Alfonso Soriano was supposed to be a bust in 2012, but he proved that he still had a little something left in the tank. Realistically, did anyone really expect this type of production:
561 At Bats
.262 Batting Average (147 hits)
32 Home Runs
6 Stolen Bases
.322 On Base Percentage
.499 Slugging Percentage
.303 Batting Average on Balls in Play
We all know that he is no longer a stolen base threat, nor is he going to score a lot of runs (hitting towards the bottom of the Cubs lineup simply isn’t conducive for that). It’s not worth taking much time to delve into these things because they are simple facts, even during a tremendous season.
It’s the other three categories that need our attention.
The previous three seasons Soriano had posted averages of .241, .258 and .244. The improved power definitely helped his average, but so did his sudden change of approach at the plate. While he hit more home runs, it appears that he wasn’t trying to hit home runs.
Inflated fly ball rates tend to lead to decreased BABIP. So, seeing an improved average isn’t a complete surprise when you look at his recent fly ball rates:
- 2008 – 48.0%
- 2009 – 48.2%
- 2010 – 54.3%
- 2011 – 51.1%
- 2012 – 43.8%
Not only was he not putting as many balls in the air, but instead he was hitting it with authority (20.4% line drive rate). It is no surprise that he posted a .303 BABIP and an average that didn’t make us flea.
That said, can we say for certain that this approach will continue? Having now hit 30+ home runs for the first time since 2007, what is going to happen if he gets off to a slow start? Is he going to try and swing for the fences, since the home runs hadn’t been there? Not only will it likely yield fewer HR (a regression we have to expect), but the average will plummet as well.
Throw in the fact that fewer home runs + fewer hits = fewer RBI, and we all can understand the risk involved here. It was a nice renaissance for Soriano, but I would consider it sort lived. At 37-years old, Soriano is much more likely to lose his starting role than he is to coming reasonably close to last seasons success. It’s not impossible, but it is highly unlikely.
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