Be honest–there was a point in time when you thought that Jake Odorizzi simply would not cut it. After he tossed six shutout innings against the Texas Rangers in his season debut on April 4th, Odorizzi allowed at least three runs in his next five starts, failing to surpass five innings in any of them. He looked excellent the first time he faced opposing batting orders, but he unremittingly struggled once hitters saw him the second time around. There were calls to make him into a long reliever or send him down to Triple-A. However, Odorizzi finally broke through on May 9th, striking out 11 in five shutout innings, and his results the remainder of the season speak for themselves.
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From May 9th through the end of the year, Jake Odorizzi went 10-10 with a 3.59 ERA, striking out 148 while walking just 45 in 140.1 innings pitched. His fastball up in the zone became a weapon to pair with his newfound split-change, and his slider and curveball became bigger parts of his arsenal as well. After results like that, Odorizzi has a rotation spot locked down for next season and looks to be a crucial piece of the Rays’ future plans. The only pity is that Odorizzi could not adjust quite quickly enough to get more acclaim throughout baseball.
The funny thing, though, is that even in a season where it took him a while to acclimate himself to big league level, Odorizzi was still acknowledged, albeit in a subtler way. He tied for eighth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting by getting one third-place vote. That’s what he did with one hand behind his back! Many of the players who received votes come with reasons for skepticism, reasons to believe that their performances in their initial seasons were flukes. Jake Odorizzi, in contrast, went 11-13 with a 4.12 ERA on the season, and few of the other players can make you exclaim “he can be so much better than those numbers” like he can.
Were the last five months of Jake Odorizzi’s rookie season the start of him becoming better than we thought? Even it they are not, the Rays have to be impressed by the way Odorizzi overcame his rough start. This was not the way that the Rays pictured Odorizzi’s rookie year going, but that is perfectly fine. Some more pitching like he delivered, and that lone Rookie of the Year vote will be the first of many award votes he will receive before his career is through.