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Alfonso Soriano is killing it this Spring.

He’s hitting .571 (with a .571 OBP – walks are for idiots (actually, when you’re hitting .571, they are)), and slugging an obscene 1.571. Four homers and two doubles in 14 at bats will do that.

The question is, what to we make of it?

Has Soriano pulled off the old cliche, and come to Spring Training “in the best shape of his life”? Has he found the fountain of youth at age 36?

Maybe, but probably not. Soriano looks good, there’s no doubt. His homers aren’t cheapies, and he’s ripping line drives with almost every swing. But 14 at bats is 14 at bats. It’s nothing. It’s three or four games in the regular season. It feels like more because (a) it’s the first set of stats of the Spring, (b) we’ve been without baseball for so long and we desperately want something tangible to discuss, and (c) the Cubs have played a total of nine Spring Games, not just three or four. All three explanations are understandable, but, of course, fallacious.

Then again, just because we can’t draw absolute conclusions from such a small subset of at bats, that doesn’t mean this isn’t an indication that Soriano is going to have a good season. If he did, in fact, get into good shape and change his approach, we could be seeing the start of a positive shift from the guy who hit just .244/.289/.469 last year.

And, what do you know? Soriano did make at least one change to his approach at the plate.

Have you taken a look at Soriano’s leg when he bats this Spring? If so, you may have noticed that his characteristically gigantic front leg kick is noticeably less gigantic. Hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo made the suggestion, to help Soriano with his timing. For his part, Dale Sveum is on board with the change.

“It just might have been that time,” Sveum said recently about Soriano’s altered approach. “He might have come up with it because you get older and the bat slows down, you have to have a lot fewer more parts to your swing, especially with that big old log he swings.”

Not changing the big old log, though, huh?

Whatever the cause – be it a considered new approach, or mere luck – here’s hoping Soriano’s hot streak continues through Spring and into the season. One thing is certain about Soriano’s Spring performance: it can’t be bad news. Even if you buy everything negative in this post, you’d have to agree that Soriano tearing up Spring training is, at worst, a completely neutral event. I think that’s probably a bit harsh, for what it’s worth. I’d say his performance is “marginally positive.”

But, for those hoping that an outrageous Spring could sufficiently increase Soriano’s value that the Cubs could finally move him in a deal that actually saves them meaningful cash, I’d ease up. Other teams know all of these things that we know. They know Soriano is seeing a steady dose of fastballs, which he has/can/always will destroy. They also know that those fastballs aren’t being set up by any kind of decent breaking stuff, which makes the fastball even more delicious to Soriano.

  • DocWimsey

    Are these mutually exclusive? Even with a “good” adjustment, this still would be a somewhat lucky hot streak, wouldn’t it?

    Anyway, here is to hoping that it is at least partially “meaningful adjustment!”

  • Deez

    .571 in Spring training is .571 in Spring Training. Great momentum towards the season (hopefully), but these stats are worthless on 30 March 2012.

  • cjdubbya

    Reminds me of the #SorianoTradeValue bit on Twitter a couple months back…

    @cjdubbya: Soriano posted a monstrous 1.571 SLG through 9 Spring games #SorianoTradeValue

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha.

  • Sinnycal

    Yeah, no adjustment could account for a 2.124 OPS, so it’s a lucky hot streak any way you slice it. Nobody is keeping that up all season. But it would certainly be nice if losing that old comical leg kick takes a bit of the streakiness out of him and makes him a more consistent hitter. His slash wouldn’t be so ugly without those spells where his timing gets off and he doesn’t make contact for 2-3 weeks.

  • Brian Schmidt

    “Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. I ask Jobu to come, take fear from bats. I offer him cigar, rum. He will come.” -Pedro Cerrano

  • Seth

    I think he needs to stop swinging that telephone pole out there and grab a lighter bat. Get some of the quick bat speed back.

    • CubSouth

      I’m sure many players have tried this trick, but Chipper Jones does it very well. He said during Spring Training and through the first part of the season, he will use a much heavier bat because his arms are stronger. Then over the course of the season, he will get a lighter and then an even lighter bat because of how weak you get from a 162day game season. I believe Soriano should take heed in these words. He seems to perform alot better when his arms and legs regain strength during the season, or just from the off season at the beginning of the season.

  • Spencer

    If Soriano was 0-14 would people be saying, “oh well it’s just spring training, no big deal.”? Probably not; there would be outrage, fans would be shitting on him, and calls for him to get traded would be mounting. And an 0-14 start would be viewed as more than just marginally negative; it would be fully negative. I guess it would just be nice when guys have a good spring to give credit instead of just saying, “whatever, spring training stats don’t matter.” Does success/failure in the spring mean success/failure in the regular season? No, of course not. But instead of fans being cynical about good spring starts, let’s look at it positively.

    • Kyle

      Spring training stats really just don’t matter. At all. Not even a little. Positive or negative.

