Odubel Herrera’s Value Far Outweighs His Occasional Mistakes

Odubel Herrera has registered an .887 OPS over his first 53 at-bats this season. His .340 batting average currently leads all major league center fielders. He is a career .290 hitter who possesses the ability to hit for average, reach base at an impressive clip, and rack up extra-base hits with ease. In fact, he tallied 59 XHB’s during what many believed to be an underwhelming campaign last season. His offensive production is irrefutably impressive.

Defensively, he possesses natural tools that allow for flashes of brilliance in center field:

Herrera also happens to occasionally pimp his home runs:

He will do this (gasp!) when he doesn’t hit home runs:

He will even do it when he hits into an out:

And, as he did last night, Herrera will periodically make a careless mistake that bewilders teammates, coaches and fans alike. This particular mistake, which helped squander a golden scoring opportunity in the third inning of an eventual 2-1 loss that snapped the Phillies’ win-streak at six games, was woefully egregious:

http://www.clippituser.tv/c/embed_iframe/kmdpdq

Why Herrera didn’t think to slide in this situation is beyond me. The play represented an indefensible lack of concentration on his part, and it’s undeniable that his latest mental gaffe directly contributed to an irritating loss. I don’t think anyone would argue this. The rift occurs, however, when it comes to the overall assessment of Herrera and his value to the Phillies.

The numbers definitively reveal that his talent and production far outweigh the occasional headache he causes. Still, the perplexing truth is that there are many people today whose ill-founded disdain for Herrera feel vindicated in the wake his latest boner. In the least surprising development ever, some of those people were callers heard on WIP’s Morning Show this morning. And I think those people are idiots.

I wrote about this bizarre under-appreciation and lack of respect for Herrera’s game last September, and I feel the need to reiterate my premise now:

The truth is, the bizarre disdain held for Herrera by a surprisingly large portion of this fan base has nothing to do with him as a baseball player and everything to do with this city’s archaic and misinformed infatuation with intangibles like grit, hustle, and ‘playing the game the right way.’ I imagine for these people their thought process goes something like this: ‘Is he an extremely talented and ascending player who’s under control with a team-friendly contract? Yes. But does he bring his lunch pail and yellow hard hat to work every day? No? Trade him!’

After being banged out at second base, Herrera aggressively slapped himself in the head, as he was visibly upset with himself. He apologized to his teammates in the dugout, and spoke to his manager after the game. He didn’t deflect blame, nor was he indifferent towards his mistake. He was both blunt and contrite. Of course, avoiding these infrequent mistakes altogether would be preferable outcome, but is this not the response we want when mistakes are made? There are plenty of other athletes in this city who would be applauded for a similar response, so why doesn’t Herrera get the same shake from the fans?

Is it simply because he flips his bat, or that he uses his superior athleticism to make difficult things seem easy? Is that it?

When people say you can’t win with players like Odubel Herrera, they sound uninformed. Herrera is exactly the type of player you want – a rising talent, an extra base hit machine that has demonstrated an ability to consistently reach base, with a team-friendly contract. Yeah, he will make a head-scratching play from time to time, but we should be more than willing to take the good with the bad.

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