In what’s already been written off as a lost season, the Texas Rangers have won seven out of their last eight games, to improve to 15 games below .500.
Has the schedule been soft? Sure. Has the starting pitching improved? No question. But perhaps the most noteworthy storyline of the team’s recent improved play has been the performance of enigmatic second baseman Rougned Odor at the plate.
Odor’s season- and arguably his career- could best be described as a rollercoaster so far. He signed a contract extension after a strong 2016, but struggled in every offensive category besides power in 2017.
In 2018, he found himself on the disabled list with a significant injury for the first time in his career, missing a month, and struggled at the plate through upon his return in May and on into June.
Since July 1, it’s been a completely different story. He began that month hitting .229 with a .300 on-base percentage and .351 slugging percentage. Now, he’s hitting .348 with a .443 on-base percentage and a .663 slugging percentage.
He also slugged 6 home runs and drove in 12 RBI, with four of those dingers coming in his final nine July contests. His hot stretch culminated last Saturday’s win over Houston, when he recorded a 5-5 day at the plate, blasting two homers- highlighted by an inside-the-parker.
It sounds cheesy and cliché, but this rapid improvement in Odor’s offensive game has been keyed by his approach at the plate.
He walked 16 times over the month of June and July. Those numbers don’t jump off the page compared to the league’s elite eyes at the plate, but it’s a definite improvement over his paltry two in the month of May.
Last year, his strikeout to walk ratio (132-32) was apt to make anyone’ stomach turn. This season, he’s still striking out much more than he’s drawing walks, but his 2018 K/BB ratio is a much more tolerable 78-27.
This change in approach showed itself in full force in Thursday’s win over Baltimore, when Odor did something that no other Major League player had done prior- draw 5 walks (none intentional), and hit a home run in a single nine-inning game.
None of baseball’s “Mount Rushmore” of on-base superstars- Not Barry Bonds, nor Mark McGwire or Kevin Youkilis- have accomplished this in-game feat.
His .349 on-base percentage now ranks Top-25 in the American League. This is confirmation that Odor is no longer a liability or a foregone strikeout victim every time up, and steadily improving to an above-average performer at the MLB level.
Odor’s “all or nothing” play style has yielded some highlight plays and eye-popping numbers in the first five years of his career. But his in-season turnaround is perhaps the most interesting storyline of this “lost” Rangers season.
This hot streak has helped inspire fans’ confidence not only in Odor as a player, but also his contract, and notably- the chance that the coaching staff could catalyze a similar turnaround with teammate and fellow slugger with similar struggles- Joey Gallo.
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