      I won’t even bash Ian Stewart if he goes all spring without homering. I promise.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        “Spring training stats really just don’t matter. At all. Not even a little. Positive or negative.”

        Can’t be any more clear than that.

      • King Jeff

        The stats don’t matter, but his approach at the plate and the way he seems more balanced when he swings does matter. He started out with a smaller leg kick last year, and he was hitting very well. As the season went on, his leg kick returned to normal, and he slumped at the plate. There could be something there. I wouldn’t count on him finding the fountain of youth, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he improved on last years’ numbers.

        • DocWimsey

          Except that Sori didn’t show that pattern! Yes, he hit a ton of HR in April (10), but he hit 7in August, too. His BA in September was the same as in April and his OBP was a bit higher. Basically, his season stats showed typical fluctuations of the sort you expect from a complex collection of processes with one of them (Sori) being pretty constant.

          My guess is that what we’d find is that his 10 April HR came from an unusually high proportion of flyballs going out of the park, which means that there were some luck factors involved.

  • Eric S

    You forgot to mention that pitchers this early in spring aren’t able to ramp it up like they can or want. Also, some of these hits/homeruns are coming from guys looking to latch on in a bullpen/back end role with their respective clubs. So these guys that Soriano is killing may not even be on the big league team by the beginning of April. I certainly hope when he’s facing a guy like Roy Halladay in June or July throwing 90+ with some nasty movement that Soriano crushes him every time. However, I’ll wait until May or June to really gauge where he is in terms of “fixing his swing”.

    • Joe

      I’d agree about the quality of ST pitching, but he does seem to have hit most of those balls against proper starting pitchers, from what I’ve seen. They pull him by the time they’re facing the lesser folks.

      I think we should all just hold our breath and pray he keeps it up for another two or three months, at least.

  • Seth

    To me spring training is well, spring training. Nothing more then just practice. Hell, Matt Garza, the cubs best pitcher, took a dump on the mound in his last outing but you don’t see anyone freaking out. It’s because its spring training. As long as no one is getting hurt out there, the results don’t really matter that much.

    With that said, I still LOVE to see Soriano mashing homeruns and other cub’s players playing well.

  • Brad

    It seems like every year that Sori goes through a streak where he tears the cover off the ball and we all get excited because he wins us a few games, then he comes back to earth and swings at breaking balls a foot off the plate I will believe it when I see it for 2+ months. I just hope he gets hot around the trade deadline so we can unload him.

  • Andrew

    This is a great streak for Soriano but I’m sure he has had many streaks like this during the regular season in the past. There were times even in his down seasons where he seemed to be carrying the Cubs offense. I will say that his home runs have come early on in the games since hes usually not playing by the sixth inning, so its not like hes doing this only against the scrap heap of the other teams. It is what it is, a good streak. If by the end of spring training, he is hitting around .280 or higher and occasionally takes a walk, then I’ll be excited that hes turned into a more consistent hitter that makes it easier to swallow having him on the team.

  • Steve

    I vote …. B !

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I wouldn’t say spring numbers are meaningless, but they have to be taken in context.  The problem is that we rarely know all facets of that context.

    In the case of Soriano, I’m seeing a very good fastball hitter doing a very good job of hitting fastballs in that time of spring training during which fastballs are the majority of what he sees.  In other words, I’m seeing exactly what I’d expect to see out of Soriano in this situation.  That tells me he’s probably healthy, in shape, prepared, and, most importantly, that his modified swing is not causing him any significant problems.

    That may not be the kind of exciting information that can sell tickets and make a person poor in Vegas, but it’s still good to see.

    • King Jeff

      Agreed.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      I’m sticking with spring training stats being meaningless.

  • OlderStyle

    oh, the longings of the binary-minded; on/off, hate/love, best/worst, yes/no, turned a corner/meaningless at-bats.
    sometimes, the answer is in between the poles and without enough context or info, impossible to assign. it gives me a fuzzy-warmish feeling.

  • Edwin

    I don’t know where to post this since there doesn’t seem to be good recent thread about this, but is there any talk of trading Soto (or one of the Cubs backup catchers) to the Rays? The Rays are looking to compete this year, have a great farm system, and desperately could use a catcher. They don’t seem to have that many good Cather prospects either. Soto is making “only” 4.3 million this season, which the Rays could easily afford.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think we’re going to hear quite a bit about Soto trades as we get into July.

    • Richard Nose

      I think about trades all the time. For about 3 hours each day I dream of trading Soto (and others) to the Rays for Hellickson. They’ve been in need of a catcher who can catch 4/5 days, or at least more than twice a week, for a long time. I read someone speculate they’d make Hellickson available, not sure how reliable that was. If they don’t want Upton back, I’m sure the the second Hoyer calls Friedman, Friedman would immediately ask for B Jax no matter what Hoyer wants.

      • Edwin

        It would seem like the Rays would benefit more if they acquired Soto now, as opposed to halfway through the season. And it doesn’t even have to be Soto. Whoever loses out on the backup catcher job could still be a decent trade chip. Clevenger and Castillo are both young, cost controlled talent. Either one would be a decent pickup for Tampa Bay.

