The Phillies wake up this morning tied atop the National League East with a 49-38 record. Given the team’s surprising performance over the season’s first three months, there was some hope that the Phillies would have a larger presence at this year’s Major League Baseball All-Star Game than the obligatory lone pity representative that they have sent in each of the past four seasons. Indeed, it’s been a long time since 2013, when the team sent both Cliff Lee and Dom Brown (gag reflex).
But those hopes were squashed last night with the official release of the game’s rosters. For Phillies fans that plan to watch – and that may not be many – you will get Aaron Nola for an inning. Maybe. And that’s it.
Herrera is a divisive player, so some people will say that his absence from the NL roster is “such bullshit.” Others will probably use his absence to further incorrectly push the “this guy is a loser” narrative.
Here’s how I look at it:
I’m one of Herrera’s biggest proponents. You can read my musings on him here. And also here. But the idea that he got boned last night is wrong. He’s a good player, and when the dust settles this season, he may be one of the five or six most productive outfielders in the National League, but it’s hard to make a strong case for him right now in the wake of what’s been his rollercoaster ride of a first half.
Through his first 39 games this season, Herrera was hitting an absurd .361 with six homers and a .989 OPS. The talk wasn’t about a potential all-star bid; it was about a potential MVP season. Over his following 23 games, Herrera slumped miserably, batting only .161 with one homer and a .422 OPS. That more than three-week stretch was what ultimately sank his candidacy. Over the past month, Herrera has gone through less pronounced hot and cold stretches. Here is a visual of his performance in terms of average, on-base percentage, and weighted on-base average that shows quite a bit of volatility:
To simplify, that long dive off the cliff followed by choppy spikes and drops is a tough progression in terms of selling his all-star worthiness. To be fair, I’ll sign up for a .281 average, 15 homers, 51 RBI, and .804 OPS from my centerfielder all day long, but his omission isn’t exactly criminal.
His season, with National League ranks among qualified outfielders included:
- AVG: .281 (11th)
- SLG %: .469 (10th)
- ISO: .188 (14th)
- OPS: .804 (15th)
- wOBA: .346 (16th)
What those numbers show is a really good player that performed at a level just outside of the top-tier of outfielders. And yeah, I know Herrera’s 15 homers is tied for third-most among NL outfielders, and his 51 RBI is the fifth-best total. Great. But if we are going to use those numbers to support his candidacy, then it’s hard to simultaneously argue that Bryce Harper, the player who fans seem most upset over, didn’t deserve his bid. He’s only hitting .218, but the way an offensive player’s worth is evaluated has progressed, and the value of a player’s batting average has greatly diminished.
Harper’s 21 homers are four more than any other National League outfielder and his .846 OPS is 42 points higher than Herrera’s. He has a better slugging percentage, wOBA, and on-base percentage. And, while nobody wants to hear this, he’s one of baseball’s few marketable stars playing in a game held at his home park. It’s a showcase game and the sport is going through some well-documented popularity struggles at the moment. Harper is going to draw eyeballs and baseball needs as many of them as it can get. Sorry, I hear you – you think Bryce Harper is a douche and you, Phillies fan, may not like him, but getting upset about Harper’s inclusion at Herrera’s expense would be misplaced indignation. Herrera is having a good season, it just hasn’t been quite good enough to call him a snub.