A while back, I discussed a bit about the problems Jeremy Hermida was facing at the plate. With another lost season all but over thanks to a strained oblique, I thought it would be fitting to cap off his season with a review of what went wrong and whether he improved on the things we talked about earlier.
In the earlier post, I mentioned that it seems like Hermida’s plate discipline was improving because he had drawn 32 walks so early in the season. I thought this might herald the arrival of a more patient Hermida, similar to the one we had seen in the minor leagues. According to Minor League Splits, in Hermida’s final season in the minors, he had a major league equivalent (MLE) walk rate of 16.1%, which would have put him among the elites in baseball. The rest of the batting line was poor (.235 average, .402 slugging), but a player who posted a 16% walk rate and a .167 ISO is just someone who needs more BABIP help to be an very good offensive player (see Johnson, Nick for an example).
Hermida’s plate recognition and approach has not gone the right way. Initially I was concerned about his dropping ZSwing% coupled with an increasing OSwing%, the complete opposite of what you would like to do as a hitter. He needed to start recognizing those outside pitches better. So far he has done so to some degree. This season, he’s dropped the amount of swings he’s taken (down to 41.9% from 43.5% in 2008) and his OSwing% has dropped four percent, while he’s increased his ZSwing% two percent, back above 60%.
Since the time of the article, Hermida’s walk rate has dropped to 11.4%, still very serviceable and better than last year, but the power that seemed to be lacking through much of his minor league career continued to be the issue. Since posting a .203 adjusted ISO (counting triples the same as doubles, as triples are a matter of park and speed, not power) in 2007, his numbers have dropped to league average (.151) in 2008 and below that (.129) in 2009. Stupidly enough, since Hermida hit only two pop ups in 2007, his Infield Fly Ball% (IFFB%) has shot up, up to 12.2% in 2008 and 14.0% in 2009. Hermida is making contact as always, but though his line drive numbers this season approach the ones from two years ago, it seems he’s lost power and is not making weak contact with everything he touches.
For Hermida to hit with that kind of power, he would have to walk at Nick Johnson-type rates to be a good hitter. And to be a corner outfielder, you need to be either a good hitter or a good fielder to be a worthwhile player, and that’s twice as important for Hermida, who has established himself as a terrible outfielder. Looking at his numbers from Double-A Carolina in 2005, he seemed like an average to slightly above average outfielder, but that was in a mere 400 chances, about 120 games. During his time in the majors, Hermida has shown terrible numbers outside of 2007. TotalZone likes him more than UZR does, but using an even weighting method and including some data from the Fan Scouting Report (weighting method is .375*UZR + .375*TotalZone + .25*FSR converted to runs), you get these values for his 2006-2008 seasons.
2006: -4.4 runs (89 defensive games)
2007: 0.3 runs (116 defensive games)
2008: -7.8 runs (131 defensive games)
The fans rightly caught on to Hermida’s poor outfield play, labeling him a -13 outfielder per 162 games in 2007, his best season, and a -10 outfielder in 2008. This season, he seems to have proven everyone right on this regard, putting up -9 runs in 139 defensive games in both left and right field this season.
So in four seasons with the Marlins, Hermida’s development has absolutely halted. When he was 22 and starting his big league career, we all expected his power to bloom, but no such power has arrived, and in fact it has dropped since its peak in 2007. His plate patience has remained similar for four seasons now, with only a small improvement this season. For two seasons now Hermida has more or less been an average hitter and a terrible fielder at a corner outfield position. This equation usually screams replacement level, and that’s why three out of Hermida’s four seasons have been at or below that level.
Is it time to give up? I think so. Four seasons of non-improvement have shown that the 2007 second half Hermida had was a mirage of beneficial luck, and that the remaining three seasons have been more indicative. There was a time when Hermida was a top prospect, but the Marlins front staff should not think of him as such now. He has gone the way of Jeff Francoeur, though with not nearly as much spotlight or fanfare, and as such should be dealt for whatever the Marlins can get to avoid paying his arbitration salary. At this point, the team has made moves to depreciate his value, particularly benching him against left-handed pitchers. We’ll have to wait and see what kind of return we can net for him, but I would not bank on a whole lot, even for a 26-year old former top prospect.