Odubel Herrera bats leadoff for the Phillies and gets on base at a .450 clip.
by Jack Kerwin | email@example.com
It shouldn’t elicit quite the cartoonish eyebrow raise made famous by the Rock.
But take a glance at the MLB standings sometime today before the weekend action gets under way, let the eyes drift down to the National League East and then focus on that team sitting in third place, just a game and a half behind division leaders Washington and New York.
Yeah, good luck with avoiding a double take, or a mini head shake, or a “what the …” make – even after giving a looooong, hard look.
Seriously. Oh, it still may be early in the season, but we’re getting close to the point where things shift from “nice story” to “shit just got real” with the 2016 Phillies.
Now 20-15 after a 10-game road trip that saw them play .500 ball without the benefit of things just falling into their lucky laps, the mostly nameless and faceless members of the oldest pro sports franchise in Philly return to the friendly confines of Citizens Bank Park for 20 of the next 27 games.
Safe to say, they’ll likely be halfway to 62- to 68-game win total most had predicted for the entire campaign … barely a third of the way into it.
No doubt, pitching has spearheaded much of the team’s success. The staff is one of just six in the NL with a combined earned run average below 4.00, the bullpen ranks second in the circuit with 13 saves and no other team in baseball has more shutouts tossed than the Phillies’ six thus far.
But, for me, the big deal is seeing an actual star being born right before our eyes.
Only it isn’t third baseman Maikel Franco. It is center fielder Odubel Herrera.
Not for nothing, but Phillies fans haven’t seen the likes of this top-of-the-lineup, on-base sensation since Lenny Dykstra was at his chew-chomping, dirt-stained uniform best two decades ago. With Thursday night’s four-hit, one-walk effort in five plate appearances against Atlanta in yet another extra-inning victory, the lefty-swinging, second-year pro now carries a .450 OBP into tonight’s game against Cincinnati.
Thing is, the 24-year-old proved he belonged last season with a solid performance in the field and at bat. He hit .297 in 147 games, but kinda got lost in all the excitement over Franco’s potential. He also was little too much Jimmy Rollins as a leadoff guy, only without the pop supplied by the former Phillies great, getting on base just at a .344 clip courtesy of a mere 28 walks.
Already he has 26 this season in 150 trips to the plate. He leads the team in batting average (.339), on-base, hits (42) and all Phillies regulars in slugging percentage (.460). Oh, and carrying 206 pounds on his chiseled 5-foot-11 frame, Rollins-type power might not be too far off in the future for Herrera, either.
Currently, he’s on pace to score 102 runs – but that’s pretty misleading in what he is providing the Phillies’ offense. If Ryan Howard were still in his prime, and Franco were living up to his promise, Herrera would be more in line for 130 or 140 runs this season.
The kid, flat out, is playing like a star.
Put the eyebrow down, Rock. You read that right.
Yeah, got it. Larry Bowa is a legend in Philly. Beloved by hundreds of thousands, if not millions in the extended metro area, for being an over-achieving, feisty shortstop who factored heavily in the Phillies’ first world championship back in 1980.
Heck, some newbies unfamiliar with Bowa’s playing days might even like him for all his blow-hardy moments as a manager and coach here.
But, gotta say, the guy playing his position for the team right now is a better performer, especially in the field.
Who knew with all the criticism heaped on him?
Freddy Galvis is an electric talent with a glove in his hand, blessed with wheels that the always-hustling Bowa only wish he had possessed during his heyday almost four decades ago. Yeah, it’s true, Bowa collected a pair of Gold Gloves during his career and Galvis hasn’t won any. The eye test, though, has Bowa looking like a Charlie Chaplin movie next to Galvis’ nightly almost-Jimmy Rollins, special-effects extravaganza.
Frankly, the 26-year-old is a more productive hitter as well. Doesn’t have a batting average or on-base percentage to match what Bowa put up yet, but he’s already drilled eight more homers in 7,200 less at-bats, and his 2015 campaign included home run (7) and RBI (51) totals that topped Bowa’s best for either in any season.
An outrage? Well, don’t feel too bad, Bowa backers. Galvis’ days are probably numbered anyway. Then you can enjoy the J.P. Crawford comparisons to your guy.