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2016 Phillies exit interview: Cesar Hernandez

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I’m still trying to figure out what Cesar Hernandez is.

MLB: Miami Marlins at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Here are some numbers that a baseball player named Cesar Hernandez put up this year.

  • Hernandez had an fWAR of 4.4 in 2016, the highest mark on the Phillies and 9th-most among all MLB second basemen. In other words, according to Fangraphs, Hernandez was a top-10 second baseman in all of baseball this season.
  • Hernandez had an rWAR of 3.3 in 2016, the second highest mark on the Phils (Odubel Herrera 4.2), 12th-best among MLB second-baggers.
  • Hernandez had an on-base percentage of .371 this year. That was 22nd-best in baseball. The man in front of him? Bryce Harper, at .373.
  • Hernandez walked in 10.6% of his plate appearances this season, the most on the team among players with at least 200 PAs.
  • Hernandez led the league in triples with 11.
  • Hernandez led the league in bunt hits with 15.
  • Since the beginning of the 2015 season, Hernandez has accumulated 1074 PAs and is batting .285/.358/.374.
  • Hernandez hit a career-high six home runs in 2016.
  • According to Fangraphs, Hernandez was worth +4 defensive runs saved in 2016, compared to -5 the year before and had a UZR of 13.5.
  • Hernandez had a BABIP of .363 this year, one year after a BABIP of .342. It was .321 in 2014.
  • Hernandez was caught stealing 13 times and stole 17 bases, a stolen base percentage of just 56.7%.
  • Despite many misadventures on the bases, Hernandez finished the season with a BsR (Fangraphs’ metric that turns all running plays - stolen bases, caught stealings, taking extra bases, being thrown out on the bases - and turns it into an above and below average number) that found Hernandez was worth one run above average on the bases this year.

So, you’ll excuse me if I have no earthly idea what to do with Cesar Hernandez moving forward.

Most of the numbers listed above appear to show a young player, just 26 years old this year, improving. He hit almost .300, got on base at an astounding clip, and in the second half of 2016 batted .298/.413/.411.

Here is he getting four hits against the San Francisco Giants and Madison Bumgarner, who is pretty good, I’ve read.

Back in August, I talked about my frustrations with young Cesar, whose good play was often wiped out by mindlessness in the field and on the bases. I have, at times, gotten up on www.twitter.com about Hernandez’ miscues.

And often times, those concerns were well-founded.

And yet, here is Cesar Hernandez, with a hard-to-believe .371 on-base percentage in 622 plate appearances this season. That is an astounding number on a team that finished dead last in the National League in that statistic this year.

J.P. Crawford will start next season in Triple-A Lehigh Valley, which will give the Phillies a little more time to decide on whether they will keep Hernandez or Freddy Galvis at second base moving forward.

As of now, the Phils should be shopping both players around the Majors to see what they could get. If a decent offer comes their way, both players should be ready to pack their bags.

But even though I’m not sold on Cesar Hernandez as the team’s future second baseman, I will admit he is a much better player than I ever thought he would be. And it did seem as if both his defense and baserunning improved during the last two months of the season.

For a team devoid of high on-base guys, Hernandez is one of two guys in the lineup (Herrera the other) who can consistently get on base. He’s done it for two straight years now. And that’s not something the Phils should just throw away.

All in all, Hernandez gets a B+ this season, given the expectations coming into 2016.

For Cesar, 2017 will be a pivotal year in his career.