Juan Soto Isn’t Having a Juan Soto Year

Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The Josh Hader commerce is not the one deadline deal that has yielded less-than-rewarding outcomes thus far for the Padres. Juan Soto hasn’t been as dangerous as Hader at his worst (the nearer has these days righted the ship), however after a good begin for his new staff, he is fallen into a deep hunch. As the Padres battle to carry onto the third NL Wild Card spot, his struggles are value a nearer look.

When he was acquired from the Nationals in an eight-player blockbuster on August 2, Soto was within the midst of a solid-but-not-great season by his personal excessive requirements. While his 151 wRC+ was solely 4 factors off his profession mark, his .246/.408/.485 line was far under his typical slash stats (.291/.427/.538) — not sufficient to be a dealbreaker or to charge as a vital long-term concern, however notable nonetheless. That stated, the Padres’ proper subject mess made my Replacement Level Killers checklist, and an on-base proportion above .400 will cowl a multitude of sins.

Soto debuted with the Padres on August 3, going 1-for-3 with a pair of walks in a 9–1 rout of the Rockies. He continued to hit effectively (.286/.438/.460 from August 3 to 21), however on August 23, he was scratched from the lineup with what the Padres known as “left mid-back tightness.” Via MLB.com’s AJ Cassavell, “His again flared up whereas he was swinging within the batting cage shortly earlier than the primary pitch. During the sport, Soto took additional swings within the cage, hoping he may get a likelihood to pinch-hit, however he wasn’t capable of.”

Soto did not play once more till August 27, though he missed simply three video games because of a schedule that bracketed a two-game collection in opposition to the Guardians with off days on both facet. Upon returning, he collected hits in his first two plate appearances in opposition to the Royals’ Daniel Lynch, and the subsequent night time he homered off Anthony Misiewicz. But within the 13 video games since then, he is gone 3-for-42, all singles, and did not acquire an RBI till Tuesday night time. He’s walked 12 occasions throughout that stretch and was hit by a pitch — inflicting him to depart a September 7 recreation with a proper shoulder contusion, which can be a contributing issue right here — en path to a .120/.313/.180 post- harm efficiency. In all, his six hits over a 15-game span is the second-lowest whole of his main league profession; he had 5 hits in 15 video games in two overlapping stretches in September 2019.

Is the hunch as dangerous because it appears? My assumption going into this investigation was “most likely not,” provided that even along with his return in opposition to the Royals, we’re speaking about a whole of 64 plate appearances and even fewer batted ball occasions. With the caveat that that is some small pattern spelunking, it is value noting that since his absence, Soto has just about matched his Statcast stats for the primary 4 and a half months of the season, which is to say that he is hit the ball as exhausting , kind of:

Juan Soto Statcast Splits

Split BBE EV L.A Barrel% HardHit% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
Through Aug. 21 333 90.8 8.8 12.6% 47.1% .252 .273 .481 .527 .391 .415
Since Aug. 27 44 90.4 16.4 9.1% 47.7% .120 .234 .180 .377 .253 .357

Soto has produced a related common exit velocity and hard-hit charge and a barely decrease barrel charge (the distinction within the smaller pattern quantities to falling about two barrels quick), however very totally different anticipated and precise outcomes. Note the distinction in common launch angle; Soto usually ranks among the many recreation’s high energy hitters even though he hits the ball on the bottom about half the time (profession 48.6% groundball charge) and has a median launch angle under 10 levels. In truth, since his debut in 2018, he is one in every of 4 gamers with a slugging proportion above .500 (.528) and a median launch angle under 10 levels (8.4); the opposite three — Eloy Jiménez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr., and Christian Yelich — all have SLGs within the .507–.510 vary with angles within the 5.9–8.3 diploma vary. If Soto is averaging 16.4 levels even for a stretch of time, one thing might be off.

A more in-depth look suggests a couple issues are lacking. For one, over this quick stretch, he produced an infield fly ball charge of 37.5%, about 5 occasions his profession charge. He’s hit seven pop-ups — balls with nearly no likelihood of changing into hits — throughout this hunch, the place we would count on him to hit about one. For one other, he is pulling the ball about 46% of the time on this span (and round 44% because the commerce), in comparison with about a 36% profession charge.

I do marvel if Soto has gotten a bit joyful given the scale and difficulties of Petco Park. On the one hand, it is solely 322 ft down the correct subject line because of a small part that cuts a notch within the nook, in comparison with 334 to the left. But on the opposite, Petco nonetheless has a park house run issue for lefties of simply 95; it isn’t a straightforward place to hit one out.

Whether it is that or mechanical points associated to his harm (or unrelated, who is aware of?), the very fact stays that even when we increase our focus to incorporate his whole season, Soto’s slash line (.237/.402/.448) and 142 wRC+ are decidedly atypical. Again, his Statcast splits present a tip-off:

Juan Soto Statcast

Season BBE EV L.A Barrel% HardHit% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2018 316 90.5 6.2 9.8% 42.2% .292 .262 .517 .483 .392 .372
2019 416 92.0 12.5 12.3% 47.8% .282 .285 .548 .575 .394 .409
2020 126 92.1 4.3 18.3% 51.6% .351 .332 .695 .696 .478 .475
2021 414 93.0 5.8 13.3% 52.7% .313 .305 .534 .545 .420 .429
2022 377 90.7 9.7 12.2% 47.3% .237 .269 .448 .511 .376 .408
-WSN 280 90.4 8.3 12.5% 46.1% .246 .270 .485 .525 .390 .413
-SDP 97 91.8 13.7 11.3% 50.5% .212 .266 .336 .469 .333 .396

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Soto’s producing his lowest common exit velocity, barrel charge, hard-hit charge, and xWOBA since his 2018 rookie season, in addition to his highest common launch angle since ’19. Yet his anticipated and precise stats have by no means diverged by this a lot, significantly within the course of underperformance.

