Gabe Kapler has watched each of Odubel Herrera's at-bats this season from his dugout perch just 30 feet from home plate and is pretty sure he knows why Herrera has fallen into a monthlong slump.
"I'm very confident it's a timing thing," Kapler said. "So he gets his leg up, and if his timing is on, it smoothly flows and lands. When he feels like it's off or he feels awkward and uncomfortable, he puts it right back down and takes. … If your timing and rhythm isn't right, then you're probably not going to square up the baseball."
Herrera, who was out of the lineup Wednesday night for the first time in more than two weeks, isn't so sure if it's a timing thing.
"To be honest, I don't know if it's the leg kick," Herrera said. "Sometimes I see that it's late, but other times I feel like I'm doing it at the right time. I don't know what it is. If it's that or if it's my swing. I know that something's not right. A day like today is a good day to figure it out.
"I don't know what it is, but what I can tell you that it's a little frustrating because I'm putting in the work. I feel like I'm doing what I'm supposed to do, but things are not showing. Hopefully it ends soon because it's frustrating. Luckily, I have a good batting average in my bag to help me out."
Herrera entered Wednesday night batting .283 this season after going hitless on Tuesday for a four straight game. He is batting just .183 with a .227 on-base percentage in his last 104 at-bats, a stretch that dates back to May 13.
His success at the plate stems from his leg kick. Kapler, who tried a leg kick later in his career, said Herrera is at his best when his leg kick is "aggressive and assertive." It sounds crazy, Kapler said, but the more Herrera winds up his leg, the more natural his swing looks. And that leg kick is built on timing.
"I think when it's on, the benefits are what we saw in a six-week stretch," Kapler said of Herrera's .995 OPS through the season's first 36 games. "It was a stretch of brilliance. A lot of hard contact, a lot of walks, and a lot of confidence in the batter's box. When it's on, I think that's what you see. A very confident hitter."
Herrera will be back in the lineup Thursday. He is too important to the team, Kapler said, to keep him out for an extended stretch. Perhaps a one-day break could be enough for him to discover what went wrong.
"I can definitely use a day off to clear my mind. Sometimes you go through rough stretches, so it's a good day to sit down and see what I'm doing," Herrera said. "Obviously, the mental part of the game plays a big role here. I don't know if I have to be more positive. I probably have to be more positive. I'll try to be the competitive hitter that I know I can be and try to figure it out as soon as possible."
The Phillies will honor Jim Thome with a "Hall of Fame Salute" before Thursday's game with a ceremony that starts at 12:35 p.m. The event will include "surprise guests" from Thome's career before Thome throws out the first pitch and his daughter, Lila, performs the national anthem. Thome will be inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29.