Odubel Herrera has played 468 major league games. He has amassed 1,853 plate appearances. And since arriving as a Rule 5 draft pick in December 2014, he has been a constant presence in pinstripes. He swings like he’s bushwhacking. He zips about the field like a lost rabbit. His bronzed dreadlocks make him look like a human firework.
Odubel Herrera is everything we could want and more.
Two home runs in a Friday night win over Atlanta boosted his average to .348 and his slugging percentage to .528. His 16 strikeouts and six walks are manageable. He leads the National League in hits. He’s playing the best baseball of his life in this young season, and it’s such a joy to behold.
I don’t want to take this guy for granted; instead, I want to embrace everything the veteran centerfielder is about. He’s a survivor of the rebuild, sometimes smooth and sometimes sloppy, and possesses a mind that wanders, leading to the occasional mistake. He’s a brilliant contact hitter that doesn’t mind falling into deep holes, and he’s a guy that when he hits it a ton has to stop, artfully dispose of his sword and admire his handiwork. Odubel is a work of art, and he’s the closest thing the Phillies have to a Picasso.
“I don’t like the decision,” he said about being benched on opening day against the Braves’ Julio Teheran. The numbers weren’t in his favor, and manager Gabe Kapler thought Herrera would be exposed.
It was a fair decision, but Herrera seemed determined to prove his skipper wrong. Since opening day he has started in all but two games, putting on a superb offensive display that was capped off by his two-homer night on Friday. And who did Herrera beat for that first home run? Julio Teheran.
The numbers are bound to regress, but maybe this is the year the numbers don’t regress too far. He’s 26, experienced, rejuvenated by a new manager, new teammates and heightened expectations. This could be the season Herrera peaks, and it couldn’t come at a better time. Like Shane Victorino before him, Herrera is the annoying top-of-the-lineup hitter who can’t stay off base, and the natural instigator by way of his normal behavior. As the Phillies become an interesting team hoping to contend, they’ll have heated games coming with division rivals like the Nationals, Mets and Braves, and they’ll need Herrera’s skill and attitude to set the tone and ruffle some feathers.
On Friday night Herrera did just that. By swatting two dingers Herrera lifted his team over Atlanta in arguably the best win of the young season. He gave his fellow rebuild survivor, ace Aaron Nola, the opportunity to win a quality start. He lightened the load for the young hitters, and maybe that helped Jorge Alfaro collect a few hits, including a big home run to center.
Odubel Herrera is perfect. Fun, talented, flawed but fierce, he’s everything we could want on the 2018 Phillies. And he’s shining at the right time.