Texas Rangers: What’s going wrong with Rougned Odor this time?
By Travis Koch
Texas Rangers’ second baseman Rougned Odor has reached a new low, and that’s saying a lot. His poor play is putting his new manager in a tough spot.
Rougned Odor’s extreme highs and lows have grown tired. He has great ability and there have been times throughout his career in which he’s been one of the better second basemen in the game. However, in 694 games wearing a Texas Rangers’ uniform, he seems to have hurt his team more than he has helped it.
2016 has been his best season to date. He knocked 33 homers that year, hit .271 and drove in 88 runs. The Rangers were so impressed and so sold on his talent that they signed him to a 6-year, $49.5 million contract at the start of the 2017 campaign.
The concerns began that year. Despite 30 home runs off the bat of Odor, a .204 batting average and .252 OBP were significant steps back from the year prior. It didn’t help when opened the first two months of 2018 hitting .206 and .203, with a combined one home run, .275 OBP and sub-.300 SLG. The outcries piled on and only grew louder regarding his poor play.
Then, like the snap of two fingers, his flaws disappeared and he became an entirely new player. His defense went from below average to Gold Glove caliber, his plate discipline went from lackluster to noble and his metrics went from sorry to impressive. Odor ended 2018 with a slash line of .253/.326/.424 and 18 long balls. He vastly overcame a horrendous start to the year.
Having played a great second half of the 2018 season, the consensus was Rougned Odor had finally figured his game out. He followed that up with a nice spring and hopes were high entering the 2019 regular season.
Thus far in 2019, the 25-year-old is hitting .122 with a .207 OBP and .189 SLG. His OPS+ of 4 is absolutely dreadful, as 100 is considered league average. He’s struck out in 42% of his at-bats and he’s failed on 60% of his stolen base attempts.
He has reached a new low.
Pitchers are disposing of Odor with ease. Fastballs on the outer half of the plate are consistently being fouled off, missed or rolled over. There isn’t really any reason to throw him anything else at the moment. Though, it’s not like he’s having any success against other pitches either.
Odor’s chase rate is actually 5% lower this year than it was last year. That’s encouraging but scary at the same time. That tells you that he’s laying off balls and pursuing strikes, but he’s not doing anything with the strikes. In fact, his contact percentage on pitches thrown inside the strike zone is down 9% from 2018.
He’ll likely figure things out as the season progresses. He did last year, and he can’t get much worse this year. The problem is he’s so bad right now that he really doesn’t have a place in the Texas Rangers lineup. He’s essentially an automatic out, plus middle infielders Danny Santana and Logan Forsythe have been far more productive at the plate. Texas is a better team with either of them in the lineup in lieu of Odor.
Odor’s talent, potential and contract always prevail, however. The Rangers certainly don’t want to send a $50 million player to the minor leagues. They’d rather afford him everyday playing time and wait for him to shake his slump. But how many more of these two-three month slumps can the Rangers endure?
Three games out of first place in the AL West, the Texas Rangers are a competitive bunch this season. Their offense has been among the MLB’s best in spite of a struggling Rougned Odor. Given their early season success, you would think they would want to put their optimal lineup on the field on a daily basis. As long as Odor is part of it, Texas will not be doing so.
I don’t envy the position Odor has put manager Chris Woodward in. Woodward is responsible for composing the best lineup, but he’s also responsible for instilling confidence in the squad’s age 25 second baseman. Woodward did drop Odor in the batting order last night, though he is continuing to play Odor every game.
Is Woodward handling the dilemma the right way? Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. It’s my job to speculate, it’s his to manage. What we can all agree on, however, is that Rougned Odor is currently performing at an unacceptable level.