As a resident of the city of Dallas and a Rangers fan when they’re not playing the Astros, it was my impression that Rougned Odor improved as the year went on. Part of that was just the assumption that he gradually acclimated to the big leagues over the course of 400+ PA, and part of that was my perception based on the regrettably occasional Ranger game I watched this year.
But his monthly splits don’t necessarily tell the tale of a guy who improved with more seasoning. Yes, his best month according to wRC+ was September (128), but his next best months were May and June, his first two months in the majors this year. Of course wRC+ is a result-oriented statistic and can be misleading in a small sample size, like a single month, for example. If he was truly acclimating well, we’d expect to see him swinging more at good pitches and less at bad pitches, making more contact, and squaring the ball up more as the year went on. So did he do any of that?
Strike Zone Recognition
Let’s start with whether he swung more at good pitches and less at bad pitches. Below are two zone profiles showing Odor’s swing rates in different areas of the zone. The chart on the left is his first 209 PA of 2014 ranging from May 8 to July 24, and the chart on the right is his final 208 PA ranging from July 25 to September 28.
It certainly doesn’t look like there’s much of a difference between the two charts, but just to be sure I did the math. So here’s a table breaking it down:
|Swing %||First 209 PA||Last 208 PA|
|In the Zone||67.40%||66%|
|Out of the Zone||37.90%||38.60%|
That’s not what we were hoping to see. The numbers didn’t get much worse, but they did get worse. Why? Odor got more aggressive with offspeed pitches and pitchers exploited it. Here are two more zone profiles with the same time splits but just looking at offspeed pitches. And then below that is a month-by-month graph showing Odor’s plate approach. Note the trend toward aggressive on offspeed pitches.
With Odor swinging more at bad pitches and less at good pitches, it seems unlikely that he made more contact, but let’s check to just to make sure. Below is another set of zone profiles with the same time splits looking at Odor’s whiff rates.
No need to do the math there. There’s a lot more red in the chart on the right. That’s strike two, right? Maybe he made better contact when he did make contact? Here are two more zone profiles looking at line drives with the same time splits.
Finally some good news. In the second half of the year Odor swung at more bad pitches and made less contact when he swung, but at least he made better contact when he made contact. He got down 0-2, but maybe he ripped a metaphorical line drive to the right fielder for a hard single.
To be fair, just because Odor didn’t improve in the second 200 PA of a 400 PA sample doesn’t mean he won’t see growth in his next 400 PA sample and beyond. And what he did in 400-ish PA last year was good enough to be right at average at his position and the 19th best fantasy second baseman according to Zach Sanders’ valuations.
The kid will be 21 on Opening Day next year and wasn’t supposed to be a big league regular this soon. The future is probably very bright. But as a fantasy option we should probably wait a bit longer to invest in him. His trend in 2014 doesn’t appear to make him a big time breakout candidate to begin the 2015 season.