Alfonso Soriano

Cubs Hitting Coach Jaramillo Gets 3/2.4

Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

It looks like Jim Hendry accomplished the first splash of the offseason. Rudy Jaramillo is the new Cubs hitting coach. The highly respected Jaramillo has signed a 3 year, $2.42 million deal (according to a David Kaplan tweet and a Bruce Levine/ESPN post) to spin his 5 point hitting magic on Cub hitters both young and old ($800K a year, but we all know you-know-who likes to write back loaded contracts). Bruce Levine reports that Jaramillo will fly to Chicago Wednesday to meet with Cubs officials and after he officially signs his new contract, will attend a mid-afternoon press conference. Jaramillo has spent the last 15 seasons with the Texas Rangers and sports the resume of helping the likes of Mark DeRosa, Michael Young, Lee Stevens and early in their careers, Sammy Sosa and Jeff Bagwell. He won the Baseball America's Major League Coach of the Year in 2005.

The Cubs hope he can fix whatever was broken last year with Alfonso Soriano who still has 5 years left on his contract. Soriano in his 2 years with the Rangers loved working with Jaramillo.   Soriano said, ‘We had very good communication because he speaks Spanish. He’s very good and smart. He works very hard, too.’’

The Solution

Allyssa Milano says have a happy Labor day holiday. 
Just a little rant from me after a game where Soriano left his pants on the left field chalk line. After he did the pretzel dance, I thought that chalk outline was from a CSI scene. Someone should press criminal charges for that effort.Tired ol' Lou Piniella just grunts and shrugs his shoulders. "Ah, ah, ah...Whaddya expect me to do about it?" Clearly he's been beaten into submission by overexposure to Cubbery.

After torturing myself by listening to local sports talk outlets, with the only brief reprieve coming from occasional banter about a meaningless preseason Bears game, I think I've had enough pain to land on my own personal DL. Steve Stone with glee in his voice said, "that's what you get for playing a DH in left field." I get the message. Listening how the Cubs are held hostage to their long term contracts with no end in sight (well it's 3-5 years before we see the end to this tunnel), forcing them to play overpaid, under performing players (Soriano in the role of 40/40 guy and Bradley in the role of rbi machine) or under performing players with a brief track record of performance (Geo Soto, Kevin Gregg, The not-Hanks...Aaron Miles and Heilman) or under performing players without a track record of performance (better when in small doses, Fonte-NOT), it dawned on me that there is a simple solution. 

They Shoot Horses Don't They?

Apparently Alfonso Soriano's cranky left knee was bothering him enough during his outfield play this past Friday that his plans to get an elective MRI (magnetic resonance image) in a few weeks got moved up to Saturday morning since he wasn't going to start today. In this video interview he says it's been sore for four months but with (approximately) 40 games left why can't he keep playing with the same pain? The pain seems to bother him more when he runs (rather than when he hits) so it's affecting his limited outfield abilities and I expect it's been a factor regarding his on and mostly off offense this season too.

Soriano was in no hurry to get the MRI as recently as this week.  He originally expected to take the time to get it on their next day off, Sept 10th (after returning from the trip to NY and Pitt), but his limp became more noticeable after his game winning 3 run HR on Friday so they moved it up to Monday and when it was clear he couldn't start today they sent him for the test this morning.

Carrie Muskat from cubs.com reports that the MRI results just showed inflammation and the outfielder will likely get a cortisone shot (based on the manager's postgame comments) and be sidelined a few days. From the horses mouth, in the postgame interview, Lou Piniella said  the team orthopedic specialist (probably Dr. Gryzlo) will look at Soriano on Sunday, and he most likely will get a cortisone shot to alleviate the pain.

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
2005  47.9  147/147  27.6  15/147  .821

2006

 54.1  150/159  23.7  25/159  .911
2007  54  150/161  23.3  27/161  .897
2008  53.2  134/145  17.9  38/145  .876
April 2009  45.9  196/197  3.3  55/197  .965

May 2009

 43  185/185  3.6  60/185  .657
June 2009  49.1  180/184  2.4  72/184  .585
July 2009  44.8  190/190  .7  112/190  .992
August 2009  36.7  179/190  -.6  156/190  .220

 

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.

Sometimes It Feels As If We're Dropping Like Flies

Saturday, 10 AM UPDATE: Bruce Levine's ESPN AM-1000, Talkin' Baseball radio show from this saturday morning has updates
on Soriano's injury saying it's just a jammed finger and not a
dislocation. Also, Lilly's knee symptoms are related to a meniscus problem
and Dempster may just miss one more start.

Also he interviewed Oneri Fleita (Cubs VP of Player Personnel)
who comments on all things in the Cubs minor league system as well as
the recent rule 4 amateur draft, saying 2nd round pick LSU infielder DJ LeMahieu is close to signing.


