Phillies: How legitimate is Odubel Herrera’s MVP case?

ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 19: Odubel Herrera #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third inning at Busch Stadium on May 19, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
ST. LOUIS, MO - MAY 19: Odubel Herrera #37 of the Philadelphia Phillies hits a two-run home run against the St. Louis Cardinals in the third inning at Busch Stadium on May 19, 2018 in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images) /

Odubel Herrera is having the best season of his career. Does the Phillies center fielder really have a chance to be the most valuable player?

It seems like the Philadelphia Phillies are finally relevant in the baseball world again. The club sits with the fifth best record in baseball at 26-17, but still a half game out of the NL East lead. Prior to the Rhys Hoskins breakout months, the only Phillie talked about was the often controversial Odubel Herrera.

The free-swinging, bat flipping, playmaking, wheeling dealing center fielder was often labeled as a lazy and non-hustling player. There was even talked about as a potential trade piece to clear room for Hoskins in the outfield.

Now, Herrera is in the midst of his best season yet. He currently has a 45 game on-base streak and is the current NL batting title leader hitting with a .353 average. He also is top 10 in the NL in RBI (8th) OBP (4th) SLG (.558) OPS (4th) and hits (2nd). He has also played phenomenally in center field defensively making highlight-reel catches daily.

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RIght now, Herrera should be a heavy favorite to be a starter for the Mid Summer Classic come July. He could be joined by teammates Aaron Nola and Jake Arrieta, with Nola also possibly getting a starting nod.

But has Herrera played beyond just All-Star level? While we are just a quarter of the way into the season it is never too early to start up the MVP conversation and Herrera has thrown himself right into the mix.

So just how legitimate is his case?  Herrera has already proven himself, but how does he stack up against other worthy candidates?

The first candidates to look at are the stars of the only team Herrera looks up to in the NL standings. The stars of the young Atlanta Braves: Freddie Freeman, Nick Markakis, and Ozzie Albies. Freeman had the most star power on the Braves coming into the year and he has had another great year. He is batting .317 while having blasted eight homers alongside 34 RBI.

Markakis, an established veteran and NL hit leader, has also filled up the stat sheet. His .343 average is just second to Herrera and he has driven in 30 runs with seven home runs including an Opening Day walk-off against the Phillies.

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Lastly the youngest of the Braves core three, rising superstar second basemen Ozzie Albies. Albies is tied for the NL lead in home runs (13) and third in RBI (33) while batting a solid .277.

While all three are playing great none quite match Herrera’s current year. Albies does have six more home runs and just 3 more RBI, but it does not make up for the 76-point gap in batting averages. Markakis has identical RBI and home run totals, giving Herrera the upper hand with a higher batting average. Markakis currently would place runner-up to Herrera personally speaking as Freeman isn’t quite up with those two due to not a large enough gap in any other statistic.

The next two players are not teammates but are having nearly identical seasons: Colorado Rockie Nolan Arenado ( .322 AVG 8 HR 24 RBI) and St. Louis Cardinal Tommy Pham (.321 AVG 8 HR 19 RBI). Pham might statistically edge Arenado with 7 more stolen bases, 11 more runs and an NL high OBP (.429). Neither player quite matches Herrera’s season nor are their teams currently playing as well as the Phillies.

Speaking of teams being a factor, the main player I see being held back is Scooter Gennett. While his .329 7 HR 27 RBI season is not enough to be a front-runner for the award he is still having a good year and deserves to have his name thrown in the hat.

Prior to his thumb injury, AJ Pollock would have been a major candidate as well. He is batting just below .300 and has 11 home runs and 33 RBI. He will likely be out another one and a half months so it will be seen how much his play is impacted and if no one has pulled too far ahead statistically. 

Right now my list would look like this.

  1. Odubel Herrera
  2. Nick Markakis
  3. Freddie Freeman
  4. Max Scherzer
  5. Tommy Pham

Next: Will the real Rhys Hoskins please stand up?

Call it being a homer or partial bias but it is hard not to believe Herrera is currently having the best season in the National League. He looks to continue his historic on-base streak while continuing to lead the team with the NL’s second-best record. If Herrera can keep up this caliber of play, this could be the year El Torito brings home some hardware.