Soriano by the Pitches
Hoping to understand Alfonso Soriano's hot and cold streaks this year, I turned to the incomparable Fan Graphs to break down his present and historical success against different pitches. The results suggest that Soriano is losing the skill that made him one of the more feared hitters in the game, but that he might have found a method to compensate for this loss. Below is a chart showing the percentage of fastballs Soriano has seen each year since 2005, with 2009 broken down per month. It also shows his ranking among hitters seeing the fewest fastballs, his "runs above average" number on fastballs, (wFastball) and how high he ranks among all hitters, and his overall OPS. (As in, not specific to fastballs) The most important thing to notice here is his wFB rank.
|Date||Fastball%||FB% Rank||wFastball||wFB Rank||OPS|
You probably have noticed a couple of striking trends going on here. First, Soriano has progressively moved from being one of the most effective hitters in baseball against the fastball to being quite pedestrian. Second, pitchers have not noticed and adapted to this change: They contiue to avoid throwing fastballs to Soriano as if he were the same hitter he was in 2005. He's not.
So how do we explain Soriano's April and July, when he hit like the hitter for whom the Cubs offered that premium contract?
Finding that answer requres looking at Soriano's results swinging at sliders.
|Date||Slider %||SL % Rank||wSlider||wSL Rank||OPS|
It makes sense that if pitchers fear Soriano's ability to hit the fastball, they would throw him an inordinate number of sliders, and indeed the table indicates Soriano consistently sees among the most sliders in the game. Throughout his career Soriano has proven to be one of the weaker hitters against sliders.
This potentially could be a toxic combination: A fastball hitter who no longer can hit fastballs, and still doesn't see any fastballs to boot. But then look at the two months this year that Soriano has hit: April and July. The numbers indicate that Soriano's output isn't due to hitting fastballs with the authority to which he is accustomed; instead he's hitting sliders in a way that he previously did not. Well.
Of course, other factors might be at work as well, but if so I have yet to find an obvious candidate. Such marked changes do not appear when looking at Soriano's results against other pitch types. Neither does plate discipline seem to be the issue. Soriano is both swinging at fewer pitches outside of the strikezone this year, and making more contact when he does swing - both at pitches inside and out of the zone, and it shows no meaningful fluctuation from month to month in 2009. His BABIP shows severe fluctuations from month to month, but that appears to be driven by corresponding changes in his line-drive percentage, so there's nothing unusual there.
Assuming that these stats do reveal a truth about the real world (I know, I know), there are several questions to consider going forward. Most obvious, what is the cause behind Soriano's diminish returns against fastballs? Is it that he now has a "slider speed bat"? Is it a matter of approach at the plate, where he has stopped guessing fastball in order to better hit the breaking stuff? The latter can be fixed, the former, not so much. Looking at how consistent the downward trend is, my hunch is that it's the former, a slow erosion in the speed of his bat. If it's the former, and Soriano is losing some quickness in the swing, will we see him move away from his preference for heavy bats? And will he be able to compensate by consistently hitting sliders with the results found in April and July? Then, there are questions concerning how pitchers resond. At what point will pitchers adjust to the fact that Soriano does not hit fastballs with the authority he once did, and adjust their pitch selection? There may be a lot riding on these questions.
Update: I was unaware of it as I wrote, but less than a month ago R.J. Anderson at Fan Graphs wrote about how few fastballs Soriano sees. He doesn't mention either Soriano's historical trend of diminishing results on the fastball, or the weird fluctuations this year on the sliders; instead he reaffirms the notion that Soriano is a good fastball hitter and the problem is in the dearth of fastballs he sees. I think he may be wrong there, but I should at least try to be a good scholar and cite the work.
Nicely done! I think in my 10-14 games I went .500 or a little over. Strangely, I went to the Cards games they mostly lost (incl Saturday) and the one SF game they lost, plus a couple Brewers games they lost, too. I should have gone to just Reds games. But still - saw mostly very good baseball on the North Side this year. Regardless of what happens come October - the Cubs are positioned for some good times in the next 3-5 years.
First Cub victory at home this year for me!
Saw all four starters this year
RIP Arnie. We could use a lot more like you -- a man who succeeded and failed on his own terms, a true original, and, finally, a remarkable example of graciousness towards others.
Cubs finish 33 over at home. I was, personally, one game over at 3-2, which was one of my better years in a while.
I do hope that's the last time we see the Cardinals this year. A lot of power, which is dangerous, particularly in a short series, and they have really shut down KB all year.
Oh, and Jon Lester? Damn!
Yes. Boating accident at 3AM. Very sad, but stupid. Young men do stupid things.
lester puts 2 on and is taken out at 96 pitches. oh well.
2 out in the 7th, lester at 84 pitches, ross taken out for the standing O.
it's possible contreras will catch lester for another inning+.
What a weird day. Jose Fernandez and Arnold Palmer, but then Scully and, on a much more modest level, Ross....
d.ross gets his 2nd standing O on the night (last home game of the season)...hits HR #10...curtain call. baseball.
as a fan, he only "owes" us the game on the field and not getting in the way of others on his team being ready to play (imo).
it's exponentially worse to his family and friends, but this dude most likely had 15+ years of play left and even though he just turned 24 a couple months ago he had already established himself as a top guy in the game.
Carrie Muskat [email protected]
Updated #Cubs probs vs Pirates: Mon, Hendricks vs Kuhl; Tue, Lackey vs Vogelsong; Wed, Arrieta vs Taillon; Thu, Zastryzny vs Nova
I know what you're trying to say, Charlie, that none of us feels what his loved ones must be feeling.
On the other hand, what makes a death like this tragic is precisely the loss, based on Fernandez's youth and brilliance, to the baseball world.
So, for example, we can say that Princess Diana's death meant more, in aggregate, to millions of admirers who didn't know her personally than to her loved ones.
boston pitching snags a couple of mlb team records...
"Over nine innings of play, Boston's staff struck out 11 straight Tampa Bay Rays hitters Sunday, breaking the major-league record for most consecutive strikeouts in a game.
The previous record was held by former New York Mets right-hander Tom Seaver, who struck out 10 straight hitters in 1970.
Not only that, but with a strikeout to end the ninth, sending the game into extras, Boston's staff also struck out an MLB-record 21 batters over nine innings."
What a loss to baseball, which I'm sure pales in comparison to the personal loss to his loved ones.
Somehow I am sensing alcohol was involved. The highest number of boating accidents by a wide margin...