A dark cloud seems to loom even with a two game winning streak after tonight's 3-1 win vs the Gnats.  So I ask, is dropping like flies worse than dropping flys?

This is not following Lou Piniella's script for the 2nd half of the season:

1) Get Healthy and Stay Healthy

2) Score runs

The "Road to Wrigley" game with the Iowa Cubs vs the Vegas 51's isn't coming until August 9th but it looks like the Iowa Cubs will be staying with their parent club just a bit longer, as two more Cub starters are possibly out for days and maybe more.

 

 

 

In the friday night 6-2 win against the Nationals, Alfonso Soriano dislocated his right little "pinky" finger (his throwing hand) in a base running mishap during the 4th inning. He singled to center on a play where DLee was on second but Lee rounded third and held there based on a strong but high throw to the plate by Nyjer Morgan. The catcher, Josh Bard caught the throw well in front of the plate then caught Soriano half way between first and second in an 8-2-6-4 putout. On the replay you can see that Soriano jammed his hand sliding into the base and he pulled on the finger right away apparently reducing the dislocated knuckle. The Comcast telecast also showed Soriano getting treatment from trainer Mark O'Neal as soon as he got back to the dugout but he stayed in the game and even batted again (he grounded out to 3B in the 6th and walked in the 9th). This type of injury doesn't swell until a few hours later but once the swelling develops the finger stiffens up making it hard to grip things (like a baseball or a bat).

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  • trevor clifton (high-A) could be interesting in a couple seasons...could even become a high/middle rotation guy. he's got a lot of pluses in his pitching except control.

    eric leal's (high-A) progression through the minors should be worth watching even if only projects to be an mid/end-rotation starter.

    we also gotta keep a long-distance eye on guys like jose paulino (ss-A) and preston morrison (A).

    crunch 2 hours 27 min ago view
  • As Johnny Bach used to say when it was time for the MJ Bulls to crank up the defensive pressure: "Release the Dobermans!", and Jordan, Pippen, Rodman and Harper would just suffocate the other team.

    I'd love to add Carl Jr. to that group - he's got the stuff.

    billybucks 2 hours 47 min ago view
  • Historically, the Moneyball guys have been great at identifying productive hitters. Not so much with pitchers.

    billybucks 2 hours 48 min ago view
  • Wow - Pierce Johnson with an ERA of 8.01 in 42IP!

    What a stud prospect! Must be pitching with a pierced johnson.

    Looks like Ryan Williams is the only legit prospect there. That is sad...

    The E-Man 2 hours 50 min ago view
  • Well it would seem that's all they need now. "Stropy" can have his moments, but he's been more consistent post-asg.

    The E-Man 2 hours 59 min ago view
  • Take THAT, Cardinals -- you beat Fernandez, we beat Sale.

    I really like Lackey as a 6-inning pitcher.

    billybucks 3 hours 26 min ago view
  • Three amigos? Because the Dominican, the Venezuelan, and the Cuban?

    Maybe the three-headed dragon?

    John Beasley 3 hours 42 min ago view
  • Who says Contreras can't frame? Stone cold robbery of Eaton with that called third strike for the first out in the eighth

    Eric S 4 hours 13 min ago view
  • Three amigos time?

    7-8-9th

    jacos 4 hours 28 min ago view
  • he should hit more of those. that would be an ideal outcome. /moneyballs

    crunch 8 hours 44 min ago view
  • Russell with 19 RBI in July so far. Grand Slams help.

    billybucks 9 hours 25 min ago view
  • ...and Familia with back-to-back blown saves. Blows a one-run lead vs. Rockies today, gets his 2nd consecutive loss.

    I am OK with the Mets missing the playoffs and suffering crushing losses at home --- just want them to beat St. Louis.

    He played with fire twice agains the Cubs -- unfortunately, the Cubs couldn't stop swinging.

    billybucks 9 hours 29 min ago view
  • How about Kyle Farnsworth? I know he was consistently upper 90s.

    videographer 11 hours 24 min ago view
  • If he puts up Soriano numbers I will be ecstatic

    jacos 13 hours 12 min ago view
  • I think Javy is learning--but he's learning to make contact, not learning to lay off pitches out of the zone. A quick glance at his plate discipline numbers on Fangraphs shows that his contact rate is up, especially his contact rate out of the zone, but his swing rate is up too, especially his swing rate out of the zone.

    Charlie 13 hours 46 min ago view
  • I definitely saw ballpark radar guns go up to 102 on Kerry Wood back when he was still a starter, but who knows how accurate they were.

    Charlie 14 hours 9 sec ago view