On Sunday, the longest active on-base streak in majors ended. It belonged to Odubel Herrera of the Philadelphia Phillies, and it lasted 45 games, dating back to September of 2017. Herrera is a dynamic player with an unorthodox style, and his on-base streak ended in a similar way: with him standing on first base after his last at-bat of the day.
How could it end with Herrera on base?
On Sunday, the Phillies were facing the St. Louis Cardinals, and Herrera had gone 0-for-3 with two strikeouts in his at-bats during the first eight innings. He came up to bat in the ninth inning with one more chance to extend his streak. Unfortunately, he was facing Jordan Hicks, who has a flamethrower for an arm.
Hicks fed Herrera five pitches which ranged from 103-105 mph, which is FAST. (One of those pitches was the hardest thrown pitch of 2018 so far.) Herrera had two strikes when he swung at pitch five (103.7 mph), which actually bounced in front of the catcher’s glove. The ball skittered away, so Herrera ran to first and made it safely. However, swinging through that pitch meant he’d earned himself a strikeout, even though the at-bat ended with a wild pitch and Herrera standing on first base. The on-base streak was over in the eyes of baseball. However, it will live on the in the hearts of many Phillies fans — and the Phillies Twitter account agrees!
ICYMI, this is how @odubelherrera1's on-base streak came to an end.#AtPhillies, being the rule-breakers we are, decided after much deliberation that we will not accept this. The streak is at 46* games.
We will not be taking questions. Thank you. pic.twitter.com/FtKHGBxdcJ
— Philadelphia Phillies (@Phillies) May 21, 2018
He was on base, after all.
Herrera has been putting up MVP numbers
Looking at the 2018 season (even though his streak started at the end of 2017), Herrera’s numbers should put him into the MVP conversation even though it’s just mid May. He’s currently hitting .344/.411/.544, and his average ranks second in all of baseball and first in the National League. His on-base percentage is seventh in the NL, and his slugging percentage is tenth. Maybe the most surprising thing about Herrera’s streak is the power. He’s not known as a power guy, but he hit seven home runs during his streak, including two two-homer games.
Herrera’s numbers have put him in extraordinary, MVP-adjacent company.
Herrera had a 1.004 OPS against righties and .913 OPS against lefties during his streak. Remarkable consistency. The only other hitters in baseball to do that?
Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Manny Machado and Jose Ramirez. Those four led the league in fWAR entering today.
— Ben Harris (@byBenHarris) May 20, 2018
Herrera’s streak also holds a spot in Phillies history. A 45-game on-base streak is fourth all-time in franchise history. Only Bobby Abreu (46 games, 2000-2001), Chuck Klein (49 games, 1930) and Mike Schmidt (56 games, 1981-1982) are ahead of him.
What’s his secret?
Aside from being a talented hitter who’s put up stellar numbers for three-plus seasons, there’s a secret to how he manages to stay in control of his at-bats: he takes forever to get into the box between pitches. In 2017, Herrera averaged 29 second between pitches. For pitchers who like to get down to business as soon as they get the ball back, that’s an eternity. And that’s the point. Herrera told the Philadelphia Inquirer last year that he does it to put the opposing pitcher off balance.
Even though there’s a renewed emphasis on quickening the time batters and pitchers take during at-bats, Herrera hasn’t changed much in 2018. He’s still taking a long time between pitches, but sometimes it doesn’t always have the effect he wants it to. On Sunday, Jordan Hicks noticed what Herrera was doing, and it didn’t bother him one bit. Here’s what he told MLB.com:
“Odubel just takes forever to get in the box,” said Hicks, who hit 105 mph on the radar gun twice during Herrera’s at bat. “It amps me up a little bit. So I bring it against him.”
Despite pitchers occasionally throwing 105-mph heaters in his direction, it doesn’t seem like Herrera’s going to change any time soon. And considering how well it’s been working for him so far, he probably shouldn’t.
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