Don't get me wrong.
I'm happy that Soriano has worked to improve his defense and has learned to go with the pitch a lot more this season. Those are big plusses.
But where are the home runs?
Seriously, we all want Soriano to be a more complete player but he gets paid to hit the long ball. So why the sudden power outage?
There are some who speculate his sore knee has drained him of his power. That could well be. Manager Dale Sveum thinks he could use a lighter bat. And I agree.
“The fact of the matter is fastballs are getting too deep,” manager Dale Sveum said. “Whatever it is, it’s just a strange phenomenon right now that Edwin Maysonet has more home runs than Alfonso Soriano.”
So does Darwin Barney and Reed Johnson.
Soriano is open to the idea but has been slow to change. According to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat, he's already dropped an ounce, but that's hardly enough. Then again, old habits die hard. Soriano has been a good MLB power hitter for a long time. He's one of three players with 20 or more HRs for 10 straight years (Albert Pujols and David Ortiz are the others). So it's not going to be easy for him to go away from what's worked for him all these years.
But that's just the thing about getting older. You have to make adjustments. It's a fact of life that we all can't do the same things we used to do when we were younger. Adam Dunn found that out the hard way last season. We heard him say all last season that he didn't do anything different. He didn't workout or swing a bat all offseason... but he never had before. It'd never been a problem in the past.
But things do change. It did become a problem and Dunn had to adapt this season.
So will Soriano.
It doesn't take a superscout to see that Soriano just doesn't catch up to fastballs like he used to. He was a notorious fastball hitter with the Yankees and although it dropped off a bit, still managed to generate great run value on fastballs as a Ranger and early on as a Cub. In his first two seasons has a Cub, he provided a positive value of 23 and 18 on fastballs. It dropped into the single digits in 2009-2010 (7.6, 5.3 respectively) . It did climb back up to 15.4 last year but now it's a negative 3.2 this season. You have to figure the 2011 mark was an outlier. Soriano was productive but it wasn't without some sacrifice. He posted his lowest OBP and had swung at the highest percentage of pitches outside the strike zone in his career.
My theory is that he started cheating to catch up to the fastball. Without the ability to wait longer on pitches, his pitch recognition, never his greatest strength anyway, suffered even more. He was more easily fooled once he had to start his swing earlier and earlier. His strike zone widened. In fact, he had the largest swing area on the team last year.
Pitchers recognized this and threw him more and more pitches outside the strike zone. Only 46% of the pitches thrown to Soriano were strikes last year. The pitchers adapted. Now it's Soriano's turn.
Get a lighter bat so he can comfortably wait on pitches without worrying about the ball getting in too deep. Maybe he'll even start swinging at better pitches.
It has to work better than what he's doing now. And the Cubs really need another power hitter in the middle of the lineup. Bryan LaHair can't keep up this pace forever...and he has already shown signs of slowing down a bit lately.
We appreciate the improvements Soriano has made this season. But the Cubs need bigger power from their former star.
And a smaller bat.
Filed under: Analysis