They Don’t Make Many Like Rougned Odor

The other day, I was reading a profile of Rougned Odor, the person. As shouldn’t come as any surprise, the public doesn’t have a real nuanced understanding of the guy — he’s just the little dude who clobbered Jose Bautista, and that makes him either likable or detestable. Like everyone else, the real Odor is a human being, something far more complicated than the single most well-known thing he did, and the consensus from those who know him is that Odor plays with an admirable edge. Maybe it makes him like a baseball version of an agitator, but those who’ve spent time with Odor tend to wish there were more players like him.

As a player, then, perhaps Odor is uncommon. And as a player type, he’s at least just as unusual. Speaking in a general sense, Odor appears to have an atypical engine. And he’s also weird when you get into the details. This is a baseball stats website. I’m here to deliver you some baseball stats.

We can start with what should be obvious. Odor is a fairly productive hitter. He’s also particularly averse to drawing walks. This season, he’s drawn just 13, with five of those coming in April. Odor is a little like classic Mark Trumbo, and this plot should help you understand how he hits. I like 1969 as a dividing line, as baseball history goes, and so this plot contains every player-season since then with at least 500 plate appearances. You’re seeing wRC+ against walk rate.

odor-walks-wrc

This year’s Odor is over there on that edge. Other players who have shared his 2.5% walk rate have averaged an 84 wRC+. Meanwhile, other players who have shared his 106 wRC+ have averaged an 8.3% walk rate. In short, hitters who walk so little have generally been bad. Hitters who have been so productive have generally not walked so little.

The difference-maker for Odor isn’t so much contact — he does swing and miss, and he does strike out. As his walks have been reduced, his strikeouts have climbed. What saves Odor, of course, is his power. He homered two more times on Wednesday. His slugging percentage is north of .500. I wasn’t kidding around with the classic-Mark-Trumbo remark. Odor gets the absolute most that he can out of his body.

And in order to do that this season, Odor has been selling out for fastballs. I don’t know another way to put it. It’s not that Odor has been helpless against other pitches, but he’s not a difficult hitter to understand. Every hitter goes up there looking fastball. It’s the only way to make sure you have your timing right. Odor just takes it one step further. He’s trying to ambush the diminishing number of fastballs he’s seeing.

Against fastballs this year, Odor has been a top-30 hitter. On a per-pitch basis, against fastballs, he’s been a top-15 hitter. And now, to borrow from Baseball Savant — Odor has swung at 55% of all fastballs. Last year, he came in at 46%, meaning he’s increased that rate by nine percentage points. That’s baseball’s second-biggest increase, behind only Nick Ahmed, and against non-fastballs, Odor’s swing rate hasn’t moved nearly so much. This isn’t anything Odor is doing in the dark. This isn’t some subtle adjustment. Odor broadcasts his approach in every at-bat. Pitchers know what he wants.

In turn, pitchers have responded as you’d expect. Compared to last year, Odor’s rate of fastballs seen is down eight percentage points, giving him the third-biggest year-to-year drop out of everyone. He’s just a hair behind Carlos Gomez, and maybe two hairs behind Jung-Ho Kang. Pitchers understand what Odor is trying to do, and they know they can make him expand his zone. What Odor is up there banking on is that a lot of pitchers still really like their fastballs. They’ve been raised to trust their fastballs. Odor doesn’t need to see a bunch of them. He needs to only see one. Most at-bats will include at least one fastball.

We can get into some even more fun stuff. What’s Odor done when he’s been able to connect? This is what makes it all work. Odor has made better contact, and he’s made more elevated contact. This plot contains every hitter who’s had at least 100 batted balls tracked by Statcast in each of the last two seasons. You’re seeing changes in average launch angle and average exit velocity.

odor-statcast

Odor’s average exit velocity is up. Odor’s average launch angle is way up. With exit velocity, getting higher can only be good. It doesn’t work quite that way with launch angle — you’re not doing any good if you hit the ball straight up. But Odor hasn’t increased his angle into a bad area, or anything. He’s increased it into the power zone. That combines well with better batted-ball speed.

There are so many ways to talk about what Odor has done, but on top of all this, he’s pulled off something I think is truly remarkable. Odor now is hitting the ball in the air more often. Yet he also owns the single-biggest decrease in infield-fly rate, with a drop of more than 12 percentage points. What I think that reflects is Odor’s swing consistency. He’s getting a little more under some baseballs, but he’s getting way under them far less often. This is just basic barrel-to-ball stuff. Odor is now powerfully connecting the two, along his aggressive swing plane.

Put it all together and you have a sub-.300 OBP with a slugging mark more than halfway to 1. It makes Odor very differently polarizing. It’s easy to say he’s too aggressive for his own good. It’s just as easy to say the power makes up for everything else. He has obvious strengths and obvious warts, and he’s not even necessarily having a better season than the one he had last year after he was recalled from the minors. This is just the profile of a different hitter, a more powered-up hitter, and you have to remember that Odor is 22 years old. There’s a lot of learning left for him to do. There are gains yet to be made. For his age, he’s something good, and he’s something unusual.

If this is the hitter Odor is going to be, he could work out a lot like Adam Jones. Jones has never once gotten his OBP up to .340. He’s never drawn a lot of walks, when they haven’t been automatically granted to him. I don’t think the Orioles have had many complaints. Odor these days isn’t much of a two-strike hitter. Yet a pitcher still has to be able to get there. And throwing those fastballs is awfully tempting.





Jeff made Lookout Landing a thing, but he does not still write there about the Mariners. He does write here, sometimes about the Mariners, but usually not.

31 Comments
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Doorknob11
6 years ago

Love the “lol” on the Barry Bonds dot, also the fact you didn’t mention it in the paragraph below.

ballsteidhemember
6 years ago
Reply to  Doorknob11

If I was in Jeff’s position, I would’ve put a “lol” next to each of those four top right dots. They’re all Bonds between ’01 and ’04. You really don’t need to know anything else about ’01-’04 Bonds…just look at this graph, and you will understand.
I haven’t yet figured out who that next dot at 24%/205wRC+ is, but I’m guessing something like peak McGwire…and Barry just put up 4 seasons that just absolutely dwarf peak McGwire.

Emcee Peepantsmember
6 years ago
Reply to  ballsteidhe

It appears to be 1998 McGwire (70 HRs). I’m more interested in the dot to the NNW of Odor with a wRC+ of 125ish and a BB% of 2ish. Mickey Rivers in 1976?

david k
6 years ago
Reply to  Emcee Peepants

Wondering the same thing…I hope we get an answer…

Doug Lampertmember
6 years ago
Reply to  david k

Looks like it has to be Rivers in 1976, 2% walk, 123 wRC+.

You have to go to a 3% walk rate to find another 120+ wRC, and that’s Rivers in 1980, although Rivers in 77 also comes close.

Soriono in 2002 at 3.1% walks manages a 131 wRC+.

Vampire Weekend at Bernie's
6 years ago
Reply to  Emcee Peepants

Coincidentally enough, Rivers was traded for Barry Bonds’ father just before the 1976 season.

david k
6 years ago
Reply to  Doorknob11

And to think that the famous time when Showalter elected to walk Bonds intentionally with the bases loaded, putting the tying run on 3rd, happened BEFORE any of those seasons! (that happened in 1999, I believe)

Doug Lampertmember
6 years ago
Reply to  Doorknob11