Joakim Soria gets another shot to win with the Kansas City Royals. But this time, he’ll be way more equipped
As the Kansas City Royals enter Spring Training, Kings of Kauffman will release a series of articles on the 25-man roster. We will be going through each individual player, including the locks, bubble players, and a few prospects. We will progress through the roster from the top down, continuing with the bullpen.
Today we will be looking at Joakim Soria.
"2015 stats – 3-1, 2.53 ERA, 64 SO, 19 BB, 1.09 WHIP, 3.71 FIP, 24 SV2016 Steamer – 3-3, 3.21 ERA, 61 SO, 20 BB, 1.19 WHIP, 3.54 FIP"
Projected Role – High Leverage Reliever
For the faithful readers of Kings of Kauffman, this piece will sound familiar. I wrote about Soria and what he can bring to the table in 2016.
To be 100% clear, I really did think about using this article as a spoof against a certain writer who wrote a certain article that was eerily similar to an article he had already wrote on the subject. I ultimately decided against it, due to not being able to do so without sounding like a moron and/or being accused of plagiarizing myself because sarcasm is way harder on the internet.
Now, I will inform you that much of this piece (specifically the second half) will be similar to the piece I already wrote, simply because the purpose of the two articles are virtually the same. I could have just given you a link to the article, but I think that’s pretty lame.
We did not, however, talk very much about his 2015 performance in that article, so enjoy!
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Well, don’t enjoy it too much, because some could argue that 2015 was one of Soria’s *worst* seasons. I use the word worst with caution, because 2015 was only bad peripherally and metrically speaking.
However, when it came to run prevention, Soria was as good as he had been since his 2010 season with Kansas City. After three consecutive seasons with an ERA north of 3.00, Soria rebounded in 2015 with a 2.53 mark. However, across the board, everything else was among Soria’s worst marks.
His 3.71 FIP was the worst of his career, topping his 2011 mark by a healthy margin at 3.49, which was the only season in which Soria in which Soria posted an ERA above 4.00. Overall, Soria posted career worst marks for a full season in K/9 (8.51), HR/9 (1.06), home run to fly ball ratio (12.5%), and WAR (0.4).
However, he did see a 1.8 MPH increase on his fastball in 2015, which was the largest increase in velocity by any relief pitcher who threw at least 40 innings in both 2014 and 2015, according to August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs.
The confusing part about Soria and the reason he is hard to project is similar to every player to ever play baseball.
What I mean is that every player is completely unique and, like many players, Soria’s numbers just don’t make complete sense.
Why would he see an improvements in velocity and run prevention, while simultaneously seeing a regression in strikeouts, home run prevention, and WAR? Here’s what Fagerstrom has to say.
"Sure, the velocity boost didn’t come with an uptick in strikeouts, and Soria also walked more batters and gave up more homers, but maybe that’s to be expected when coming off a season with peripherals as dominant as Soria’s in 2014. He couldn’t really have gotten much better. The extra velo doesn’t make Soria a flamethrower — he still averages just 92 with his heater — but it gives him some room for error."
That room for error is why the increase in velocity is so encouraging. Like Fagerstrom said, Soria is not a flamethrower. However, the trend of pitchers in their 30’s is to lose velocity.
"If he gives a tick or two [of velocity] back, he won’t be struggling to reinvent himself like so many other pitchers who begin to lose velocity on the wrong side of 30. No, if Soria loses a couple ticks of velocity, he’ll be right back where he was a couple years ago"
Soria’s velocity isn’t encouraging in the sense that it will make him a better pitcher as much as it is about it ensuring that he is the same pitcher.
Soria’s arm is showing no signs of regression. In fact, based on 2015, it’s stronger than ever.
His track record has very few blemishes and he will be walking into a situation of any reliever’s dreams: A spacious park, in front of a historically excellent defense, advised by a pitching coach with a history of getting the best out of relief pitchers.
After Madson’s performance last year, a player that I viciously opposed to being on the roster, Dave Eiland proved that he can basically take any pitcher and make him into a formidable reliever.
Soria has been more than a formidable reliever the good part of eight seasons.
If his arm’s pulse stays steady, Soria should be a valuable asset in the Ned Yost’s bullpen.