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.