Around The Diamond: Gallo & Odor's Struggles Continue

Jared Sandler
May 29, 2018 - 11:19 am
Rougned Odor

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

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Thanks for reading my random baseball thoughts. I’ll always start with some thoughts from around the league and then I’ll give you my Rangers thoughts, too. Please feel free to share this weekly blog post on social media with your friends if you feel so inclined and never hesitate to engage with me on social media about my thoughts and opinions to further the discussion—that’s what this is all about!

Around the League

*A study commissioned by MLB yielded results that baseballs used from 2015-2017 were not juice, but that “changes in the aerodynamic properties of baseballs” led to increased carry and, well, increased home runs. What they didn’t find, however, was a reason for the property change. If you’re interested in more of the details of the study, Jeff Passan (Yahoo) wrote a great piece on it.

I don’t know how long the league we’ll utilize balls that carry more than what was considered normal in the past, but if the ball is in fact carrying more, it seems to diminish the need for gargantuan power and place a great emphasis on contact. I’m curious if this at all impacts approaches at the plate—probably not—and if it doesn’t, what triggers the cycle back to contact guys.

*Since MLB adopted the DH rule (1973), no season has ended with a combined league batting average lower than .251, which was the mark in 2014. There’s plenty of baseball left, but this year’s figure would shatter that low mark, relatively speaking, with the league hitting a combined .245. Base hits are fun and today’s game is seeing base hits at an all-time low rate. Home runs are fan, don’t get me wrong, but I love the feeling of a team putting together a rally by stringing together hits and that just doesn’t happen nearly as much these days. Oh well. It’s still a beautiful game.

*Brandon Belt is one of the most underrated players in baseball. The Giants’ first baseman gets overshadowed on his own team by guys like Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner, among others, and gets overshadowed by other first baseman like Joey Votto and Paul Goldschmidt, among others. Over his career, he’s slashed .271/.361/.467 (.829) and since 2015 his OPS is better than that of stars like Manny Machado, Carlos Correa, Adrian Beltre, Robinson Cano, and other players with way more star power than Belt. His .375 OBP since 2015 is 14th best in all of baseball. Yet, in spite of those numbers (and many more I could insert), he’s wandered Northern California as one of baseball’s best players about whom no one speaks. Maybe this year will change that.

*I had the pleasure of covering Carlos Gomez for a year and a half after the Rangers acquired him in the middle of the 2016 season. Upon his acquisition, there were a ton of questions about his character and how he’d fit in the clubhouse due to a reputation that suggested those questions were not only appropriate, but necessary. Carlos Gomez might be one of the more misunderstood players in baseball. He’s a rare combination of genuine, honest, raw, and compassionate. His personality and the amount of fun he demonstrates playing the game is what this game needs more of and not less. He sat down with Jeff Passan for a conversation of more than an hour and he was all of those aforementioned qualities. I hope you’ll consider giving it a listen.

*During my time at USC a part of the baseball program, we weren’t very good. We had some really good players who were high draft picks, a number of whom are current MLBers are guys in the minors with MLB experience, but we just didn’t win a lot. Our rival, UCLA, not only had some great players, but they won games. I guess when your rotation is led by Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer for three straight years, you’re bound to win some games. Those guys were unreal. Cole, who didn’t achieve the statistical success Bauer did, pitched with a fastball in the high 90s. Bauer, who was more polished of a pitcher at the time, had wicked stuff and was a strike out machine. I’ll never forget when, on a Saturday night at USC’s Dedeaux Field, he flirted with a perfect game into the 8th, ultimately striking out 15 on a complete game shutout. Lots of guys in our dugout played with guys in their dugout growing up so, despite the rivalry, there were a lot of friendships shared between both teams. We knew, without being in their clubhouse, that Cole and Bauer, polar opposites, didn’t really get along. Now that they’re both having career years, it’s unfortunate to know that their relationship remains non-existent. They’ll forever be linked and I hope they can patch things up at some point. There are many articles on their relationship with their Sunday showdown. Here’s one from Bob Nightengale.

Power Rankings

1. Houston Astros: Their SP gives them the edge over the two other top dogs in the AL.

2. Boston Red Sox: Tough to find a concerning flaw with them, I’m just taking Houston’s SP

3. New York Yankees: Their SP depth is a real concern and their bullpen isn’t bulletproof.

4. Washington Nationals: They’re a great combo of talented, young, and desperate.

5. Milwaukee Brewers: Their bullpen is unreal.

(St)Ranger Things

*Joey Gallo’s enduring a really rough month of May. He’s hitting .172 and leads baseball in strikeouts with 42 during the month. Before the year I was super-high on Gallo and, for the record, I still believe in his growth long-term, but he hasn’t gotten off to a great start in 2018 and it seems like his plate discipline has gone in the wrong direction. One of the reasons I was so high on Gallo was because of his second-half growth last year, an aptitude he demonstrated that portends very well for the future. He not only drew more walks and showed improved discipline, but he talked about his process and his learning of how pitchers were pitching him and how that pointed him towards the necessary adjustments. Actions always speak louder than words, but when a player can convey their process and put their growth points into words, it is always more reassuring.

