Why Soto will Bounce Back

Chicago Cubs catcher Geovany Soto ramped up his workout routine during the winter, shedding serious pounds after a disappointing, injury-plagued sophomore season. During his Rookie of the Year Award-winning 2008 campaign, Soto batted .285/.364/.504 and ranked third in the majors among catchers with 4.5 Wins Above Replacement (WAR). Last year, he hit just .218/.321/.381, falling to 1.2 WAR.

However, a huge chunk of that slide was due to his minuscule batting average on balls in play, and history suggests that we shouldn’t expect Soto to be nearly as unlucky in 2010.

In 2008, Soto had a .332 BABIP — league average is usually around .300. That figure plummeted to .246 in 2009, despite few changes in his offensive profile. Soto’s walk rate actually rose from 11 percent in 2008 to 12.9 percent in 2009, and he cut his strikeout rate from 4.5 percent to 23.3 percent. The 27 year-old swung at fewer junk pitches thrown outside of the strike zone (17.8 percent, compared to 20.1 percent in 2008) and took a cut at more hittable pitches within the zone (65.3 percent in 2009, up from 64.1 percent in 2008). Soto also made more contact, putting the bat on the ball 78.3 percent of the time he swung in 2009, compared to 74.7 percent in 2008.

Soto’s Isolated Power (slugging percentage minus batting average) did fall, from .219 to .163. But that’s still more pop than most backstops display. The average major league catcher posted a .141 Isolated Power in 2009.

For 2010, most projection systems figure that Soto’s BABIP will bounce back to a level near his career .305 mark. Chicago’s catcher possesses rare patience and power at a position where offensive production is often scarce. With more bloops and seeing-eyes singles evading gloves, Soto should post a much better batting line this season.

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A recent graduate of Duquesne University, David Golebiewski is a contributing writer for Fangraphs, The Pittsburgh Sports Report and Baseball Analytics. His work for Inside Edge Scouting Services has appeared on ESPN.com and Yahoo.com, and he was a fantasy baseball columnist for Rotoworld from 2009-2010. He recently contributed an article on Mike Stanton's slugging to The Hardball Times Annual 2012. Contact David at david.golebiewski@gmail.com and check out his work at Journalist For Hire.

3 Responses to “Why Soto will Bounce Back”

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  1. tropicalmug says:

    Major typo when talking about falling strikeout rate.

    Beyond that, very good analysis.

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  2. Edwincnelson says:

    That low BABIP might have been a result of all the weight he gained last year. Having watched him play a lot it was clear that his ability to get down the line prevented him from putting any pressure on the opposing defense. He looks like he’s in much better shape this year and if he can beat out even 5 or 6 close plays it will make a big difference.

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  3. CSJ says:

    A quick xBABIP check for last year puts him at .314. assuming all added H are singles, this would change his slash stats from .218/.321/.381 to .269/.364/.432.

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