The time is now for Phillies outfielder Odubel Herrera
While Odubel has had success in the six-hole in the past, he has undeniably been at his best as the leadoff hitter in his six MLB seasons. In 126 career games batting first, he has hit .291 with 42 extra-base hits, 45 RBI, 73 runs scored, and a .343 on-base percentage.
The job of the leadoff hitter is not just to get on base, but also to work the count to start the game. This gives the team an opportunity to time the pitcher and see what his pitches look like up close. It’s one thing to practice hitting a specific pitch arsenal off of a machine, but it’s another to see it live. It takes some time to adjust in-game and the leadoff hitter can help by working the count.
In the past, we have seen Herrera struggle to do that. He tends to get overaggressive at the plate. That’s probably one of the reasons why Cesar Hernandez was the leadoff hitter for a few years before McCutchen. Since Herrera’s return, he has been a bit more patient. He is seeing an average of 3.98 pitches per plate appearance this season, which not far off from McCutchen (4.08). In six at-bats on Tuesday, Herrera saw an average of 4.83 pitches each time he came to the plate.
Now, at 29 years old, Herrera is no longer one of the young stars. He is a veteran who needs to understand his role and play smarter than years past. There were too many times where he would make questionable decisions at the plate, on the basepaths, or in the outfield.
Herrera has been doing his job as the leadoff hitter by setting the table for the rest of the order and getting on base. At this point in his career, he might be past those rookie mistakes and understand his role whether he is first or sixth on the lineup. Yes, he still bat flips the majority of the time but if we’re being honest, that is a part of the new age of baseball with players like Javier Baez and Fernando Tatis Jr. He’ll have a chance to solidify his spot in the lineup moving forward and McCutchen could very well benefit from it as well.