors while learning a completely different position. That is mostly in the past, but the skills that let him do it are still there. At the plate, Herrera is fast twitch, with an ugly swing and an unnatural ability to make contact with a baseball. There are a lot of moving parts to his swing, and it is not entirely surprising that when things get out of rhythm holes emerge. Back in May, Tim wrote for this site about the way pitchers were attacking Herrera, clearly that plan has not continued to be highly successful against Herrera.
Odubel Herrera can be a frustrating player, but it is important to remember that this is a supremely talented baseball player who is capable of being one of the better players in the game. A misguided bat flip here and there should deter him from being the fun loving and joyous player he has been his whole career, because that player should be a building block for the Phillies, not being driven out of town by angry fans.