Is Rafael Soriano…liked?

But a funny thing happened between then and now. Well, first, Mariano Rivera tore his ACL during warmups, which certainly isn’t funny. David Robertson, the clear fan favorite, got the first crack at filling in for Mo this season, but then he had his first meltdown in what seems like forever against Tampa Bay before going on the disabled list himself. That left Soriano as the last relief ace standing, and so far he’s been nothing short of a revelation in that role.

The save conversion rate (16 saves in 17 chances) gets the most mainstream attention, but lest you think that Soriano is just compiling saves, consider that he also sports a 1.63 ERA and 2.33 FIP in his 27.2 innings this season, and has yet to allow a home run either. And not to give too much credence to the “some guys are just closers” idea, but Soriano has been even better since assuming that mantle. Since recording his first save of the season back on May 10th, Soriano has allowed just two earned runs in 14.2 innings (an ERA of 1.20), with a strikeout to walk ratio of 13-2. That’s good stuff.

It’s easy to forget now, over a month and a half removed from the incident, but there was a real sense of panic amongst Yankee fans after Rivera’s injury with regards to how the bullpen would move on. One common narrative was that the Yankees would have to acclimate to having a mere mortal working the ninth innings, putting runners on base and occasionally even blowing a save here and there (of course Mo did all of that stuff too, but we do have a tendency to overstate the extent to which he was “automatic” on the mound). That was always slightly ridiculous, both because the Yankees had plenty of other talented pitchers in their bullpen and because, at the time, they had a lot of other more pressing concerns to worry about (namely the starting pitching), but be that as it may, so far Soriano has proven the people who thought that the ninth inning in Yankee Stadium would be a perpetual adventure completely wrong.

Instead, Soriano is quickly becoming a security blanket in his own right, an impression that’s bolstered when he comes in to put out a burgeoning fire and needs just two pitches to finish the game, as he did last night. Between that and the reaction to the “controversy” over Soriano’s routine of untucking his shirt on the field after finishing a save, I’m starting to get a most unusual impression.

I think people are actually starting to like Rafael Soriano.

8 thoughts on “Is Rafael Soriano…liked?

  1. mike

    I just wish he would not immediately pull his jersey out after the game. It looks ridiculous!

  2. jay_robertson

    I wouldn't buy into the meme that "some guys are just closers." That said, it looks as if Rafael is a lot more focused in the closer role – simplisticly put, I think he just CARES more. As a 7th inning guy – he could perform like Corey Wade, since that is a Corey Wade spot. (He's a CLOSER – just ask him.)

    Finally – the closer role is open – he's doing what HE wants to do (I still won't buy the idea of him being a "team-first" guy) and all is good.

    Glad you brought this up – do you think there's a chance he does so well that there IS a market, and he opts out? And if so, will Hal and Hank offer him even more stupid money to sign a long-term contract?

  3. williamjtasker

    His body language is weird, which makes him sort of inscrutable and hard to like. I just like the results.

  4. lazlosother

    I have to admit, I like him much better this year. That the shirt thing has become an issue is funny, there are relievers that are a lot more demonstrative.

    I wasn't very worried when Rivera went down, as I thought either DRob or Soriano could handle the closer spot. What worried me more when DRob went down was the number of high leverage innings that would have to go to rest of the pen – at the start of the season, you had pretty much shut-down ball for the last three innings. It's been working out better than I had hoped.

  5. the hawk is howling

    the shirt thing is ridiculous. It's tucked in the entire game and the moment he gets the 3rd out in the 9th, it's like "damn, F this!". He's not liked because he doesn't want to be liked. Dude is weird and everyone knows it.

  6. Paul

    I like the untuck, because it means we just won. It's subtly celebratory, and not brazenly disrespectful of the other team like Valverde's dancing or Papelbon's being an all-around douche. Nobody should be held to the impossibly high standard of Mariano Rivera, that's just not fair. He's not Mariano Rivera–no one is–and he's not trying to be. He's just being Rafael Soriano, stoic and aloof just like the untuck, and I respect that. It's obviously working for him.

    • At first, I didn't like it but I've come to feel the same way. His work day is over, time to get out of the work clothes. Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

      • friend

        This would seem to make him the Yankee version of Danica Patrick.

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