Odubel Herrera is set to make his first All Star Game this year in San Diego. He’ll be the Phillies’ lone representative and he’s currently 4th among NL center fielders in WAR. But what makes him so fun, is the way he plays the game.
The 24-year-old plays with a ton of energy and fire, he flips his bat for walks, and is generally a spark for the Phillies offense. And this year specifically, watching Herrera has reminded me of another Phillies Rule 5 pick turned All-Star: Shane Victorino.
Victorino played the game with the same energy that Herrera plays and actually put up similar numbers. Victorino hit .279/.345/.439 with a .784 OPS during his Phillies tenure. Herrera so far since debuting in the big league as a member of the Phils is hitting .298/.360/.426 with a .786 OPS.
The man they call “The Flyin’ Hawaiian” didn’t make the All-Star Game until his age 28 season in 2009, while Herrera will represent the Phillies this year at age 24. Victorino won four gold gloves, while I don’t foresee Herrera winning one any time soon. Victorino stole more bases than Herrera, and generally seemed to be better on the base paths.
Still, these two offensive catalysts are pretty comparable. I think the climax of our idea of the fire that Victorino played with was when Hiroki Kuroda threw over his head in front of 56,800 fans in Los Angeles in game three of the 2008 National League Championship Series. It was a relatively cool night at Dodger Stadium, but the heat was certainly turned on, on the field. Victorino responded to the pitch by yelling at Kuroda while vigorously motioning to suggest “throw at my body, fine. But don’t throw at my head.”
Herrera manifests his energy differently.
The Venezuelan hasn’t been in an altercation like the one I mentioned with Victorino, but he flips his bats, even after walks, which is so, so fun to watch. He does his “El Torito” gesture, mimicking horns on his head with his fingers, from time to time, which is always cool. But it’s just his overall vibe that makes him a great player to watch.
Victorino helped bring a World Series championship to Philadelphia and helped the team reach back-to-back Fall Classics in 2008 and 2009. Obviously, Herrera hasn’t even helped the Phillies to the playoffs yet because of the rebuild, but it’s coming. And if the stars align, he just might be able to help this team win another ring in a few years. Maybe one day we’ll watch him jump on top of the celebratory pile up on the mound. Maybe. But for now, we’re just enjoying Herrera for what he is: a bright spot in this otherwise unremarkable Phillies lineup.