The Renaissance of Alfonso Soriano
Dear fans of sport and story, I present to you the reborn and redone Alfonso Soriano:
The good sir's weighted on base average (wOBA) is well on pace to break his previous high (.380 in his 2006 debut as a Cub). According to the ZiPS projection system, Soriano's hot BABIP (and likewise good fortune) will cool down -- leaving his rest-of-the-season wOBA around .371. Despite this inevitable cooling, Soriano -- according to ZiPS -- will finish with a career high .385 wOBA.
I can't express how phenomenal that would be. Before we go much further, let's consider how washed up and terrible Alfonso Soriano appeared last year. Visualize his 16 infield flies. Picture his career low 18.8% line drives. He looked old. He looked lost and frustrated. Yes, it actually hurts to think about it.
Now let's get back to the amazing present by comparing it with the less-recent past: In 2002, Soriano hit 39 home runs and sported a .378 wOBA. In 2006, he hit 46 taters and sported a .377 wOBA. The following year -- the aforementioned 2006 -- Alfy distributed 33 official MLB balls into the greasy palms of bleacher bums. This year, ZiPS anticipates a scant 26 dingers!
In other words: Alfonso Soriano won't even come close to his career high home run total, but will still have the best season of his life!
How is that possible? Patience.
He's hitting more line drives -- which means more hits -- and taking more walks. He's undergoing a career low in Swinging Strikes % and a career low in Swing % (which tends to mean more walks) coinciding with a career low in Zone %.
In laymen's terms: pitcher are throwing more outside of the zone, and Alfonso just takes a step back and smiles while it sails by. In the past, he tried to deposit those balls into beer cups. And he got away with it when he was younger, but now he's making the pitchers treat him like an adult.
It's a beautiful thing.
Images courtesy of Fangraphs.