        • Richard Nose

          I can see both sides of the timing issue. I’d think sides would do the deal now, but at the same time it would make sense to see what happens. Gotta think they’d want Soto, they’ve tried using our farm system for part time catchers recently (Chirinos) didn’t get them very far. Not that I think Castillo is part-time, but Soto is clearly the guy they’d need trying to win now and not wanting to fiddlefuck around like they have in the past. Might be a sucker for Midwest guys, but I really like Hellickson. They’re loaded with pitching.

          • Richard Nose

            Correction: Timing might be wierd during ST.

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          Well, wouldn’t get much in return for either Clevenger/Castillo.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            Probably not much for Clevenger (yet), but Castillo is a bit of a different story.  A lot of baseball people see Castillo as a potential everyday catcher.  Not a great one… not the second coming of Pudge or anything of that nature… but a regular starting catcher nonetheless.  If the Cubs offered Castillo for 2B prospect Ryan Brett and a fringy-with-potential pitching prospect (Jake Thomson, I think Tampa would give it serious thought.

            Of course, given that the Cubs have several A level second baseman right now (DeVoss, Amaya, Silva, Torreyes), they might prefer to look for a different type of player.

            • Richard Nose

              Keep going Luke! Think any Soto package could net Hellickson? What do you think personally? What catcher would you trade?

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                I think the Cubs could land in Hellickson in a trade that included Soto, but it would not be a straight up deal.  And to be honest, the Cubs could possibly do better than Hellickson if they were looking to trade for a starting pitcher.

                Personally, I’d open the season with Soto and Castillo in the majors and Clevenger in Iowa, and I’d make sure that Castillo caught enough to be comfortable with the pitching staff (and vice versa).  In July, I’d trade Soto in the best deal I could find, call up Clevenger, and run with a two headed monster behind the plate for the rest of the season.

                • http://www.casualcubsfan.com hansman1982

                  on Sirius MLB Radio I recently heard a starting catcher (don’t remember who) say that for development, he would much rather play sporadically in the majors than everyday in the minors.

                  Just food for thought on the catcher issue.

                  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

                    I’m sure he was doing his best to separate money from development, but they do make at least 10 times as much in the bigs…

                • Richard Nose

                  I liked that idea of yours a few days ago about Castillo and veteran catcher. Of course that’s probably not an immediate option, next year or beyond.

  • http://bleachernation.com Tarheel Cub

    Even though spring training stats don’t count, Soriano certainly needed a good start to temporarily get the fans off his back (like me), and to make a decent impression with new management. It appears we are stuck with each other until the value and years of his contract decrease, so perhaps we can find a way for him to consistently contribute. Not an out-and-out platoon, but certainly sitting more games than in the past. Of course, if he injures himself, he will be sitting anyway.

  • RoughRiider

    Playing great in Spring Training doesn’t really gaurantee anything. Anybody remember the great spring that Champ Summers had?

    It is better than playing lousy in the spring though.

    • DocWimsey

      Chris Pittaro’s and Gary Scott’s HOF induction speeches don’t come to mind, do they…..

  • Cubbies4Life

    Spencer, you took the words right out of my mouth. I’m rooting for Sori. Spring training or regular season, it’s nice to see a Cub smacking the ball with some regularity.

  • RW

    Has he “found the fountain of youth” at age 36,
    or maybe drinking from the same waters as Braun, Sammy, Bonds, McGwire etc.?
    I have never heard anything about Sori before, but would anyone be shocked these days?

    More than likely though, what we are seeing is just a small sample size.
    We have seen at least a couple times a year where he goes crazy for a week or two, and is the best hitter in the league-
    then for a couple months he regresses to his average.
    He may be using up that streak in March, when it counts so much. Woo hoo!!!

  • chicagosbeast

    ok. so spring training stats are definately useless. and mean nothing.. easily the most obvious point in baseball…………. however, if you have checked, this springs stats for him are considerably higher and more productive than the past few.. that being said. i would say that most of that is due to the fact that he seems to be finally heeding the advice of his coaching staff and genuinely seems to want to be more consistent.. my only fear is that its too little too late. but im nonetheless glad to see he is trying. if for no other reason than the fact that the cubs are a very young team. and they youngsters need to see the vets trying to give them motivation…

  • Spoda17

    I just have to say this after reading most of the posts… really folks? I’m not a huge Soriano fan, hated the signing, but totally do not support booing him either… but give it a break… If he was hitting .167 in Spring, you all would be killing him.. and not using Spring as an excuse…

    Now he is hitting over .500… and its a Spring fluke… okay, I’m not saying he is God’s gift to the Cubs… and I am not saying he will hit .500 in the season… but I still have to point out we seem to find nothing but fault with everything he does because we all want to move him to another team, me included, but I say good Spring Sori… If it were anyone of us, we’d love those numbers..!

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