Alfonso Soriano Dislikes Slow Things

It took long enough, but it seems the National League has discovered the secret to Alfonso Soriano’s success: throwing him fastballs. As a nightmare season creeps on for Soriano, he continues to see more and more breaking and off-speed pitches than previous years. Just compare the amount of fastballs thrown his way to those of recent campaigns in the NL:

2006 – 54.1%
2007 – 54.0%
2008 – 53.2%
2009 – 45.7%
Trying to hit any pitch that registers below 90 miles per hour has always been a chore for Soriano. Since 2002 his wFB/C is 2.02 and wCT/C is 1.65, with the exception of change-ups, Soriano has struggled mightily against every other pitch. -0.92 versus sliders, -0.37 against curves, and even -3.32 against split-finger fastballs pitches. That means that for every 100 fastballs Soriano sees, he produces two runs, and for every 100 sliders, he loses a run of production.

Soriano is walking and striking out as expected without flashing his power as often. For some perspective, consider this: Soriano’s .184 ISO would be the lowest of his career since 2001, when he was 25-years-old and in the midst of his first full season. A spotty BABIP is to blame for some of the issues, but Soriano is also hitting fewer homeruns and more infield fly balls. I wouldn’t expect that to continue since Soriano has seen his IFFB% rise and fall over the years with little predictive value.

Soriano is hitting a career high in groundballs and a career low in line drives which aren’t the directions you would like to see from your highly-paid slugger. Of course Soriano is 33-years-old, and some drop in offensive performance was expected, but no projection system had Soriano falling below a .350 wOBA and now ZiPS has Soriano finishing at .330.

Quite a drop, and nothing his defense to date is making up for.

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21 Responses to “Alfonso Soriano Dislikes Slow Things”

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  1. Slugger O'Toole says:

    I am not that surprised at all. When Soriano came up with the Yankees he caught fire quick and then it seem that everyone started baiting him with sliders and he fell apart. He seemed to me to be an overrated player at that time and I would not expect him to have a very productive post-30 career.

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  2. Doug says:

    Is there any contract you could trade Soriano for? Vernon Wells? Barry Zito?

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  3. Joel says:

    Having watched him when he came up, I am still completely and utterly shocked that it took professional NL pitchers this long to figure Soriano out, considering every Yankee fan who watched him play at all knew Soriano couldn’t hit an offspeed pitch (not thrown by Curt Schilling in a World Series) to save his life.

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    • Rob in CT says:

      That was one of the most ridiculous HRs I’ve ever seen. The ball was about three inches off the ground.

      The guy any NL pitcher should’ve talked to was Pedro. What Pedro did to Sori in the playoffs was sad. Fastball in off the plate, fouled off. Slider away, slider away. Done.

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      • Ed says:

        I was at the Aaron Boone HR game. Pedro really made Soriano look like a fool. Kept throwing him stuff eye level and outside, and Soriano would swing and miss every time. Everybody could see it coming. 0 for 5 with 4 K’s, ouch…

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  4. Michael says:

    R.J., you mentioned something interesting regarding the rise and fall of Infield Fly Ball rates. Is IFFB% one of those stats that usually stabilizes quickly, or is it vulnerable to large shifts over time for lots of players? What’s generally the league average for such a thing?

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  5. Dan says:

    As someone who spent a 2nd round pick on Soriano, can you please rework the analysis into one explaining that a huge 2nd half is on the way? Thanks.

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  6. Drew says:

    I traded Alfonso Soriano for like 4 guys earlier in the year, one of whom I’ve waived. Still a good deal. He is horrid.

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  7. checkit says:

    yes he sucks right now but how long has he been in the league? he is not a rookie and will make his own adjustments. you make it sound like all the pitchers are some kind of geniuses and never make any mistakes, if that were the case no one would hit anything.

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    • odbsol says:

      One would think that. But this has been going on since May, and based on history, is an on-going problem for him. I’m a Cubs fan and owner of Sori and have watched him struggle the last 2+ months and I honestly don’t think that he will adjust or he would’ve already. He should be working on taking those pitches to RF more often by making contact or just laying off but it looks like he still tries to pull them. I’m just guessing but that kind of attitude where he doesn’t think he has a problem and probably isn’t listening to his hitting coach(s) might be affecting the clubhouse since he is the highest paid player. Lou has gone out of his way to treat him with kid gloves leaving him (stupidly) at leadoff for way too long only dropping him in the order this past week. Sooner or later the guy has to be held accountable.

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      • Slick says:

        So trade him off your fantasy team if you can’t stand watching him struggle. Waiting for players to produce will ensure you finish out of the money. Last time I checked, this site provides fantasy info for fantasy teams. Not adivce for managers or players on they should handle their stars so your fantasy team starts performing better.

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  8. sixfourthree says:

    As a Yankees fan who watched Soriano at his whiffiest best in the playoffs I somehow forgot that and drafted him this year.

    a) trade him for .50 on the dollar?
    b) much worse can it get?

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  9. standuptriple says:

    Yup, Sori doesn’t adjust. He’s always been content with his natural ability (and his stupid jump catches in LF). It such a shame. Maybe he and Andruw Jones can get together one day and imagine what kind of HOF-esque careers they could have had if they had just made more on an effort.

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  10. James says:

    I traded Ortiz and Derosa for Soriano in april/may just cause I couldnt stand looking at Ortiz anymore. Soriano is FAR worse! Funny thing is though, since that deal my team has not lost a week and went from 11th to on the verge of taking first this week. With that said, sori did have 14 hrs and 32 rbis leading off, if he bats 6th and has a 2nd half as bad as the first then he sould be inline for bout 50 rbis considering there will be more men on base.

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  11. Mark says:

    He is laying off pitches out of the zone which is a decent sign to the contrary here.

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  12. Zack says:

    I traded Soriano and Jordan zimmermann for Jermaine dye and Joe nathan in early May and the rest is history. I’m in a 14 team 5×5 league and I’m in 1st place by 7 points.

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  13. Transmission says:

    R.J. – Look at Soriano’s results against the fastball by year, and his wFastball by year, and it shows that his performance has declined annually since 2005, and now has declined each month in 2009. The problem isn’t that he sees few fastballs, it’s that he is doing less and less with the ones he does see.

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    • Joe says:

      Fastball% is similar this year to his 05, where he hit 36 homers with an ok 268 average.

      Other things that jump out: Transmission is completely correct, he’s less than half as effective against fastballs this year vs last. Throw in a huge drop against cutters, doubling his troubles against sliders, and changeup has gone from a positive pitch to a big negative. His woes seem to be less related to pitch type than something else.

      HR/FB. At last years HR/FB, changing nothing else, he’d have 30 HR and be hitting 262 with those extra 10 hits (assuming they were outs). Not great but useable, and good enough for a “worst year”

      Take out the mental aspects of the slump (desperation, lack of confidence) and you can probably add some more to that BA and he’s as good as ever.

      Side Note – Each of the last two cubs seasons he’s had horrendous starts, did brief DL stints each year, then came out awesome. This year he didn’t have a late April DL stint.

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