KC Royals reliever Joakim Soria had a bad season in 2016. Along with giving up 13 late-inning leads, he also sported the second worst win probability added among relievers last season. But, don’t assume he’ll remain terrible in 2017.
I wrote about Kansas City Royals reliever Joakim Soria‘s struggles frequently last season. By September, I regularly questioned why Royals manager Ned Yost insisted using on him in close games. Kansas City fans soured on Soria as the year wore on, and dreaded his appearance in games.
However, none of us should just assume that Soria’s career as a top-shelf reliever is finished.
Soria posted an outstanding 2.99 ERA with a 9.3 K/9 in the three seasons before 2016. That performance was good for a 135 OPS+ (an adjusted OPS 35% better than league average). He’s also only 33 years old. Since relievers can often remain effective into their late 30’s, age doesn’t preclude a rebound in 2016.
The widespread disgust with Soria from the KC Royals fan base is both due to his relatively high dollar contract (three years, $24 million) and recency bias. Just because his latest results were bad, people often put too great a weight on recent outcomes. Further, this winter’s contracts for Mark Melancon, Aroldis Chapman, and Kenley Jansen make Soria’s “big” deal look like a bargain.
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While Soria’s performance wasn’t up to those three’s standards, he was good enough to save 18 games in 2014 and 24 games in 2015. Soria’s 2015 season would have put him in high demand if he’d hit the market this winter following such a performance. Just take a look at Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan.
The pair of lefty relievers sit in prime position to land nice contracts in the next few weeks. The 33-year-old Blevins put up a 2.79 ERA in 42.0 innings pitched with an 11.1 K/9 for the Mets in 2016. Meanwhile, the 32-year-old Logan had a 3.69 ERA in 46.1 innings and an 11.1 K/9 in Colorado last season. Yet, both pitchers struggled in 2015.
Blevins only pitched in seven games as he fractured his arm. The previous year, he posted a 4.87 ERA in Washington. Hitters rocked Logan for a 4.33 ERA in 2015 and a miserable 6.84 ERA in 2014. Notice how both pitchers bounced back from tough seasons at similar ages to Soria. Their “good” years in 2016 were also less impressive than Soria’s 2.53 ERA, 1.7 bWAR season in 2015.
The Kansas City Royals front office has good reason to believe that Joakim Soria can bounce back in 2017. Let’s just hope that those expectations simply aren’t prayers that he justify his contract.