You can sum up Cesar Hernandez’s adventures on the base paths this season in a single block quote I used in a 2016 Phillies season review:
He got caught stealing third base in the seventh inning Saturday, which befuddled Mackanin and coaches because the Phillies trailed by four at the time.
"I have no idea why he went," Mackanin said.
Not "furious" or "disappointed;" the term for people’s general reactions to Hernandez getting thrown out while on base was more accurately "mystified." He seemed to be able to get on base just fine - he had a career year in doing so, logging a .371 OBP for the season that ballooned to .418 in the month of July. The splits between his hit and walk totals between the second and first halves show that he really figured something out:
- 1st half: 84 H, 17 BB
- 2nd half: 77 H, 49 BB (!!!)
Unfortunately, the general instructions for offense in baseball go "1. Get on base; 2. Stay on base," and Hernandez just couldn’t wrap his head around the latter. Now that the season is over, we don’t have to sit in silence with the image of a rising mushroom cloud in our heads every time Hernandez tries to steal a base. We can look back on his feeble attempts at aggressive base running and laugh and laugh, all the while tipping our cap to his improvement in other areas. Just not this one.
This base stealing attempt was such a low key out that even Hawk Harrelson was able to keep from emoting more than a normal amount of enthusiasm.
This one was so bad it actually hurt Miguel Rojas’ groin.
This one was basically safe, the Dodgers needed an athletic Corey Seager tag to nail Hernandez. Next time, Cesar! Next time.
It didn’t happen next time, either. Truly, it was a history-making season for the infielder.
Cesar Hernandez is the first major-leaguer since Brady Clark in 2005 to be caught stealing at least 13 times in 30 or fewer attempts— Corey Seidman (@CoreySeidmanCSN) September 24, 2016
Hey, we’ve all made several consecutive mental mistakes at work before. One minute, you’re mislabeling a file, the next, you’re mistakenly calling a new co-worker by the name of the guy who used to sit at his desk before he died in a mysterious explosion, then realizing that the new guy and the old guy actually do have the same name, then spilling coffee all over your new shirt, then forgetting to whisper when discussing your theory that one of your co-workers may be the guy who used to work here, only incognito after faking his death.
It happens to the best of us, and Hernandez has a far more high-pressure job than a lot of people. In fact, at this point in the Phillies’ trajectory, his every bit of output is being measured against his potential role in the future. He feels the heat behind him, certainly - maybe that’s why he keeps running.
But the #Posi-delphia spin to put on this truly awful season on the base paths is that Hernandez’s other work was simply tremendous. The 26-year-old was a lukewarm body serving as a place holder or bench depth when he got here, and it is undeniable that he became one of the team’s top contributors on offense.
It's just one subplot of the Phillies' 2016 season that never really had a pay-off. Hernandez has speed, technically; it has been cited as an "underrated" aspect of his make-up in the recent past. And check him out drag bunting like he's Ichiro.
That was to break up a perfect game, too. "The other team's feelings" don't factor into Cesar's bunting, which, if you're going to bunt, is probably good.
The caught stealing will even out, I think it's fair to say, though tough to imagine based on all the video evidence to the contrary. It's the "baseball IQ" aspect that's more frustrating, as Hernandez doesn't just get thrown out stealing second; he gets picked off a ton, he makes outs between bags constantly, and a couple of times he managed to slide into a base safely, only to continue sliding right past it and give the defense a gift-wrapped out.
Cesar Hernandez picked off first base. Literally had his head down when pitcher threw over.— Matt Breen (@matt_breen) July 24, 2016
Clearly, the speed is *there*, I think, and the ability to get on base is, too. It will just be a long winter of him doing whatever players do to raise their baseball IQs, which I assume is taking an exam proctored by Chase Utley, only the exam sheet is blank, Utley answers no questions, and the real test is not losing your mind.
Roman Quinn got caught stealing and Gregg Murphy instinctively called him Cesar Hernandez. no one blames him.— chris jones¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (@LONG_DRIVE) September 18, 2016