Hey, Phillies fan. Remember when Cesar Hernandez was terrrrribbbbllle six weeks ago and everybody wanted his head?
Of course you do.
Just kick it back to April 13 after his 0 for 4 night in an ugly 10-3 loss to the Marlins. He looked totally lost. In fact, he actually looked borderline unplayable, and after a disappointing 2018 season which was hampered by a nagging foot injury, he was standing out for all of the wrong reasons in the Phillies’ potent new-look lineup. It was tough to watch but easy to hate with Hernandez slashing only .178/.240/.244 and doing stuff like this far too often:
Some preached patience but others called for measures ranging anywhere between a simple benching to Hernandez being designated for assignment, which, by the way, is definitely the most sound and logical solution whenever a veteran player goes through an underwhelming two-week stretch. Also, please pause to feel my condescending sarcasm as it flows forth, for it is heavy this morning.
As it turns out, and I know this is going to come as a stunner, seasons shouldn’t be judged on a guy’s first 50 plate appearances.
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) May 25, 2019
Hernandez’s numbers since April 13 have been absurd. In 160 plate appearances, he’s hitting .347 with a .406 on-base percentage and a .955 OPS. He went from producing an extra-base hit in one out of every 25 plate appearances to producing one in every 8.89 plate appearances. Not only that, he’s done it at a critical time as the Phillies have dealt with multiple prolonged slumps and Scott Kingery’s near month-long absence. There’s no way the Phillies would be 23-16 since April 13 without his resurgence, one that also should make him very much a part of the conversation for a National League All-Star bid.
Don’t believe me? Check his numbers and where they rank among all National League second baseman:
Raise your hand if you had Cesar Hernandez with a markedly higher OBP and SLG% than Bryce Harper after 52 games.
As you can see, Hernandez is at or near the top of several of these key statistical categories. And go ahead, roll your eyes. I see you looking at wRC+, thinking “Nerd.” That’s fine, but it’s a good stat and one that matters. In its simplest terms, wRC+ is a metric that measures a player’s ability to create runs against the league average while accounting for park factors, a good indicator of that player’s overall value, since, you know, creating runs is the batter’s primary objective when he steps to the plate.
And yet, I can’t tell you how many people I read on Twitter that want to “sell high” on him right now. I’ll say this. I struggle with Twitter because sometimes I feel like it’s a good representation of where the average fan is at on a player or issue, but then other times, I’m not so sure, like maybe it’s only capturing a small part of the population. I get the sense with Hernandez, however, that people don’t quite appreciate what he is, and I’m not the only one:
When Cesar Hernandez is slumping, people freak out. When Cesar Hernandez is hitting, nobody says anything. In about a month he will be in a slump and the same thing will happen again.
— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) May 25, 2019
Read through the replies there.
Kingery’s hot start over a limited sample probably has something to do with the aggressive willingness of some to make a deal or “sell high” but with the consistently inconsistent play of Maikel Franco and Odubel Herrera combining with what is a razor-thin bench, the idea of doing so seems irresponsible. It would be doing a deal for the sake of doing a deal.
And I get that he might not stay this hot, but here’s the thing. He doesn’t need to. It gets overlooked, but he’s a .278 hitter with a .357 OBP in over nearly 2500 career ABs. Production similar to that would be just fine. And what’s the end game? At this point, he isn’t a luxury or a productive spare part, he’s been key in leading the Phillies to first-place at 10 games over .500 here in late May. Unless any of these theoretical “sell high” deals will return a stabilizing front-end of the rotation starting pitcher, which they will not, the Phillies are in no position to subtract the offensive value of a borderline All-Star second baseman from the lineup.