Wednesday, March 10, 2010

2010 Cubs preview: Left field

Hopefully Soriano will be doing plenty of trotting this year. Around the bases, that is, not in left field.

After this season, Alfonso Soriano will be halfway through his 8-year contract (gulp). After hitting .299 and .280, respectively, in 2007 and 2008, and helping lead the the Cubs to division titles in each of those years, Soriano played just 117 games last season and batted a paltry .241. Of his three seasons with the Cubs, 2009 was his worst in virtually every statistical category. He also had 11 errors in left field, and his overall defense would be better described as apathetic than athletic. Or perhaps apoplectic.

Soriano's days as a leadoff man are over (he's 34 years old), and he will most likely bat fifth or sixth in the Cubs' lineup. He's no longer a five-tool player (his tool set is down to two, three at most), but if he can once again harness the power that has resulted in five 30+ home run seasons over the course of his career, he can provide a solid force in the middle of the order.

What I hope: That Soriano's left knee was the main reason for his problems at the plate and in the field. He looked lost in all facets of the game last year (you don't have to swing at every pitch, Alfonso, it's not tee ball), and perhaps that was a function of a knee that was worse than he let on. He's always been prone to slumps, but after April of last year (.284 avg, 7 HR, 14 RBI), the rest of the season was a slump.

What I fear: That his knee played a role in his decline, but that his advancing age is the real issue. His home run totals have declined each of the last four years, he hasn't had more than 75 RBI in any season with the Cubs, and he hasn't played more than 117 games either of the last two seasons. Soriano used to be an agile second baseman who could run the bases and make exciting plays in the field--that is not the man who has played for the Cubs the last three years (side note: Soriano made SportsCenter's Top 10 plays with a diving catch on Saturday--perhaps he gave up laziness for Lent?)

What I hope: That batting lower in the order will enable him to get the most out of his skill set. While he stole 41 bases in his one season with the Nationals, it quickly became clear to fans that the Cubs had signed a slugger, not a stealer. In his three years with the Cubs, Soriano has just 47 total stolen bases (and only nine last year). Batting lower in the order with more RBI opportunities will hopefully lead to a 90- or 100-RBI season rather than the 67 he has averaged as a Cub.

What I fear: That the stubborn bastard won't be comfortable batting anywhere other than leadoff. In the past, he has been adamant about batting at the top of the order, but it looks like Lou is finally going to act like a manager and make out his own lineup. Soriano has to be intelligent enough to realize he doesn't belong at the top any more, right? Let's hope so--in his career as a Cub, his average is 14 points lower in the sixth hole and his home run rate is just over half of what it is when he leads off.

Prediction: A DL stint seems more than likely, which will affect his numbers.

.279 avg, 28 HR, 85 RBI.

Not worth $17 million, but it could get the job done if the rest of the lineup produces as it's capable of doing.

Agree or disagree?


  1. I'm not sure what's going on with my predictions. I kind of think the Cubs are gonna suck this year, but I keep thinking each player is going to do pretty well. I guess my pessimism is limited to the pitching staff:

    .293, 29 HR, 95 RBI

  2. I think you are still being a little too optimistic. You are predicting him to hit 10 more RBI's then he has ever had for the cubs. He will most certainly end up on the DL this year AT LEAST once. I think he will hit closer to a .260 avg, knock in 20 HR, and have 70 RBI. After all, this isn't even close to a contract year and he's starting to get old and fragile.

  3. The reason I predicted more RBI is because he's no longer leading off, so theoretically, he should have more men on base when he knocks in his 29 homers.

  4. I agree. To me, he always has been and always will be a power hitter with the potential to drive in runs. If Lee and Ramirez do what we've predicted them to do, he should have more RBI than he's had in the past as a leadoff man.

  5. good point with the RBI numbers. Although I still think he only plays in 110 games this year which will make 85 RBI's tough and 95 impossible.

  6. avg, rbi.... you guys are killing me.

    Last year his OBP was the worst of his career at .303 (vs .326 career). For that much money, you can't get on base 3 out 10 times and only hit 20 HRs. Which leads me to...

    his SLG was much worse than any other year in his career at .423 (.510 career)

    At least one of these needs to go up for him to be a decent baseball player, he will never be a $17m one again.

    My Projection: wOBA of 0.340, better than .314 of last year, no where near .357 of his career.

    What you SHOULD hope for: The new ownership will never let a deal like his happen again.