At first glance, Rougned Odor’s .169/.269/.373 (86 wRC+) batting line leaves a lot to be desired, especially when Aaron Boone pencils him into the cleanup spot on occasion. His as-advertised power is present (.203 ISO, 4 homers in 67 PA), but his on-base percentage needs to be better. Considering that Odor ran a .197/.268/.433 (74 wRC+) triple-slash in his final two seasons in Texas, perhaps there’s no upside here.
Then again, maybe Odor deserves better than his results to date. And no, it’s not as simple as pointing at his absurdly low .130 BABIP and stating the second baseman has been unlucky. Rather, if you venture over to Baseball Prospectus and pull up Rougie’s player page, you’ll notice that the 27 year-old owns a 114 DRC+. It seems pretty hard to fathom Odor hitting 14 percent better than league average, but that’s what BP’s batting metric indicates (with a +/- of 21, mind you). Odor’s DRC+ is third-highest on the Yankees, behind Aaron Judge and Kyle Higashioka.
I’m not going to pretend I have a deep understanding of DRC+ as compared to wRC+ or OPS+. That being said, it’s interesting to see such a stark difference between DRC+ and other metrics’ evaluation of Odor. In simple terms, BP describes its metric as follows: “DRC+ differs from other (public) hitting metrics in that it focuses on each hitter’s expected contribution, rather than merely averaging the result of hitter PAs”. So while wRC+ and OPS+ look at Odor’s terrible results, DRC+ does a deeper dive. And interestingly enough, even though DRC+ doesn’t appear to be descriptive in the way wRC+ and OPS+ are, it’s statistically more descriptive (and predictive) than those two. So, there must be good things to come for Odor, right?
DRC+ isn’t infallible, but that there is a public metric in his favor is encouraging. Plus, it’s not like there aren’t more easily digestible numbers pointing upward too. It’s a bit easier to believe DRC+ may be on to something because Odor has improved drastically in terms of plate discipline. I don’t think anyone expected that. Not after he had struck out in 30.9 percent of plate appearances from 2019 through 2020.
Odor has merely a 13.4 percent K-rate thus far with the Yankees, putting him in the 90th percentile of MLB. He’s really cut down on his propensity to swing-and-miss (obviously), but this is particularly true against changeups. Odor swung through offspeed pitches roughly a quarter of the time in recent years, but this season, he’s below 10 percent. He’s also drastically reduced how often he expands the zone on all pitches. The second baseman has cut his chase rate to 24.2 percent, easily a career best.
Odor’s seemingly newfound ability to put the ball in play is likely a big driver for his above-average DRC+. The next step he’ll need to take is better contact quality. We know from the past that Odor can crush the ball. Look no further than 2019, when his hard hit rate (85th percentile) and barrel rate (92nd percentile) were elite. This year, he’s in the 55th and 45th percentiles for those two, respectively.
My one worry is that Odor’s tradeoff of fewer strikeouts has led to decreased contact quality. While he’s run up a few high exit velocities in his time in pinstripes (77th percentile max exit velocity), there have also been a ton of weakly hit pop-ups and grounders mixed in. Odor’s 46 percent ground ball rate is the highest he’s posted since his rookie season. His 16 percent pop-up rate is a career-worst too. Last year, he popped up 15.1 percent of balls in play after never posting a mark above 11.6 percent beforehand.
Even if my tradeoff concern is accurate, it’s not like Odor can’t be productive with his current contact quality. For what it’s worth, Statcast clearly indicates that his results are significantly short of his expected results. He’s running a .264 xBA and .366 xwOBA, both well above the .169 and .285 actuals. Now, there’s a big flaw in xBA and xwOBA I should point out. They’re purely based on exit velocity and launch angle with no consideration for hit direction, so do keep that in mind. But again, at least these expected metrics seem in line with what DRC+ is indicating: Odor is better than what we’ve seen so far.
Deserved and expected metrics are great and all, but better results need to come sooner rather than later. Luke Voit will return to the lineup this month, and when he does, Odor will lose regular playing time. He may still play two or three times a week, but consistent opportunities to right the ship will evaporate.
The Yankees made a bet on Odor when the team acquired him, as Jaime wrote. So far, it hasn’t quite panned out. He’s had some clutch hits, but he hasn’t been a steady run producer. That doesn’t mean it’s time to write off Odor, though. That would be the easy thing to do given his top line numbers and recent seasons in Texas. There are still too many underlying positives for Odor to give up just yet.