Cubs need more power (but less bat) from Soriano

Cubs need more power (but less bat) from Soriano

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'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.

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  • The ball travels further with a heavier bat if one provides the bat speed, but when one moves to a bat with less mass in order to generate bat speed the ball will in up on the warning track. A lighter bat probably is not the answer. This team is set up so that a right handed power bat is needed to balance lefty middle of the order power bitters Lahair and Stewart, not to mention Rizzo and Jackson. If Soriano is not the answer the Cubs need to someone similar. Sori has morphed into a 4 th outfielder. We have better and cheaper versions.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    The problem is "IF one provides the bat speed". Soriano does not, or at least not how he used to. The big bat won't due him any good if he can't catch up to even merely decent fastballs, which he really hasn't to this date.

    There are a lot of guys generating more power than Soriano with smaller bats right now.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Those guys have more lead in their ass. It is like shooting a cannon in a canoe with Soriano.

  • John, can you comment on whether you think the Nats may come calling about Soto, considering the recent injury to their catcher? Any chance that may happen?

  • In reply to Steve4cash:

    Whenever a chance is there to trade him we should take it.
    As long as we get equal value (prospects) in return

  • In reply to Steve4cash:

    That would be a dream. The Nats have a decent backup in Flores who was the starter before Ramos so this is unlilkely. But the Nats have had such horrific injury woes maybe they'll get desperate. Either way, figure the Cubs would have to pick up all but a small portion of Soto's salary.

  • In reply to Steve4cash:

    I'm sure they'll come calling, but I'm not as sure they'll offer anything of value for Soto right now. They're going to try and buy low based on Soto's numbers. Cubs have no motivation to do that right now. If Clevenger was healthy and Castillo was hitting, maybe you settle for a little less to make room, but that's not the case at the moment. It'll take a good offer to pry him loose and I don't think one is forthcoming from the Nats.

  • Seemed pretty obvious he needed a lighter bat from how late he is on some swings. I thought it a month ago but didn't think he'd go for it. Glad he did, but they need to increase his strength training as well. He really does seem like he only has warning track power lately.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    Exactly. I put up some numbers but even the eye test tells you he has problems catching up to good fastballs these days.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah, I thought of me when you said, "It doesn't take a super scout..." :)

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    A lighter bat should make Soriano a better hitter, but I fear his days jacking 25 home runs per are behind him. If the solution is as simple as a lighter bat, give it to Barney and bat him in the 5 hole, and bring up Rizzo.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    That's quite a leap in logic there. Barney simply doesn't have natural bat speed. Soriano does...or used to. There's a chance a lighter bat could bring some of that bat speed back for Soriano, but it's not ever going to happen with Barney.

  • Give him an aluminum bat painted with woodgrain. Problem solved!
    When people hear the ping, just tell 'em it's "engineered wood".

  • In reply to eaton53:

    That just might be crazy enough to work ;)

  • I've gotta believe it's a combination of things with Soriano. His old body is wearing down, whatever his age is. Hand/eye coordination is definitely slower. Wouldn't hurt to do strength training to try and increase bat speed. But that knee wearing down is prolly the big reason for loss of HR power. His power mostly comes from releasing all that torque like a coil spring when he swings. Kinda like Tiger on his drives. With that bumb knee, the torquing/power is compromised. He'll still hit some homers, prolly when it's hotter and prolly in bunches. But opponents can simply pitch around him. I just don't see him as a consistent power threat anymore.

  • In reply to Bill:

    I will buy that. Mass +bat speed= balls on Waveland. Loss of either=fly balls to an outfielder. High school physics.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Sure...but what is affecting him more, the loss of mass in his bat or the loss of velocity on his swing? Most people will tell you that bat speed is the key to hitting with power and being able to wait back and better recognize pitches. Right now, Soriano is doing neither well. Bigger bat simply isn't helping him if he doesn't have the bat speed to make use of it.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good point and worth a try.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Just worth a could wind up not helping at all and there's too much going on with Soriano for a small adjustment to make a big difference, but Cubs need power from somewhere until Rizzo comes up.

  • In reply to Bill:

    It could well be and I could be reaching for straws here. Soriano could well be done, or it could be a combination of factors -- but the Cubs have to at least give it a try, even if it's just one of the factors it at least gets him a little closer to where he needs to be in terms of bat speed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I didn't mean that we shouldn't try. We're pretty much stuck with him. He should try any and everything to get that HR power back- even some of it. I'm all for a lighter bat- swallow some of that pride if that's the hangup. Whatever the tweak is, it might just give him more confidence which is half the battle. I say before we hafta eat all that salary, keep tryin.

  • I have nothing to add. This is just a sad, rotten situation. I like Soriano, but if this is who he is now, the Cubs will soon have no choice but to cut him. They wouldn't even get minor league roster chaff in return for him right now.

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    I think you're right on with Soriano. I've noticed it before many times but didn't want to say anything or admit it to myself, in hopes that he could somehow turn it around, but yes he just doesn't have the bat speed anymore to catch up with fastballs, and that used to be his hey-day. He seems to be just merely trying to bloop the ball into rightfield in rbi situations, which has helped him get some rbis and is better than striking out I guess, but we need a guy in the middle of the order like that to also be able to drive the ball with authority and pull it occasionally as well. I have long wondered when Soriano would consider to start using a lighter bat, that seemed like an obvious solution to me several years ago and I'm glad Sveum is finally addressing this with him. I think you're exactly right, he needs to start his swing earlier to get his big old bat around which totally nullifies any chance of him recognizing a pitch as a breaking ball or whatever. So now he knows this and doesn't want to strike out so he just waits back until he's sure he should swing which is late and just tries to bloop it into right field. It certainly couldn't hurt to try a lighter bat!

  • I wouldn't give up on Fonzie just yet. Aside from last year he's always been a warm weather hitter, and we're just coming into that now.

    Also, I could be wrong about this, but his power reminds me of Ernie Banks. Ernie wasn't a big guy either, he was famous for generating power with his hands and wrists. I don't think a lighter bat will hinder Soriano's power that much. He just needs to get back in the groove again.

  • I've been griping to my wife for two years that Soriano needs a lighter bat. She sick of hearing me say it. Many of his "best" hits have been bloopers into right field. Now, hitting the ball to right field is something that has been encouraged (to Soriano and others who tried to pull everything), but there's a difference between trying to hit to right and not being able to get around on the ball. He's not Babe Ruth who got away with using a war club. sed a war club.

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