You really can’t start a season much worse than Rougned Odor began 2015. The 21-year-old was so extremely bad that the Rangers sent him back down to Triple-A in early May, hoping he could figure out how to hit baseballs, which is a pretty important part of being a professional baseball player.
I wrote about Odor in late April, discussing how his poor start was really just a continuation of the way he ended 2014. As last season went on, Odor became a highly undisciplined hitter against offspeed pitches, and he began this year in the exact same fashion.
Before he was sent down to Triple-A on May 9, Odor saw 137 non-fastballs — with only 37 of them finding the strike zone. He swung at 52 of the 100 pitches that missed the zone, which is just plain ridiculous (vs righties on the right, lefties on the left):
Now, take a look at the same profile, but from June 15 — the day he was recalled — through yesterday. Especially note the map against right-handers, and you’ll see exactly where the adjustment was made:
Down on the farm, Odor seemed to straighten things out pretty quickly. In 30 games, he slashed .352/.426/.639, swatting five homers and walking more than he struck out. Ever since the Rangers brought him back up to the majors on June 15, Odor has been absolutely raking:
- April/May (103 PA) – .144/.252/.233, 6.8% BB, 24.3% K, 1 HR, 1 SB
- June/July (66 PA) – .373/.424/.559, 7.6% BB, 9.1% K, 2 HR, 4 SB
Perhaps the most encouraging sign is that strikeout rate, which he’s cut by about 60%. Striking out less is an obvious result of swinging at fewer bad pitches, but this degree of K-rate improvement within a single season is pretty much unheard of.
The problem, of course, is that this is all small-sample stuff. However, the trade deadlines in many leagues are right around the corner, and we can’t really wait much longer to take a stab at figuring Odor out. It’s one of those times when we just have to analyze what we have, and make the most educated guess possible.
In this case, we have a pretty clear example of a player who had a huge hole in his swing, that pitchers were exploiting for months. There’s a very tangible explanation for Odor’s resurgence, and it’s a highly positive sign regarding his rest-of-season outlook. Keep in mind that Odor is still just 21 years old — there were bound to be bumps in the road at some point, and there are probably more lying in wait.
However, we can now point to a case in which Odor was able to address a weakness in his game, and make the necessary adjustments. Not bad for a kid who’s barely old enough to legally drink a beer.
Scott Strandberg started writing for Rotographs in 2013. He works in small business consultation, and he also writes A&E columns for The Norman Transcript newspaper. Scott lives in Seattle, WA.