The Philadelphia Phillies have surprised quite a few by jumping out to a 41-33 record to start the 2018 regular season. Their current plan has been working much better than expected, as they enter Sunday’s action just 1.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves for first place in the National League East.
One of the big reasons behind this surprising performance is Odubel Herrera, who seems to be experiencing a true breakout season at the plate. Through 306 plate appearances, the young outfielder is slashing .304/.357/.500 with 13 home runs, 43 RBI, and 39 runs scored. His 133 wRC+, .369 wOBA, and 2.2 fWAR all currently lead the team.
While Philly came away with a victory against the Washington Nationals on Saturday, Herrera was uncharacteristically absent from the effort. He went 0-for-4, which also snapped his five-game home run streak.
If you recall, he also had a 45-game on-base streak earlier this season. How rare is it to produce both of these in one season? As it turns out, it’s pretty rare:
Now that’s a pretty darn impressive list to be included in. He’s shown an aptitude for getting on base at a healthy clip since joining the Phillies in 2015 as a Rule 5 pick, but the power is certainly a new development.
After hitting 8 homers in 537 plate appearances as a rookie, Herrera produced a career-high 15 dingers in 656 plate appearances and 14 in 563 trips to the plate the following two seasons. At this rate, he’ll set a new personal best sometime within the next couple weeks.
What’s truly interesting is that he’s experienced this power surge without a bunch of positive changes to his batted-ball profile.
When comparing to last year, his fly-ball rate (34.7% to 33.6%), soft-hit rate (24.4% to 27.3%), and hard-hit rate (29.4% to 27.3%) have all gotten worse. Those numbers hold true when drilling down specifically to his performance on fly balls, too. The 26-year-old is currently sporting a soft-hit rate (34.3%) that’s substantially higher than his hard-hit rate (27.4%) in that situation.
The positive change has come in his performance on line drives. After collecting just three homers in this situation through his first three big-league seasons, he’s already hit five dingers via line drives this year.
If the Phillies remain in contention throughout the summer and into the fall, it’s rather clear that they’ll need Herrera to keep being a crucial part of the offense.
About Matt Musico
Matt Musico currently manages Chin Music Baseball and contributes to The Sports Daily. His past work has been featured at numberFire, Yahoo! Sports and Bleacher Report. He’s also written a book about how to become a sports blogger. You can sign up for his email newsletter here.