Alfonso Soriano: Not Terrible Last Year, but in 2011? Maybe.
Sometimes I get an idea in my head -- such as: Alfonso Soriano is terrible -- that in fact is not nearly as founded or correct as it aught be. In fact, Soriano was worth nearly 3 wins laster year (according to Fangraphs WAR), which in no way makes him worth his contract, but makes him worth something.
I guess because of his terrible, albatross contract I've come to intrinsically assume he will be a shell of a man in 2011. But this is neither correct, nor fair. In fact, look at how I felt about Alfonso Soriano at the beginning of the year:
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 %.Well, it turned out that Soriano would keep his Swing % low, but his Swinging Strike % would increase back to career norms. This means Soriano would wait for his pitch, and then miss it.
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.
The most disturbing trend with Ol' Alfy is the rapidly growing willingness among pitchers to throw him garbage. His discipline numbers (courtesy of Fangraphs) look disgusting:
wRC+) and his observable speed have both edged closer toward terrible.
That's not to say Alfonso Soriano will be terrible in 2011, but he's not probably going to be great. Unless he learns some new tricks (like walking), then he's going to continue his downward journey.
This is one of the scary things about the Cubs potentially pursuing Albert Pujols. If Pujols is indeed looking for a 10 year, $300 million contract, then he would be earning $30M annually into his 40+ birthdays. If you like watching the memory of Alfonso Soriano slowly die, then the Pujols contract would be a great get.