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Soriano Catching Up to the Fastball

Alfonso Soriano (CHN) finished April tied for the Major League lead in home runs with ten.  Although his other batting stats are weak, he's slugging like he did prior to the 2009 season.  Soriano is once again able to catch up to the fastball:


Alfonso Soriano hitting against fastballs
SeasonAverage SpeedwOBASlugging Pct.
2008 91.0 .441 .650
2009 90.0 .392 .553
2010 91.2 .379 .548
2011 90.8 .488 .781


Sorinao's bat speed might have returned, but in 2011 it looks like pitchers are helping him with their fastballs.  In the two down years, the fastballs Alfonso saw tended to be down and away or up and in:

Alfonso Soriano, fastball pitch frequency, 2009-2010.There was a good reason for this pattern, as Soriano's power tended to be up and way and down and in:

Alfonso Soriano, in play slugging percentage on fastballs, 2009-2010.So far this season, Alfonso has seen fastballs up:

Alfonso Soriano, fastball pitch frequency, 2011.

And he's killing the high pitch.

Alfonso Soriano, in play slugging percentage on fastballs, 2011.He's catching up to the high and tight pitch, which says to me he improved his bat speed.  He's even slugging better on the few down and away fastballs he's seen.  The change in pitching pattern hasn't worked, as Soriano proved up to the task of smacking fastballs again.


InDepth Spotlight: Kyle Drabek vs. Alex Rodriguez

Rookie Kyle Drabek (TOR) has pitched left-handed batters fairly well this season, holding them to a .200/.351/.333 line.  However, righties have hit him a little better: .267/.327/.422.

Alex Rodriguez (NYY) has hit right-handed pitching better than left-handed, particularly over the last three years.  In that time, he's put up a .406 wOBA against righties, 36 points higher than against lefties.

(Click to enlarge)

Alex has been turning on balls up and in very well this season, while Kyle has had his troubles trying to jam righties.  He'll likely try to work Arod down in the zone as much as possible this afternoon.


The Youkilis Paradox

Peter Abraham at the Boston Red Globe Extra Bases blog notes that Kevin Youkilis (BOS) is among the worst hitters in terms of batting average but one of the best in terms of OBP:


Youkilis is third in the American League in walks and eighth in strikeouts, the only player ranked in the top 10 in each category. As a result, he is 77th (out of 96 qualified players) in batting average at .213, but tied for 11th with an on-base percentage of .388.


If you can figure this out, please let me know.

During the previous three seasons, pitchers worked Kevin away, as his best chance for a hit was on the inside half of the plate:

Kevin Youkilis, in play avergae, 2008-2010.Kevin seemed to be aware that inside pitches gave him the best chance at collecting a hit, so that's where he swung:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2008-2010.Kevin was willing to cede the outside third of the plate to the pitcher and wait for a mistake inside.  In 2011, Kevin is just swinging less:

Kevin Youkilis, swing rate, 2011.He moved most of his swings to the inside third of the plate., and nothing is falling for him there:

Kevin Youkilis, in play average, 2011.He's getting his best results where he's not swinging much, and his worst results in what usually is a hot spot for him.  Note too, that by contracting the area in which he swings, he gives pitchers a much bitter area in which to record strikes.  His batting eye is still good enough that he draws a lot of walks, but by not swinging at pitches down the middle, Kevin gives the pitcher an advantage.

Unless Kevin lost bat speed, I suspect this is more bad luck than anything.   Youkilis still has the right approach to the game.  Wait for a pitch he can hit then smack it.  Sometimes they are hit right at a fielder, but over a whole season, they should fall for hits more often.  If this is still happening at the end of May, however, there might be a problem.