Are you okay With Odubel Herrera’s recent comments on his spot in Phillies lineup?

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After the Phillies dropped Saturday’s game 3-2 to the Milwaukee Brewers and became the first team to lose 60 games this season, Odubel Herrera was asked about his recent offensive surge. Herrera had homered in three straight games and came ever so close to a third in Sunday’s matinee win over the Brew Crew. So it’s safe to say that Herrera has found himself in a bit of an offensive outbreak.

But the question that stood out to everyone was phrased like such: Do you think your recent performance will get you bumped up in the lineup soon?

Herrera responded expressing how important that position is to him. He said he feels it’s his spot in the order, somewhere he can drive runs in and help the team win.

That response got me thinking. After really struggling to begin the season, Herrera has begun to swing the bat significantly better as of late. His low point in the season came on May 30, when his average dipped to .217. As it stands on July 17, Herrera’s average has spiked back up to .262, the highest it’s been since May 9. In the last ten games, Herrera has hit safely in nine of them, picking up 13 hits in 36 at bats. That’s a .361 average over the last ten games. With the improved production, an upward movement in the batting order is probably justifiable.

But that’s not what I have a problem with. I have bashed Herrera continuously this season for his plate discipline and pitch selection. Over the course of the season, Herrera has struck out in over 25 percent of his at bats. In the last ten games, that percentage has lowered to just over 22 percent. That three percent difference could be huge over the course of the season. And if Herrera is able to maintain that drop in strikeout rate throughout the rest of the year, I’ll happily admit that I was wrong to preemptively call out Herrera this season.

What I have a problem with is the context of the wording Herrera used. Now, I could be over analyzing things here, and be blowing this out of proportion. He could simply have been stating that he feels like he could help the team win at the top of the lineup. But knowing Herrera like I think I do, that’s not what he was getting at. To me, Herrera seemed to have an ulterior motive to his comments. He had a chance to take a rub at his manager, and he took it. He got his shot to say, “Hey Pete, I’m having a nice week and a half. That justifies you putting me back into the top three in the order.” In reality, it doesn’t. Because at the end of the day, here’s a brilliant idea: You bat in the order and play the position your manager tells you to play!

Let me put this into some context. I currently play in an under-25 summer baseball league. Now before I go any further, I am not saying these situations are entirely similar, but they have a common theme. In this summer baseball league I play in, I bat fifth in our lineup and often times play right field. Now personally, I feel like I should be batting second in the lineup and starting at first base because those two factors would maximize my productivity and utilize my particular skill set the best. But when my manager reads out the lineup card, and I find myself hitting fifth and playing right field, I go out and do it. You know why? Because I was told to!

Do I have internal qualms about it? Absolutely. Do I talk to people not on the roster and off the field about how I think I should be played? Sure. Do I openly question my manager’s decisions while still in my uniform? No chance. Because he makes the final call and I go out and play.

Now again, I don’t want to say I’m in the same situation as Herrera here, but I hope you understand my comparison. Herrera needs to simply put his helmet on and bat where his skipper tells him to bat. Productivity can come from any part of your lineup, regardless of you hitting first or eighth. I understand that Herrera was losing at bats by batting in the seven or eight hole, but that’s just how it goes when you average drops into the .210’s. Herrera is a career .284 hitter. Using career numbers, he absolutely should be hitting second in the lineup if he can continue to decrease the strikeout rate. But career numbers don’t buy you much on a daily basis. The .262 hitter that Herrera is now is a completely different one from the guy we saw hitting .217 in early May. Herrera needs to continue to allow his bat to do the talking, and let Mackanin make the lineup for as long as he’s still the manager.

 

Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

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