Pete Mackanin has been in baseball for 48 years as a player, coach and manager. Many times throughout his coaching career, he's worked with players or been a part of organization that attempted to develop a hitter's patience and selectivity.
Plate patience and plate selection, which are two different things, are ideal offensive qualities. Plate patience means taking a lot pitches; plate selection means knowing the strike zone but being aggressive when the situation calls for it. Chipper Jones comes to mind as a perfect example of plate selection — he had a .401 career on-base percentage and averaged 98 walks per 162 games, but also swung at the first pitch as much as anyone in baseball. He knew the zone. When he saw a first-pitch fastball in his wheelhouse, he swung.
Odubel Herrera is more selective than patient. He, too, has a firm grasp of the strike zone and has a sky-high walk rate, but isn't averse to hacking early in the count. It's why a few weeks ago, Mackanin said that it's interesting to watch a player he considers a free swinger draw so many walks.
In Herrera, Mackanin sees a "perennial .300" hitter.
"I'd like to claim all the credit but I can't," he told CSN's Marshall Harris in an interview that airs Monday on Phillies Clubhouse.
"I haven't said a word to him. Over the course of my career in the minor leagues, there have been many times where we have tried to groom a player to become a leadoff hitter. We wanted them to take pitches, we wanted them to make the pitcher work and be more selective. And there's very few players that can hit like that — it's hard to spot a pitcher a strike and be a good hitter. I think of a Chase Utley, who to me, could afford to do that because he's such a good hitter that he could afford to get behind in the count. Most hitters don't like that.
"I think the fact that Herrera did it on his own shows how good of a hitter he's gonna be and how a good hitter he already is, that he's taking so many pitches and still hitting .290.
"... He went through a midseason slump (in 2015), was down back to .250, and then he rebounded, which meant he knew how to make adjustments. The pitchers started softening up, trying to get him to expand the strike zone and he didn't fall for that. He adjusted and ended up hitting .297. To me, he's gonna be a perennial .300 (hitter) because he has a good idea at the plate."
There are plenty of positives around this 15-10 Phillies team and Herrera just might the biggest. Check out the interview tonight at 7 p.m. on CSN for more.