Yet, this year, after drawing a walk every 7.09 PA last year, Gallo’s walking just once every 11.28 PA, a figure that’s around league average but below what someone with Gallo’s profile should yield. Gallo appears to almost be too aggressive at the plate. A lot of people like to compare Gallo and Judge because they’re both big, athletic outfielders with unreal power. When doing a side-by-side of some of their numbers, what really stood out was the difference in their aggression. So far this season, Judge is swinging at 36.1% of pitches, whereas Gallo is swinging at 50.3% pitches.

Gallo is just 24 and has already shown the ability to make adjustments as he did last season, so I’m not worried about Gallo never getting better, but the path for him to another step forward might include a little more selectivity at the plate.

*Rougned Odor’s 2018 season has not been the indication of his ability to make necessary adjustments the Rangers hoped it might as of yet. There’s nothing else to say other than that he’s struggled and those struggles look similar to the challenges he faced last year. It needs to noted that Rougie is only 24 years old. Some really good baseball players aren’t even in the bigs at 24 and even those who are there aren’t fully developed. But, the reality is that he hasn’t yet shown the ability to adjust, and without adjustments, the results won’t be there, and if the results aren’t there, his standing atop the second base depth chart will change. 

With that said, his lack of growth isn’t for a lack of effort. In talking to folks behind-the-scenes, Rougie’s working his tail off and is very coachable. I hear a lot of people cry that Rougie “is unwilling to change” or that he “doesn’t care” but that’s just not the case. Hitting is hard. The ability to recognize pitch types and locations is very hard. In my opinion, that’s where Rougie’s struggles exist. It isn’t about some stubbornness to hit home runs and nothing else. It’s a small step, but Rougie has the best walk rate of his career so far this year. He’s trying to take more bad pitches, but it still seems like until he better improves his recognition skills, the struggles will exist.

It is nice to see Odor bunting again. In 2015, he earned 7 bunt hits and in 2016 he did so 9 times. Last year as he began to really hone in on the home run ball? Just once. He bunted for a hit for the second time this year yesterday and based on the frequency in which he’s squaring around to bunt, I imagine that number will rise. I respect that he’s getting back to trying to get on-base and, in addition to that, bunting will influence the way teams shift him.

*Rangers fans interested in the farm system spend a lot of time talking about Willie Calhoun and Leody Taveras and Julio Pablo Martinez on the hitting side and Hans Crouse, Cole Ragans, Kyle Cody, Joe Palumbo, and Mike Matuella on the pitching side. Not enough fans are talking about 21-year old Jonathan Hernandez, a right-handed pitcher who's the son of Fernando Hernandez, a pitcher himself who, although he had a brief Major League career, had a long professional career. In 2017, Hernandez split his time between Hickory and Down East and posted a 3.44 ERA over 65.1 IP in the more advanced Carolina League with the Wood Ducks. For his efforts, he was invited to Big League camp during Spring Training as a reward. Returning to Down East, which is the immediate step below Frisco, Hernandez has dominated in 2018 with a 1.94 ERA over 46.1 IP with 62 K and just 16 BB with opposing hitters batting .176 against him.

My Trade Deadline Guiding Principles

1. Trying to come up with trade ideas between teams is a lot of fun. Examining potential trade partners and scouring farm systems to find fits is exciting. When doing this, please remember to ask yourself Why would the other team do this? I love receiving trade ideas from folks, but often the trade is noticeably lopsided in favor of their favorite team. So before you complete your trade idea, tell yourself why the other guys would want to make that deal, too.

2. Anyone who tells you they know with certainty what type of return in prospects a player can get you, is lying. We have no clue. In some cases, we can identify possibilities based on prospects with whom a trading team would not part, but beyond that, it’s a guessing game.

3. Pitching prospects are coveted and valued more nowadays than ever before. Every team wants them or wants to hold on to them. They aren’t easy to pry loose in a deal. Even the Astros, who unfortunately have one of the best rotations we’ve seen—maybe the best ever, when all is said and done—aren’t going to easily trade away pitching prospects.

4. Rumors are fun, but they are not only frequently smokescreens with little substance, but they don’t come close to encompassing the totality of actual discussions. For every rumor we hear about a certain player getting traded and a possible return for that player, there are ten possibilities discussed between the teams that don’t become public. The only things we ever really know with certainty are the deals that take place because, well, they happen. What we really don’t know, however, is how a certain offers evolves and from what offers a team chooses for a particular trade.