Monday, November 16, 2009

Worse sophomore slump: Geovany Soto or Matt Forte?

As both a Cubs and Bears fan, this is not a fun debate to propose. But I recently got to wondering: whose sophomore slump has been worse, Geovany Soto's or Matt Forte's?

Let's start with Soto since his second season is already in the books. He burst onto the major league scene in 2008 with a .285 average, 23 home runs, and 86 RBI. He was a huge part of a Cubs offense that led the league in runs, and he was honored for his success with a Rookie of the Year Award.

The story was slightly (read: extremely and horrendously) different in 2009. His average fell off the table as he finished at .218. Here's a sampling of the PITCHERS who had a higher average than Soto:

Ubaldo Jimenez
Derek Lowe
Max Scherzer
Dan Haren

Gimme one second while I clean the vomit off my keyboard.


Okay, I'm back. On top of that, Soto's power numbers essentially got chopped in half--he had just 11 home runs and 47 RBI in '09. In fairness, he played 28 percent fewer games than in '08. But that's another reason his sophomore season was so bad--he missed about a third of the season due to injury/getting benched.

And to add insult to injury, Soto had to deal with an off-the-field issue as it was revealed that he tested positive for marijuana during the World Baseball Classic.


In the other corner, we have Matt Forte. Drafted in the second round out of Tulane, Forte busted out of the gate with 123 yards in his first ever NFL game, a win over the Colts. He got nearly 100 yards in each of the next two games as well, and broke the 100-yard barrier two more times during the season.

All in all, Forte piled up 1,238 rushing yards in 2008, good for 7th in the NFL. He added 477 receiving yards, the third most by any running back in the league. And he scored 12 TDs, eight of them on the ground.

In terms of both rushing yards and rushing + receiving yards, Forte's rookie season eclipsed those of both Walter Payton and Gale Sayers. Stats:

Player--------Rushing Yards---------Receiving Yards--------Total Yards

Forte accounted for 36 percent of the Bears' total offense in 2008. From a team standpoint, it's not good to be so dependent on one player. But it shows how versatile and capable Forte was as a rookie. It's hard to imagine what their 9-7 record would have looked like without him.

Actually, it's not that hard, because the 2009 Bears are essentially playing without him. He's rushed for 100 yards or more just once, and has broken the 50-yard barrier in less than half of the Bears' games. He's on pace for 860 rushing yards (17th in the NFL), 677 receiving yards (2nd among RBs), a lowly 3.4 average (39th of 46 qualifying RBs), and just five total touchdowns.

He has been a mere shadow of the 2008 Matt Forte, and his struggles have turned the Bears into not just a pass-first team, but a pass-only team. Forte is on pace for just 80 percent of the carries he had last year, and just half the number of first downs. The Bears have had to rely entirely on the passing game in order to move the chains, and that's never a good thing.


So what do you think? Personally, I think Soto's statistical drop-off has been worse than Forte's. Soto barely contributed at all, while Forte is at least producing as a receiver and has never been replaced as the Bears' primary tailback.

However, because Soto is essentially one of five or six hitters that the Cubs were expecting to carry their offense, whereas Forte is THE running back, one of the two most important players on the offensive side of the ball, I think Forte's diminished performance has affected the Bears more negatively than did Soto's for the Cubs. Of course, the offensive line undoubtedly deserves part of the blame for the lack of success in the running game.

So what do you think: whose sophomore slump is the worst, Geovany Soto's or Matt Forte's?


  1. I have to go with Soto having a worse slump. It could just be because I feel a bit more invested in the Cubs' accomplishments (or lack of) than the bears'. Forte has not done much, but I would like to blame this on the O-line. As for Soto, there is no one for him to blame but himself (at least outside the RBI's category). So the winner (or you could say loser) is...... Soto.

  2. I'm going with Soto.