2017 Phillies Report Card: Odubel Herrera

The overall numbers for Odubel Herrera this season are not particularly inspiring.

A 100 wRC+, while impressive for a Gold Glove-caliber fielder, represent a step back from where Herrera was in his first two seasons. Over nearly 1200 PAs between 2015 and 2016, Herrera, fueled by a 110 wRC+, produced 7.7 WAR. That placed him in a virtual tie with Dexter Fowler for tops among National League centerfielders.

I should note that Herrera’s season-long wOBA hasn’t varied much for a player viewed to be inconsistent. The past three seasons, his marks have been .333, .338, and .329. Considering the relatively small dip in wOBA and the notable dip in wRC+, that should demonstrate the extent to which the league is tilting towards offense in the post-Juiced Ball era.

That raises an interesting question: has the league somehow already passed Herrera by in just his third season? There will always be a place in the league for an average hitter with defensive chops, but perhaps he’s not the building block we had thought.

Some of you may have repressed Herrera’s horrid start to the season, so as a reminder, take a look:

As putrid as Herrera’s early season was, the rest of the season was that impressive. Herrera optimists would have you ignore the early season struggles, as the real Odubel is the bat-flipping, double-smashing baller who roamed centerfield in the second half, while Herrera pessimists would point to an immature hacker whose abilities are built like a house of cards.

Like almost everything in life, the answer is somewhere in the middle. The reason Herrera is so divisive among Phillies fans is that, as I mentioned earlier, Herrera is considered inconsistent, and this graph bears that out:

Each season thus far has a spectacular peak and a ghastly valley. He’s capable of greatness and ineptitude, and thus far he’s shown both every year.

What I see is a player with dizzying ability entering his physical prime. Three years seems like a long time, but it’s easy to forget that Herrera was rushed to the Majors due to the nature of the Rule 5 draft. He’s not like Rhys Hoskins, Nick Williams, or JP Crawford who could wait until they were ready to enter the league, and he’s been great anyway.

It’s something of a lazy comparison, but Herrera reminds me of Shane Victorino. Everyone loved Shane (perhaps because he was Hawaiian, not Venezuelan, but I digress), and in his Phillies tenure, he produced a 108 wRC+ and 4.1 WAR/150 games in his age 24 through 31 seasons. The fact that his Phillies career finished so strong obscures the fact that he was simply good early in his tenure.

In Victorino’s first three full seasons, he produced a 97 wRC+ and 9.8 WAR. Herrera, meanwhile, is at 107 and 10.5. There’s no guarantee that he’ll continue to progress the way Victorino did, but he’s starting from a hell of a baseline.

Grade: B-

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  1. Michael C Lorah

    October 19, 2017 02:05 PM

    I just love watching that kid play ball. He makes it fun – definitely my favorite plate on the team right now.

    I still believe if the Phillies had seven more like him in the lineup (and some semblance of a competent rotation!), they’d be a playoff contenders.

  2. Romus

    October 19, 2017 02:13 PM

    His BABIP has corrected itself, I would think, from a high in 2015 of .387 to something on average for him at .347 over these last two years. And over his last two seasons, his approx .347 BABIP, it probably is safe to say that Doobie is well above average in this aspect of the game and is probably making better contact on average than most. Though his 22% k rate really goes against the grain. I would still grade him in the B range but more a plus than a minus.

    • pamikeydc

      October 19, 2017 03:17 PM

      Agree. No minus. Cmon

    • Michael Schickling

      October 19, 2017 03:21 PM

      I actually really agonized over that minus haha.

      I just couldn’t overlook that his numbers were worse than last year. I guess we don’t really have consistent criteria for grading here; I primarily use whether they met expectations. And while recency bias made me want to give him a B+/A-, I couldn’t ignore that atrocious May.

      • ASK

        October 21, 2017 09:19 AM

        That’s a good point about the criteria. For me, if the criteria is rating the player against his past seasons and expectations for him prior to this year, the B- is fair. If the criteria is the player’s performance relative to his age, cost and opportunity cost, I would say a B or B+ is more appropriate. Either way, this was well done.

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