It is fairly obvious that Joakim Soria is not the same pitcher in 2011 than he had been over the first few years of his career. Just a glance at his numbers tells us that:
7 Saves (3 Blown Saves)
14 Strikeouts (6.20 K/9)
10 Walks (4.43 BB/9)
It is easy for people to speculate that he’s injured. However, Bob Dutton of The Kansas City Star (click here for the article) recently wrote:
“Let’s start with this: Joakim Soria is healthy. So he insists, and so do the Royals. Further, his hold on his job as the club’s closer remains airtight. Non-negotiable.”
If he is healthy there is no argument that he is going to maintain his hold on the job. He has a three plus year history of being one of the elite closers in the game, so a few poor weeks should not cost him his job. However, his performance thus far brings many, many questions.
First of all the blown saves, which match the number he had in 2008, 2009 & 2010. The only time he has blown more than three saves in a season was his rookie year of 2007, when he blew four.
Next is the control, which is significantly off this season. His career BB/9 is 2.62 and his worst season, prior to 2011, was 2.72 in 2009.
Let’s put it in a different context. The most batters he’s walked in a season is 19, less than double what he has walked in under two months of work. In 2010 he didn’t walk his tenth batter until July (which, coincidentally, was the only month in ’10 that he walked more than 3 batters).
Poor control wouldn’t be as bad if he was maintaining his electric strikeout rate. He has a career K/9 of 9.64. The past two seasons he’s posted marks of 11.72 and 9.73. This season, he’s at just 6.05. Part of the problem could be the velocity on his fastball:
- 2009 – 91.7 mph
- 2010 – 91.9 mph
- 2011 – 90.4 mph
Sure, people could point to his strand rate, if they wanted, of 67.4% as a reason for his struggles. It’s a fair point, but the bottom line is that he is putting too many people on base. He’s walking way too many and, with fewer strikeouts, he is also giving up more hits (the more balls that are hit, the more impact of his BABIP. The result is the ugly numbers that he’s posted this season, far from what anyone would have predicted prior to the season.
However, if he is healthy, there is really no reason to think that he won’t turn things around. We aren’t talking about a player who was a flash in the pan for a year. He has proven year in and year that not only can he produce in the Majors, but he is one of the elite closers in the league. He’s not going to lose his job, outside of an injury shutting him down, so all you can really do is run him out there and hope that he gets back to what we know is possible.
What are your thoughts of Soria? What do you think his issues are? Do you think he will turn it around?
Make sure to check out these other great articles from Rotoprofessor: