How Do You Hit 30 HR While Being the Worst Hitter in Baseball? Ask Rougned Odor

On the surface, Rougned Odor had a pretty decent 2017. He got paid $1.3 million, was healthy the whole season, and on top of it all, he hit 30+ home runs for the second straight season. That’s about it as far as good things go — Odor posted the single worst wRC+ and OBP of 2017 among qualifiers, and barely hit above the Mendoza line. Yes, someone who hit 30 home runs was worse at the plate than Alciedes “What’s an extra-base hit?” Escobar.

The fact that Odor hit such a milestone while being so terrible places him in unique company. Of all the sluggers who hit 30+ home runs this season, here’s where he ranks in wRC+.

Single Season wRC+ with 30+ HR (2017)

Single Season wRC+ with 30+ HR (2017)

Ouch. Almost every single player who hit 30+ HR in 2017 posted a wRC+ that was at least average, but Odor was 39 points below average.

If you’re reading this, Odor, please stop, because it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Actually, I lied, it doesn’t get better. It only gets worse.

Here’s how Odor’s season ranks historically among all seasons with 30+ home runs.

Single Season wRC+ with 30+ HR (All-Time)

Single Season wRC+ with 30+ HR (All-Time)

Words escape me. Hitting 30+ HR is typically a recipe for success. We’ve seen 1,292 individual seasons of 30+ HR, and in those seasons, 98.3% of those hitters posted a wRC+ of at least 100. In 99.9% of those seasons, those hitters posted a wRC+ of at least 70. Odor only barely broke 60, posting a wRC+ of 61.

Every single hitter who hit 30+ HR in a season posted an SLG over .400 — except Odor (.397), who finished 20 points behind the second-lowest SLG in a 30+ HR season, Dave Kingman’s 1985 season (.417).

Across individual seasons with 30+ HRs, hitters posted an average wRC+ of 143. Odor is about -3.45 standard deviations from the mean. For context, Babe Ruth’s 1921 season, where he hit 59 home runs, drove in 168 RBIs, and posted an OPS of 1.359, was +3.41 standard deviations from the mean.

In other words, Odor’s 2017 was a historical oddity.

Single Season wRC+ with 30+ HR (All-Time) Histogram

Single Season wRC+ with 30+ HR (All-Time) Histogram

How was Odor so brutally bad, in spite of hitting 30 home runs? Jeff Sullivan identified an issue with Odor back in June in that Odor was hitting too many pop-ups, leading to poor production. Compare Odor’s batted-ball data from 2016 to 2017. Odor’s batted balls didn’t change that much, aside from his infield pop-up rate almost doubling.

Rougned Odor Batted Ball Data, 2016-2017

Rougned Odor Batted Ball Data, 2016-2017

Essentially, Odor was still squaring up and hitting dingers, but the rest of his fly balls weren’t leaving the infield at the same rate that they were in 2016. Odor recorded 16 fewer extra-base hits in 2017 than he did in 2016 despite appearing in 12 more games.

Sullivan predicted that Odor wouldn’t finish “all that close to a wRC+ of 54” because Odor would adjust and correct his infield pop-ups. And yes, Odor did manage to adjust, dropping his IFFB% a good amount during the second half (first-half IFFB% of 20.6%, third-highest in the MLB, second-half IFFB% of 9.4%, 67th in the MLB), but Odor didn’t get that much better.

Rougned Odor's 15-Game Rolling IFFB%

In fact, Odor actually got worse in the second half — Odor posted a wRC+ of 69 in the first half, but only 50 in the second half. Despite cutting down on his biggest issue, Odor struggled even more.

Maybe it was just bad luck. Odor saw his BABIP drop by 46 points (.244 to .198) and his wOBA drop by 27 points (.284 to .257) from the first half to the second half despite his batted-ball data staying roughly the same, and his xwOBA dropped only from .288 to .281.

