Larry Andersen, everyone's favorite Phillies TV color analyst, has frequently, and proudly, dubbed Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera a potential future batting champion. Granted, Anderson is a notorious homer and wistful philosopher, but his praise may be on point-- if a tad misdirected.
Anderson is right to heap praise on the former Rule-5 gem, but it's been Herrera's ability to keep the bat on his shoulders that has placed the 23-year old amongst the best National League hitters in the early going of this 2016 season.
He's got 21 walks over just 91 plate appearances, which puts him just seven shy of his 28-walk total over 537 plate appearances last year, and behind only Paul Goldschmidt (23 BB) for the MLB lead.
Herrera's current walk pace sits at 162, which would make him the youngest player in franchise history to ever reach triple digits. He's over 100 points above his OBP of a year ago (.451 to .344), placing him fourth in the NL in the category, in the midst of one of the biggest one-year shifts since Theon Greyjoy dropped some weight and did that whole "Reek" thing. But this is about the base-on-balls, while that last sentence was more based on balls. So to speak. I'm sorry. I digress.
Rightfully so, Herrera's drastically improved plate discipline over such a short period of time is getting a lot of press. But it's important to note that Herrera's been on a steady incline--across the board-- since late last season. Over his last 100 games, Herrera is batting .329/.409/.460, which includes just 21 games from this season. And that is a slash-line that's certainly supportive of Anderson's bold prediction. Of course, there are no stats for flair.
El Torito is one of the flashiest players on the team. I saw him mis-swing a bloop single to left field once, flip the bat with some stank, and shout out to his dugout, clapping and hooting like he'd just knocked in the game-winning run. In actuality, he had merely moved the lead runner to second base, and there were still two outs in the early going of a spring training matchup. He's loud and very proud. And he's making walks-- the namesake of a definitively-mundane activity-- look good.
Chicks dig the base-on-balls?
I had my doubts when he first lauded Herrera with Batting Champ shine, but LA might be on to something. Of course, this was the man who was also the Northeast's face of the spray-on hair market of the mid-1990s.
Some stats in this article were provided by Ryan Spaeder (@theaceofspaeder). Check out Kevin and Ryan's new book, "Incredible Baseball Stats: The Coolest, Strangest Stats and Facts in Baseball History", in book stores May 3, and online now.