clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Odubel Herrera is the best player on the Phillies

New, 54 comments

Odubel Herrera’s 2018 campaign has made one thing clear... he is the best player on the Phillies.

MLB: San Francisco Giants at Philadelphia Phillies Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Raise your hand if you still want Odubel Herrera gone.

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

On the most recent Sunday night edition of Hittin’ Season (listen to Episode 10 by becoming a Patreon member of the podcast right here!), Justin Klugh and Liz Roscher both said El Torito was the best player on the team. I held out a bit and claimed Rhys Hoskins was still the best player.

Boy, was I wrong.

After his second two-homer game in less than two weeks, Herrera is putting it all together and has made it clear that he is the best player on the Phillies.

Riding a 35-game on-base streak into his first at-bat in the Phils’ 11-0 shellacking of the Giants last night, Herrera wasted no time extending that streak to 36 games with this titanic three-run blast in the 1st inning.

Later, in the 6th, he hit a two-run blast to officially put the game away.

Getting On Base

Herrera’s 36-game on-base streak is the longest since Jimmy Rollins’ 38-game streak from 2005-06, and is within shouting distance of the team’s all-time record of 48, held by Bobby Abreu.

On the season, Herrera is batting .341/.401/.537 with an OPS of .938. That .341 batting average ranks second in the NL behind Nick Markakis’ .344, and there are only 10 other outfielders with an OPS higher than his .938, five in the National League.

Herrera vs. Hoskins

Herrera’s OPS is 10 points higher than Rhys Hoskins’ .928, and his slugging percentage is 37 points higher than Hoskins’ .500. Odubel now has 5 homers on the season, the same as Hoskins, one behind Franco’s 6, and while the raw numbers bear it out, the advanced metrics agree.

Herrera’s Fangraphs WAR of 1.2 is tied with Cesar Hernandez for tops on the team, just ahead of Hoskins’ 1.1. Meanwhile, his Baseball Reference WAR of 1.6 is better than Hernandez’ 1.2, and far ahead of Hoskins’ 0.5, and when you break down their wOBA (which are virtually identical) you can see the two players took different ways to get there.

Herrera vs. Hoskins wOBA
Schmenkman

Herrera arrived at his .404 wOBA by piling up a lot more base hits, while Hoskins got there by walking a ton more. The slugging component is virtually identical.

Oh, and here’s a fun one.

Had Hoskins not slumped for two weeks prior to this homestand, perhaps his incredible offensive numbers would have been enough to give him the edge. But that slump, combined with Herrera’s consistency and defensive abilities, gives the clear not to El Torito.

Defense

When looking at the Herrera vs. Hoskins debate, it’s clear they’re virtually identical offensively so far in 2018. Defensively is where Herrera separates himself.

First, he’s a center fielder, which already makes him more valuable than a corner outfielder. But he’s a Gold Glove finalist center fielder who has made some pretty spectacular catches this year, including this one where he battled a hedge to rob a dinger.

Herrera’s defensive metrics are actually rated negatively by Fangraphs, but given the defensive shifting the team has employed this year, it’s fair to wonder if defensive metrics are worth it at all anymore.

Plate Discipline

The biggest change in Herrera is his approach at the plate. While he is walking a tad more (8.0%) than his career average (7.0%), his strikeout-rate is way down (15.3%) compared to his career number (21.7%).

Last year, Herrera chased 40.0% of pitches outside the strike zone, but this year, that number is down to 33.2%. His swinging strike rate has dropped from 13.1% last year to 9.5% this season, and while he’s swinging less overall (48.1% compared to 53.0% last year), he’s making more contact when he does (80.3% compared to 75.2% in 2017).

Herrera is swinging at strikes, and making pitchers pay when they do.

What About Cesar?

Of course, one could make an argument for Cesar Hernandez, who has turned into someone the Phillies absolutely cannot make available in a trade this summer. He’s simply too good.

He’s tied with Herrera in fWAR (1.2) and is slightly behind him in bWAR (1.6-1.2). He’s batting .274/.397/.419 with a surprising 4 homers to along with 24 runs scored and 6 stolen bases. He’s added some muscle to his frame over the last few years, and as he showed on Monday night against San Francisco, it’s paid off.

Pitchers are now afraid to throw him meatballs down the middle, which is one of the reasons he’s walking in 17.2% of his plate appearances, second-highest on the team (Hoskins is at 19.3%). His .397 OBP ranks 2nd among MLB second basemen, his wOBA of .362 is 7th and his wRC+ of 129 is 6th.

But here’s the most amazing statistic regarding Hernandez. On June 20, 2016, Hernandez was benched by manager Pete Mackanin. Up to that point in his career (953 PA), he had hit .263/.322/.334 for a wRC+ of 81, a 7.7% BB-rate, 20.6% K-rate and an ISO of .070.

In the 1105 PAs since, he’s hitting .302/.393/.425 for a wRC+ of 121. His BB-rate has jumped to 12.5%, his K-rate has fallen to 18.5% and his ISO has increased to .122.

Hernandez is also a pretty good defender at second and has improved his baserunning IQ by leaps and bounds since that benching by Mackanin two years ago. He’s become one of the team’s most valuable players, and it’s hard to see how the team moves him anytime soon.

Conclusion

But there is no doubt this is Herrera’s team. Despite calls by many for Herrera to be shipped out of town for peanuts, it’s clear he’s not going anywhere. Odubel has not only made his case as the best position player on the Phillies, he’s making his case as one of the best outfielders in baseball.