The portion of Odor’s production that relied upon home runs was still intact, but the rest of Odor’s production was practically non-existent. Odor doesn’t rely on walks, and the balls that he puts in play tend to run low BABIPs. So Odor’s non-home-run production is extremely BABIP-reliant and therefore extremely volatile, so when BABIP turned against Odor, the only form of production he could fall back on was home runs.

Odor’s 2017 resembled that of a three-true-outcomes hitter who doesn’t walk. For example, if we gave Odor’s BB% rate to his teammate, Joey Gallo, Gallo’s 2017 wOBA would drop from .364 to .296, which resembles Odor’s 2017 wOBA of .272 (the difference between the figures can be accounted for by Gallo’s higher HR/PA).

Take this as evidence that Odor could be a productive hitter. If, all other things held equal, he walked as much as Gallo did, his fly-ball-happy approach wouldn’t be so problematic. But he doesn’t, so Odor will need to radically change his approach at the plate to achieve consistent production.



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John Edwards is a card-carrying member of the Rob Deer Fan Club, and adheres to a strict diet of fastballs for breakfast. You can follow him @John_Edwards_. He writes about baseball for @sportingnews and @ItheunbalancedI.

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Dominikk85
Member

in short he was terrible in anything else than homers:
-lots of Ks
-no walks
-tons of Pop ups
-pulls everything (if on the ground it is an out albeit his raw ground rate isn’t high)

but another reason is of course that the baseline has changed so he can’t compensate for the other stuff as much with power anymore.

in the future we will see more below average hitters with 25+ homers simply because 25 is now only some above average and not really good anymore. that means a guy that is bad at the other stuff can easily a bad hitter despite a 200 ISO.

that might also mean that selling out for power isn’t as productive anymore. we want the ball off the ground but going totally pull everything in the air might not be that advisable due to the cost in BABIP and OBP unless you have really huge power (but then you don’t Need it anyway) or you have no other skill anyway and Need to maximize power Output to be even above replacement Level. for those Players it can actually make sense
to sell out for power since they are not going to hit anyway.

in the future we thus might see more unusual combinations like bad hitter who hits 28 HR but also is a great Defender and thus Overall above average. in the past defensive Players were often expected to slap the ball and make contact but in reality it doesn’t matter whether you create your 90 wRC+ with an empty .280 or .230 with 22 homers, it is just about the Overall value.

power will remain valuable but it is harder to stand out with it.

ideally odor will walk a Little more and make his Profile a Little more conservative but the question is whether he can do that or whether he is bad at those things anyway and Needs to sell out to maximize his only asset.

Jim
Member
Member
Jim

Good job. Good writing.

Dominikk85
Member

yes, really nice article

MaxFreeze7
Member

Great article! When you put Odor’s season in historical context, it’s almost unbelievable.

It’s hard to believe that Odor managed such a low BABIP in the 2nd half while cutting his IFFB% from 20.6% to 9.4%. That 11.2% more balls in play that actually have a chance of being a hit yet his BABIP dropped to below .200 from an already low .244. I think bad luck had to play a roll in his 2nd half.

xStats pegged him for .230/.276/.415. Not great by any means but like you said who the hell knows with Odor’s poor approach.

Dominikk85
Member

BTW I do think that some bad luck was involved. he was bad but he still got absolutely zero out of his non homered batted balls.

so even without changing anything I expect some bounce back but still he probably is an average hitter at best with 30 HR and with anything less he is almost unplayable.

if he wants to stick in the majors he needs to develope at least a minimum of plate discipline (say 5-6% walks, ideally more). If you want to succeed as a 25+K% 3BB% guy you need to get more out of your batted balls and also get some hits that are not homers.

Meir-w
Member
Meir-w

Great stuff!

35th and Not James Shields
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Member
35th and Not James Shields

John,

Very thorough examination of Mr. Odor and what ails him. Love the graphs. Look forward to your next research.

Henry Still
Member
Member

What program did you use for the graphs?