Rougned Odor’s 2018 began as poorly as anyone’s. Well, maybe not Kole Calhoun’s, but it was pretty bad. For the first two months of the season, Odor hit just .204/.252/.301 with a 45 wRC+. He more-or-less looked like the same hitter as last year without the ability to hit dingers, and that was the only redeemable quality of his game. In 2017, he hit 30 home runs but only had a 61 wRC+.
Like Calhoun, Odor’s numbers have bounced back to look pretty normal.
He’s currently hitting .272/.352/.472 for a 121 wRC+ on the season. He’s only gotten better as the year has gone on. From March, he’s gone through basically geometric improvement.
Up until the last few days, Odor has gradually gotten better. Part of that is luck. His BABIP has tracked nearly perfectly with his wOBA.
He’s up to a .329 BABIP midway through August. At his high point, his rolling BABIP was a whopping .486. Clearly, that wasn’t going to continue, hence the recent drop off, but Odor has made other, more sustainable improvements.
As the season has gone on, he’s hit fewer ground balls. Through May, he was hitting over half of his balls on the ground. Now, it’s down to league-average levels. He’s also popping-up less often. Through the first two months, he popped-up 20.7 percent of his fly balls. Since June 1, he’s popped up 8.1 percent.
Odor simply wasn’t making quality contact. He didn’t hit his first home run until May 21st. Granted, he missed nearly a month with a hamstring strain, but for a guy who cracked 30 homers in 2017 even when he was bad, going 74 plate appearances without a home run is troubling.
After it took two months for Odor to hit his first home run, it took another month for him to hit his second. Since then, he’s hit 12 over 190 plate appearances. Over a full season (600 plate appearances), that would be a very respectable 38-home run pace, which is more more than he’s ever hit. He’s likely to slow down at some point, but he’s been on a great run.
Even if he doesn’t regress, he’ll still hit fewer home runs than he did last year when he was a bad hitter. He has, however, already eclipsed his walk total from last year with the help of his five-unintentional walk game. His swing rate hasn’t changed substantially. Odor is still a bit of a free-swinger, but he’s making better contact than he was in the beginning of the year. That likely has to do with a mechanical adjustment rather than a philosophical change.
One major change, is in his batting stance, which he adjusted pretty significantly. It is still an open stance, but he’s closed his front foot off by a few inches. He’s also holding his hands higher and he’s not resting his bat on his shoulder. Before, Odor kept his bat on his shoulder until the pitcher got into their windup. At that point, he would raise his hands. Here’s Odor as he gets ready for a pitch on May 26th.
Here’s Odor getting ready for a pitch on August 2nd.
Now, he keeps his hands up from the beginning, and he’s always had a lot of movement in his swing, and some of that is probably necessary to his timing. He’s cut some of that movement out, and he’s taking a more direct route to the ball. That’s likely the biggest contributor to the increase in quality of contact. He’s not swinging over the top as often or getting underneath it. He’s squaring the ball up.
The BABIP isn’t going to stay sky-high forever, but these adjustments to his stance can stick, and consequently, so can the improved numbers. It’s hard to say what Odor will be as a hitter going forward. He still has a fair amount of chase and whiff in his game, but he’s refining his mechanics. The discipline might come later or it might not. If it does, he could become a truly dangerous hitter.
Kenny Kelly is a writer for Beyond the Box Score, McCovey Chronicles, and BP Wrigleyville. You can follow him on Twitter @KennyKellyWords.