Rougned Odor Now Owns the Worst 30-Homer Season This Century
With the 2017 MLB regular season officially in the rearview mirror, now is a great time to take a quick look at some of the incredible numbers that players have posted.
Mike Trout is worthy of another American League MVP award, but the narrative is focused on Jose Altuve and Aaron Judge. In the National League, the race is wide open, so it'll be interesting to see whether Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, Joey Votto, or Paul Goldschmidt (or anyone else) can bring home the hardware.
But you know what else is a worthwhile exercise? Seeing which guys settle in at the other end of the spectrum. Kansas City Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar had been on pace for a historically bad offensive campaign in 2017, but he managed to avoid it. One person who didn't avoid making some sad history, though, is Texas Rangers second baseman Rougned Odor.
Although Odor's best overall season in the majors (when we use fWAR as the barometer) was in 2015 when he produced a 2.3-win season in 120 games played, it wouldn't be surprising to hear his 2016 campaign get more attention because of his power outburst -- he hit 25 home runs with a .175 ISO through his first 887 plate appearances (2014 and 2015), but out-produced those numbers in 2016 alone with 33 bombs and a .231 ISO in 632 plate appearances.
That performance, which culminated with a 106 wRC+ and .336 wOBA, was likely the driving force behind Texas wanting to lock the second baseman up to an extension before his arbitration years hit, which is exactly what happened.
The one thing Odor did in 2017 was follow up last year's campaign with more homers -- he hit another 30 dingers while adding 15 stolen bases (a single-season career high) in 651 plate appearances. He also appeared in all 162 games for the Rangers, which is a noteworthy accomplishment in today's game. However, he paired those good things with a ghastly .204/.252/.397 triple slash and a 24.9% strikeout rate.
His 4.9% walk rate still isn't great when considering the league-average rate settled in at 8.5%, but it was at least a step in the right direction. He accomplished this off the heels of posting a 3.0% walk rate in 2016, which was the lowest rate among qualified hitters. Odor's 52.8% swing rate in 2017 was still among the highest in the league, but it's a slight improvement from his 54.3% mark last year. It would've been nice to see his contact rates improve, but his chase rate did drop by over three percentage points while his swing rate within the strike zone increased by nearly three percentage points.
An overall decrease in offensive effectiveness paired with negative defensive ratings led to an fWAR of -1.0 this season, which technically makes him one of baseball's worst players in 2017.
Some Bad Luck?
The results clearly weren't there, but for the most part, Odor's batted-ball profile didn't look much different when comparing it to his 2016 campaign. The below table compares his line-drive rate (LD%), ground-ball rate (GB%), fly-ball rate (FB%), infield-fly rate (IFFB%), hard-hit rate (Hard%), and BABIP over the past two years.
Obviously, the biggest change among the numbers (outside of his BABIP) is that infield-fly rate, which actually makes his homer production more impressive since he wasn't squaring those pitches up quite the same way. But when we dig a little deeper and look at each batted-ball event, could one come to the conclusion that he got unlucky?
Odor's 38.0% hard-hit rate on fly balls is a smidge lower than what it was last year (41.8%), but his wRC+ took a big hit in this situation (180 in 2016 to 134 in 2017). We can already see that his line-drive rate dropped, but so did his results in that area -- despite raising his hard-hit rate just over one percentage point (54.2%), both his wRC+ (398 to 315) and BABIP (.750 to .634) took a dive.
The 23-year-old also increased his hard-hit rate on ground balls rather significantly (21.6% to 29.4%), but pulled more than two-thirds of his grounders for the second consecutive year. For a free-swinging, all-or-nothing kind of hitter like Odor, this presumably makes it easier for opposing teams to employ a shift when he steps to the plate.
So, we shouldn't necessarily expect Odor's BABIP to stay at the level he produced this year -- he owned a career .292 mark entering this year -- but it's not as if we can just point to bad luck as a main factor for a disappointing season.
Truly One of a Kind
Home runs are more common than ever in today's game, but still, posting a 30-homer campaign is something to be proud of. That goes up a notch when you can do it in consecutive seasons, as Odor has done.
Unfortunately, now that the dust has settled on the regular season, his 61 wRC+ ranks as the worst in baseball among qualified hitters. That alone is noteworthy, but we can once again go another level deeper when comparing this particular performance to other seasons of 30-plus homers since 2000.
Including this season, there have been a total of 505 instances of a player slugging at least 30 home runs this century. That 61 wRC+ from Odor is easily the lowest of them all (Tony Batista posted a 76 wRC+ in 2004). His .272 wOBA is also the worst (with Batista's .304 being the second worst), while the -1.0 fWAR he produced tied Mike Jacobs' 2008 campaign as the worst.
The homers were good, but Odor didn't do much else. However, there can at least be hope that he'll take his power potential and add it to a more well-rounded offensive approach for his age-24 campaign in 2018. Right? I mean, it doesn't seem like it could get much worse than this.