Texas Rangers

This lesson learned in 2018 could give Rangers’ Odor first consistent season of career

A quick rundown of Rougned Odor’s career:

2014: Pretty good.

2015: Really bad, then pretty good.

2016: Really good.

2017: Really bad.

2018: Really bad, then really good, then good.

The only thing Odor has been consistent with his entire career is being inconsistent, often wildly so. But if 2018 showed anything, it showed progress after he spent time on the disabled list for the first time.

He started taking the walks that he wouldn’t take early in his career, and he started zeroing in more on pitches he could handle rather than just swinging at pitchers’ pitches.

Despite the track record of inconsistency at the plate, 2019 might become Odor’s most consistent season yet because of 2018.

“For me, it was a big year,” Odor said. “I’d never been on the DL before, and it was tough. Watching a game on TV is really hard for me. I was not hitting, but that’s why I say it was a good year – I learned a lot of things.”

Odor knows that slumps happen. They happen to the best hitters in the game, but they don’t last because they know how to shake free from them. They trust their approach at the plate.

Odor didn’t know that, or didn’t know how to apply it, going into 2018 after a season that saw him hit 30 homers but post only a .204 average. He beat that last season by nearly 50 points, batting .253 after sinking as low as .169 in May.

But he wasn’t chasing pitches out of the strike zone as much, and he started waiting on pitches he understood he could handle. That’s something he had heard from hitting coaches, but it started to sink in after listening to and watching the stubborn Shin-Soo Choo.

If the pitcher wouldn’t throw one of his pitches, Odor would let them pass as Choo often does. As result, Odor piled up walks at a career-high rate.

In all, he took 43 walks, 22 of them in July and August as he launched 13 of his 18 homers on the season.

“I was not trying to get walks, but I was trying to be selective at the plate to hit my pitch,” Odor said. “I think that helped me a lot in the second half, because I was not swinging at the bad pitches. I was making the pitcher throw my pitch.”

So the wild swings from season to season, and even within a season? A thing of the past, Odor says. If that proves to be true, he could once again be a force in the middle of first-year manager Chris Woodward’s lineup.

“I think I know how to handle that, and I don’t think it’s going to happen anymore,” he said. “It’s going to happen, but it’s not going to happen that long.”

Third baseman Asdrubal Cabrera, who played the vast majority of his games last season at second, could be used at second to give Odor days off, and backup catcher Isiah Kiner-Falefa might be called upon if needed. But Odor, who played all 162 games in 2017, is a fixture at second for the Rangers.

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