November 6, 2012
Tuesday, November 6
You know it was a quiet day on the hot stove when the most-ballyhooed move involved the Yankees claiming another team’s backup catcher. As Eli Whiteside gets fitted for pinstripes, here are some stories to follow on Election Day:
Joakim Soria might settle for set-up job in the Bronx
The 28-year-old Soria saw his strikeout rate decline steadily over the three seasons preceding his elbow injury, from 31.1 percent in 2009, to 26.3 percent in 2010, and finally down to 23.4 percent in 2011.
The two tables above show Soria’s pitch types and outcomes from 2009 and 2011, respectively, and offer a possible explanation for the decline in K:PA. Specifically, Soria induced fewer swings-and-misses with his fastball and changeup in 2011 than he did in 2009, seeing a 3.32 percentage point decrease with the former pitch and a 4.03 percentage point decrease with the latter. If you play around with the years on his Brooks Baseball pitcher card, you’ll notice that this decrease corresponds with a downward trend in his fastball velocity, which fell about one mph, from 92.43 to 91.68, during the same span. The decrease was small enough to have resulted from imprecise measurements, and correlation does not imply causation, but given the potential magnitude of its effect, Soria’s radar-gun readings will be worth watching wherever he lands.
In the meantime, with Brandon League having reeled in $21.5 million over three years from the Dodgers, Soria’s agent should field a plethora of calls from bargain-hunting general managers. As mentioned by Andrew Marchand in the afore-linked post from ESPN New York, the Yankees are one possible destination, if Soria is willing to serve as a set-up man for Mariano Rivera. But other teams could take a gamble on Soria—or his fellow Tommy John survivor, Ryan Madson—as a closer, with the Angels, Red Sox, and Tigers among a host of teams potentially in search of ninth-inning help.
Soria’s best bet may be a one-year deal that would enable him to rebuild his value, ideally in a pitcher-friendly setting, before hitting the market again in 2013. Interested teams, though—inspired by the Rays striking gold with Fernando Rodney last winter—are likely to ask Soria to reward their commitment with a club option for a second year. And though Rivera will return in 2013, his plans for 2014 are unclear, which could bolster Brian Cashman’s interest in bringing Soria to the Bronx on a Rodney-esque deal.