I won’t sugar-coat it; it’s been a rough go at the dish for Rougned Odor. After starting the season 5 for 18 with four strikeouts, Odor is 6 for his last 60 (.100 batting average) with 27 strikeouts even after a productive Sunday afternoon. What exactly is the issue with Odor at the plate? Is it his demeanor at the dish? Is his focus lacking?
The answer is not that simple, or at least has the proper evidence to back it up. If you take a look at how Rougie’s plan of attack, it’s the same approach the rest of the guys take. Work the count, try to get ahead, and make the pitcher use his full arsenal and execute. The first three tasks have been a complete success. In 2019, Odor is seeing 4.43 pitches per plate appearance (3.72 is the highest peak in his career). He’s fouling more pitches off (3.7% increase from 2018). Also, Rougie is seeing 2-0 and 3-1 counts at a more rapid pace than in earlier years.
Chris Woodward talked after Wednesday’s loss to the Pirates about Odor. In the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers had a shot with runners on second and third and two outs. It was Rougie’s spot in the lineup after Choo struck out. Woodward proceeded to make a move to pinch hit Hunter Pence for Odor.
Woody was direct after the game with the media and with Odor himself. “I told Rougie, we have Pence on the bench; he’s swinging a hot bat.” Woodward added, “I actually said it to him, I hope that in the near future I never have to pinch hit for you. It hurts to have to do that because I felt like he’s going to be one of our foundation players, I had a good talk with him before the game. Every pitch, every at-bat matters, we have a guy on the bench in Hunter Pence especially if it’s a left-handed pitcher [Felipe Vazquez].”
Woodward added on that he feels Rougie is looking better overall. However he said he may express the idea of dropping him down in the lineup to take some pressure off. It falls into a similar situation with Jose LeClerc and his struggles in the closer’s role in the past few weeks. The approach is there with Odor, but the results have nothing to show on the hard work Odor has put in this season. On Saturday, Odor did drop to sixth in the lineup. However, Woodward emphasized before the game that the change wasn’t due to Rougie’s current slump. However, the lineup card on Sunday showed Rougie in the sixth slot again.
The most logical answer is his timing. Odor’s success with the fastball has always been in Rougie’s repertoire. However, in 2019 Odor looks like he’s late on most fastballs that he’d be able to grip the barrel on the bat and mash.
Demoting Rougie to AAA Nashville is not going to fix the issue, especially considering Odor is seeing the baseball well, just not connecting. In addition, Odor’s defense hasn’t lacked at all. In less than 166 innings, Odor hasn’t committed an error this season. It builds on a 2018 campaign where Odor committed nine errors in 1084.2 innings.
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If the struggles continue, I do expect to see Odor dropping in the lineup temporarily. It didn’t help Rougie’s cause missing a few weeks with a knee sprain too. Patience is the key, for Odor, Woodward, the Rangers, and the fans. There were signs of Rougie weathering the funk with three hard hit balls on Sunday against the Blue Jays. If Odor starts directing away from patient plate appearances, and his focus defensively suffers, then you have a problem.
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