You know why we harp so much on trusting the projections? Every single season, there are a slew of hitters who start off sizzling or excruciatingly slow, and because of recency bias, we tend to think this is going to be the new norm for these players. Sure, this ends up being the case for some of them, but for the vast majority, eventually they do perform just as we expected. This is perfectly illustrated by Rougned Odor.
Odor opened the season to a terrible triple slash. And because his plate discipline has always been awful, you always wondered whether pitchers have figured him out and his days as an above average offensive force at second base are now over. Let’s split his season in half and check out his stats and underlying skills over each period, as he has completely turned around his season recently.
|First 40 Games||6.0%||25.2%||0.221||0.282||0.309||0.088||0.263|
|Last 41 Games||10.8%||23.3%||0.322||0.415||0.624||0.302||0.435|
|First 40 Games||0.296||14.6%||41.6%||43.8%||17.9%||2.6%|
|Last 41 Games||0.367||22.9%||39.0%||38.1%||10.0%||30.0%|
Wowzer, is this really the same player?! Odor improved literally every single metric, nearly all quite significantly. Never known for having much plate patience, suddenly Odor has boosted his walk rate above 10%. Just once over his career has he posted a double digit walk rate (10.2%) over a 40 game period, that coming back in late September of last season. This is huge, because it means that maybe he has turned himself into a legitimate top of the order option. When rolling with sub-.300 OBPs previously, he was locked into the bottom of the lineup.
He has also found his line drive stroke, which is something he has struggled with. It’s no good when your career high LD% is just 17.6%. While he’s been at this 41 game level before during previous 40 game streaks, it’s more exciting in combination with everything else he’s doing. Perhaps even more importantly is the massive reduction in pop-ups. Except for 2016, he has always hit way too many pop-ups, and when you combine it with his fly ball tendency, you understand why his BABIP has never exceeded .297.
That increase in line drive rate, along with decline in IFFB%, has allowed him to post a BABIP above .300 for a change, and well above .300. Obviously, a .367 BABIP isn’t sustainable, but he has dramatically improved his batted ball profile, meaning he could be establishing a new baseline.
Lastly, check out that home run power surge! Odor actually didn’t hit his first homer for the season until his 22nd game and was stuck on just one homer through his first 152 at-bats. That equated to just a 2.3% HR/FB rate. Then his bat caught fire. Through Saturday’s game, his 40 game rolling HR/FB rate sat at 30.8%, just a bit better than his previous career best of 30.6% set last summer. This has been an incredible turnaround.
Just like that, in just 41 games, Odor has brought his season HR/FB rate right in line with his previous two seasons, and all his other counting stats are exactly where we’d expect them to be at this point. Heck, his wOBA is currently at a career high of .356! From massive disappointment to career year? Crazy! But it’s just a reminder that you mustn’t be so quick with your “DROP PLAYER” finger early in the season.
Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.