"Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears; I come to bury Cesar, not to praise him" - Bill Shakespeare, some British play.
OK, I'm not here "bury" Cesar Hernandez and this certainly is not a post in which I will go out of my way not to praise him. In fact, the 25-year-old second baseman had himself quite a nice season for the Phillies in 2015, one that has been cut short by a freakish injury.
If you missed the play on Sunday, you'll have to click here because of MLB.com's inane rules on embedding video. Hernandez was fielding a routine high chopper when he dropped the ball, then as he tried to chase it along the ground as if it were a live chicken, he ran into the path of a speeding freight train named Anthony Rizzo. The two men collided, with Hernandez suffering a dislocated left thumb with ligament damage, ending his season.
It was a ridiculous play, really.
Nevertheless, it ends Hernandez' season after 127 games and 452 plate appearances in which he hit .272 with a .339 on-base percentage and a .348 slugging percentage, good for an OPS of .687. He finishes 2015 with 20 doubles, four triples, one homer, 19 stolen bases in 24 attempts and a wRC+ of 91.
His 1.4 fWAR this season was tied for third-best on the team with Freddy Galvis, behind Odubel Herrera's 3.1 and Ben Revere's 1.5. He made enough of an impression for the Phils to trade away Chase Utley, and with reports that Hernandez should be good to go for spring training next year, he enters 2016 as the most likely candidate to be the team's everyday second baseman on Opening Day.
Hernandez got off to a hot start after Utley went down in mid-June, but tailed off significantly thereafter. Here are his monthly splits.
Hernandez played quite well after Utley's injury, providing a spark on the bases, bunting for hits, and getting some luck on balls in play as well. But as time went on, some of those line drives turned into ground balls, perhaps as the grind of playing every day started to set in. His wRC+ numbers show that, for a majority of the season, he was a below average run producer, and his .687 OPS was 17th out of 21 qualified second basemen.
He also was not a very good fielder. In 678 innings at second base this year he was worth -5 Defensive Runs Saved, with the fielding blunder that led to his injury a good example of his defensive shortcomings.
Over these last three weeks, the man the Phils acquired for Utley, Darnell Sweeney, will see the bulk of the action at second. In limited action with the Phils (55 PAs), Sweeney is hitting .191/.309/.468 with three home runs and a wRC+ of 111. He's striking out a lot so far, but is also drawing some walks in his limited sample size.
Still, it's a shame that Cesar will not be able to complete his 2015 season. He's fun to watch play, and was a young player who made some things happen.
While he likely will never be an everyday regular for a good team, he showed some flashes and brought energy to a team that sorely needed it midway through the season, and certainly has a place on next year's Phils.
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