Again, Soto’s atypically excessive common launch angle presents a trace that leads us to this 12 months’s 12.1% infield fly ball charge, the very best mark of his profession, 4.5 factors above his profession mark and 5.4 factors above final 12 months’s mark. The 17 infield flies he is this 12 months are as many as he hit from 2019 to ’21 mixed!

Digging deeper onto his Statcast web page, Soto is making extra poor contact than typical. “Weak” contact is outlined as any ball hit under 60 mph, together with bunts (of which he has only one this 12 months, his first since 2019). I do not know the precise parameters for “topped” or “beneath,” however a mixture of widespread sense and a look at his radial graphs for 2021 and ’22 (out there through the Visuals & Statcast Pitch Highlighter path, which took me awhile to find) ought to provide you with an concept:

The barrels are the purple space, stable contact is that pink define round it, flares/burners are the peach-colored diagonal, topped is the sunshine inexperienced space with low launch angles, beneath is the sunshine blue space with excessive launch angles, and weak contact is the inside yellow space. Note how way more of the final three areas are crammed in on the 2022 graph than the ’21 one. Here’s a desk displaying his season charges for every sort in addition to aggregations of the primary three (“Poor%”) and the final three (“Good%”):

Juan Soto Quality of Contact

Season Weak% high% Under% Flare/Burner% stable% Barrel% Poor Good
2018 3.8% 38.9% 15.5% 23.4% 7.3% 9.8% 58.2% 40.5%
2019 2.6% 29.3% 21.4% 25.5% 8.7% 12.3% 53.3% 46.5%
2020 2.4% 36.5% 11.9% 24.6% 6.3% 18.3% 50.8% 49.2%
2021 3.1% 37.4% 17.1% 23.4% 5.3% 13.3% 57.6% 42.0%
2022 4.5% 35.1% 22.9% 17.8% 7.4% 12.2% 62.5% 37.4%

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Yellow = profession excessive charge.

Baseball is difficult! Even an elite hitter like Soto makes poor contact greater than half the time he connects. But this 12 months, he is been making a lot extra of it than typical, significantly relating to getting beneath balls; that is a lot of pop-ups and routine fly outs.

But wait, there’s extra! Within that already poor contact, Soto’s been worse than anticipated:

Not Juan Soto’s Greatest Hits

Season Poor% AVG xBA SLG xSLG wOBA xwOBA
2018 58.2% .168 .130 .212 .165 .165 .134
2019 53.4% .115 .116 .156 .159 .112 .119
2020 50.8% .172 .133 .188 .160 .157 .133
2021 57.7% .164 .149 .197 .180 .156 .147
2022 62.5% .089 .129 .102 .151 .084 .123

SOURCE: Baseball Savant

Poor% = proportion of batted balls outlined as weak, topped, or beneath.

Woof. Without constructing extra tables, I can report that Soto is underperforming his worst contact when connecting with fastballs (.064 wOBA/.098 xwOBA in 116 PA) and breaking balls (.061 wOBA/.131 xwOBA in 58 PA), which displays his extra generalized efficiency dips in opposition to each pitch lessons. Against all fastballs final 12 months, Soto hit .370, slugged .674, and produced a .475 wOBA, however this 12 months he is right down to .283 AVG/.558 SLG and a 442 wOBA. Against all breaking balls, final 12 months he hit .234, slugged .379, and produced a .325 wOBA, however this 12 months these numbers — brace yourselves — are right down to .149 AVG/.272 SLG and a .269 wOBA. By Statcast’s pitch values, the drop in his efficiency in opposition to fastballs (from 31 runs to 13 in opposition to four-seamers, and from 12 runs to zero in opposition to sinkers) is extra drastic than in opposition to breakers (from 4 runs to -2 in opposition to sliders, however from 0 to 1 in opposition to curves as a result of he is whiffing far much less), however the latter actually is not what we count on from this era’s Ted Williams.

So, sure, Soto is in some sort of hunch these days, and in a down 12 months total, with extra bother than typical in opposition to breaking balls and fastballs. Thanks to a 20.7% stroll charge, his post-trade 117 wRC+ is not a whole loss (Padres proper fielders had mixed for a 76 wRC+ once I made the Killers checklist). For the entire concentrate on his woes right here and elsewhere, he is nonetheless hitting higher than fellow deadline acquisitions Josh Bell and Brandon Drury (each 88 wRC+). And even with these strikes not but panning out, the Padres (78–64) have a two-game lead on the Brewers (76–66) for the third NL Wild Card spot, in addition to an 83%–24% edge when it comes to our Playoff Odds. Given that Soto is simply 23 years previous, I believe it is truthful to say this is not an age-related decline factor, and even with the difficulties that Petco Park presents, it is most likely not a can’t-play-in-San- Diego factor (can one wither within the glare of the gaslamps?). Whether it is an harm or mechanics, the chances are that he and the Padres will determine it out, however within the meantime, it would not look nice.

Leave a Comment