Odubel Herrera wasn’t announced as a starter for the National League All-Star team Sunday evening. Nor was he announced as a reserve. He didn’t even make the final vote. Barring a slew of injuries in the final week of the first-half of the season, Herrera won’t be joining Aaron Nola in Washington D.C. for the 2018 MLB All-Star Game on July 17.
Did the 26-year-old get snubbed?
Herrera, who was an All-Star in 2016, got off to a scorching-hot start to the 2018 season, hitting .367 in April. As per usual, the highs have been high for Herrera. He had a 45-game on-base streak that was snapped in mid-May, the fourth longest streak in franchise history. He homered in five consecutive games in June.
The lows for Herrera haven’t been as low as in previous years – he hit .236 in June, the worst month that he’s had this season. But he’s batting just .208 in July as well, which has lowered his batting average to .281 on the season.
While Herrera’s hitting .281, a relatively low mark for an All-Star candidate (I know what you’re thinking), he already has 15 home runs, which is tied for his career-high. His 51 RBIs are just five off of his career-high of 56, which he set in 2017. He has a 9.2 offensive WAR and a 1.7 fWAR. There’s no debate about whether Herrera is having a very good offensive season.
Interestingly, Herrera, who FanGraphs says was the fourth-best fielding center fielder between 2015 and 2017, has seen his defensive metrics fall off of a cliff in 2018. His ultimate zone rating, which was 7.6 last year, is currently -5.1. He had four defensive runs saved a year ago, but has -8 currently. His defensive WAR, which was a 9.6 in 2017, is currently at -3.6. Last month, I took a deep dive into why Herrera’s metrics have seen such a dip in his fourth year playing center field. What I found was that a combination of starting position, shifts and some metrics failing to keep up with shifts account for his seeming slip in center.
In any event, despite some impressive plays in center, Herrera’s defensive metrics aren’t a saving grace this year. His offense is. And for as impressive as his best offensive stretches have been, it’s fair to wonder if they have been so good that he should be in the All-Star Game.
If none of that matters to you because Washington Nationals star Bryce Harper, who is batting .219 with a -8.6 defensive WAR, is set to start in center field, it’s hard to argue with you. But Harper is perhaps the sport’s most recognizable figure, and in eliminating World Series home-field advantage going to the winning league of the game, the game has returned to being a promotional event for the sport, rather than a serious game. Is it still unfair to snub more worthy players because of how All-Star appearances affect a player’s legacy? Probably, but the All-Star Game is in Harper’s baseball home town, he’s still second in the National League in home runs, first in the National League in walk percentage and has a 10.7 offensive WAR. It’s no doubt been a disappointing contract year by the standards of Harper, but by no means is he having a bad year.
Herrera doesn’t have much of a case against either of the other two starting National League outfielders. Matt Kemp and Nick Markakis top Herrera in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, wOBA, weighted runs created, RBIs and offensive WAR.
Against a couple of the reserves, Herrera may have a case. Colorado Rockies center fielder Charlie Blackmon has been a superstar the past two seasons, but he’s seen some regression in 2018. Herrera currently tops Blackmon in batting average, slugging percentage, weighted runs created, offensive WAR and home runs. Blackmon is one of three Rockies on the National League All-Star team, so it’s not as though he was forced onto the roster because each team needs an All-Star representative.
Lorenzo Cain, who has a 3.4 fWAR in his first season back in Milwaukee, deserves to be an All-Star. However, while the Brewers currently have the best record in the National League, there is a case that Herrera has had a season just as good as Christian Yelich. Yelich, the former Miami Marlin, was elected to the All-Star Game despite having less home runs, RBIs and a lower slugging percentage than Herrera. With that said, Yelich has a slight edge in batting average, a higher on-base percentage, a higher offensive WAR, a higher wOBA and a more weighted runs created. I stand by the offseason argument that those who thought the Phillies should move Herrera as part of a trade package for Yelich weren’t correct, but Yelich has had a slightly better season than Herrera.
Simply because he’s a fun personality, it is rather surprising that Herrera didn’t at least squeak into the final vote. But Max Muncy has lit the world on fire for the Los Angeles Dodgers, Jesus Aguilar has a case to have been on the National League All-Star roster over Joey Votto and an eight RBI game last week highlights what has been a pretty incredible first half for Trea Turner. Despite a disabled list stint in early June, Brandon Belt quietly continues to have a very impressive career for the San Francisco Giants. And even though he’s playing through what’s looked like a rather painful shoulder injury, Matt Carpenter continues to hit, as his 15.4 offensive WAR demonstrates.
So while Herrera has a pretty good case to have been on the roster over Blackmon, so does Albert Almora Jr. of the Chicago Cubs, among others. Herrera has been there and done that. He’ll probably make at least one more All-Star team in his career. The important thing for Herrera is that as the Phillies approach the All-Star Break, they’re tied for the lead in the National League East and have one of the two Wild Card spots as a fall-back. For someone who was part of a trio of Phillies teams that posted a combined .412 winning-percentage in his first three years, that’s probably more important to Herrera anyway.
- Without Odubel Herrera or Seranthony Dominguez being elected to the All-Star Game, Aaron Nola will be the Phillies lone All-Star. It’s the fifth consecutive season that the Phillies will only have one All-Star representative. The last time that the Phillies had multiple All-Star representatives was when Cliff Lee and Domonic Brown made the All-Star team in 2013, when the game was played at Citi Field. As you’ll remember, Lee had a deadpan reaction to being booed during introductions.
- Carlos Santana is third in walk percentage in baseball. The only two players he trails? Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. Santana already has walked 68 times this season, which is the most any Phillie has walked since Ryan Howard walked 75 times in 2011. Jayson Werth had 91 walks in 2009, while Pat Burrell had 102 walks in 2008. It will be interesting to see if Santana can top those marks in 2018.
- Not sure if this signifies anything, but the Phillies have five players with at least 10 home runs (Odubel Herrera, Rhys Hoskins, Carlos Santana, Nick Williams and Maikel Franco). The last time they had five players with at least 10 home runs before the All-Star Break was 2008 (Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Pedro Feliz, Pat Burrell).
- Cole Hamels entered Saturday with a 5.00 FIP, the ninth worst mark in baseball. He then gave up seven runs (three of which were earned) on five hits in 0.2 innings against the Detroit Tigers. His ERA is now 4.37. His FIP is now 5.14. The continued talk of him as an upgrade ignores actual results.
- The Phillies will have a true double-header against the New York Mets Monday. The league should schedule at least a couple of these per year.