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.