As a Nats fan, I’m really glad the Nationals went out and solidified the bullpen in the offseason. Sure they had Clippard and Storen, but what’s better than 2 closers, that’s right, 3 closers is better. I mean, they already have a great rotation, but with three closers the starters will only need to get through the 6th, amirite?
Well, you can’t fault the logic. Who knew that Drew Storen was going to turn into a tire fire? Or that the offense would be so bad that the bullpen often wouldn’t factor into most games? I mean there were signs, Soriano posted a 4.12 ERA in 2011, but that was an off year and last year he posted a sparkling 2.26 ERA for the Yankees. A closer look shows that he posted a 3.32 FIP and a 3.75 xFIP last year per fangraphs, not bad, but probably not worth a $28M contract.
Of course, even if he didn’t pitch well, the Nats could count on his sparkling personality to enliven the clubhouse and encourage teammates, wait, he said what about Bryce Harper? Oh, I’m sorry I got him confused with Mark DeRosa.
All kidding aside, Soriano isn’t missing bats like he used to. This year, his K/9 sits at just 6.62, which is a big drop off from the 9.18 he posted last year or 8.24 he posted in an injury filled 2011. Also, per fangraphs, batters are making 81.9% of the time when they swing at Soriano’s pitches, considering his career average is 75.5% that’s a big jump.
Soriano hasn’t been terrible this year, or probably even bad and he’s certainly not the reason the Nats now sit 2 games below .500, but there’s evidence to suggest that given his age it’s going to get worse. His 5 blown saves this year are already the most of his career. One possible reason for his diminished effectiveness is that Soriano seems to have changed his approach this year and is throwing his fastball just 30.3% of the time compared to roughly 60-70% of the time throughout his career. Instead, he’s been relying on his cutter 55.8% of the time more than double of any time in his career. This could be due to the fact that his average fastball velocity is the lowest of his career at 91.2 MPH.
Hopefully, Soriano will turn it around and return to being a shut-down closer next year, but if he doesn’t I don’t see this ending well. Unlike Drew Storen, who has been the epitome of “wearing it” during his rough spell, Soriano is known for blaming lots of things, just not himself. Of course, I’m sure his kid probably could’ve seen that 2-2 pitch was a strike.