Since returning from the disabled list, Rafael Soriano has seemingly been a lot better than he was before the his injury induced break. Breaking it down, his ERA was 5.40 at the time of the DL trip and he had an FIP of 4.93. From July 30 on, he’s had a 3.38 ERA and a 4.27 FIP. His batting line from the start of the season to May 13 was .268/.397 (!!)/.339/.736. Since his return, it’s .188/.250/.333/.583. What’s behind this improvement? Let’s take a look at his pitch selection and location and see what we can find.
The first thing I noticed was the dramatic down turn in cutter usage, 9.5% to be exact. He’s compensated by upping his regular fastball usage from 17.5% to 30.5% and dropping his slider percentage by 3.5.
Despite dropping that cutter percentage, the pitch has definitely been more effective. Before his DL stint, the cutter landed for a strike 64.3% of the time and induced a swing and a miss 8.5% of the time. Since coming back, the cutter’s been a strike 72.3% of the time while getting batters to whiff 9.6% of the time.
Conversely, his strike percentage on the fastball, 60.9% since the return from the DL, has seen a big drop (67.4% from March through mid-May). However, despite throwing fewer strikes with the pitch, Soriano has gotten batters to whiff on it more, 10.9% to 8.7%.
The slider has seen a similar pattern to the fastball, though the strike percentage drop is less drastic (61.4% before the injury, 60.9% since). The whiff percentage increase is real big though. He was getting 6.8% whiffs on the pitch early in the season. Lately, he’s gotten a whopping 11.1% whiffs on the pitch. This and the fastball seem to be a case of something we hear a lot in baseball: You’ve got to make your balls look like strikes. Apparently, Soriano’s doing that. Let’s take a look at his location of pitches between the two dates.
The difference there doesn’t seem huge, but there is one thing that jumps out to me. The first picture has a lot more balls over the middle, while the second one seems to have more balls towards the edges of the strike zone. Granted this is only called strikes, it still tells us that Soriano’s location has been better since his return from the DL.
I can’t speak to his mechanics, but it certainly seems like he’s doing something to get his pitches in better spots and to get batters to miss. Part of this is definitely just regression to the mean; Soriano was/is definitely not as bad as he was during the start of the season. His FIP hasn’t been great since coming back, but that’s because he gave up two homers in a short span of time. His K/BB (12:4 or 3:1) is fantastic and, as I said before, his batting line has been stellar since coming back. We’re seeing a lot of improvement in a lot of ways from Soriano and it’s happening at just the right time. Let’s hope he stays hot for the playoffs.