When a team signs a new leadoff hitter and two middle of the order guys, it can be easy to forget about the bottom half of the lineup threat.
Alfonso Soriano may be 38 years old this season, but he’ll still put up his normal statistics—good and bad. Soriano is a 30 home run, 100 RBI guy, and has the potential to put those numbers up this season. After the signing of Carlos Beltran, it was evident that Soriano would primarily fill the Designated Hitter Role, and backup Outfielder.
Soriano, a right-handed hitter will likely see most of his At Bats against lefties, but has still be productive against right handers. In 2013 he launched 13 of his 34 home runs while facing right-handers.
With Derek Jeter turning 40 in June, Soriano could lose playing time at DH to Jeter. The Yankees will want to give Jeter a "half day" and DH him. In 2012, Jeter’s last full season he started 25 of his 150 games at DH. Nevertheless, Soriano will see his fair share of time as the team’s DH.
Looking beyond Soriano’s power numbers is where one will find flaws within his offensive game that will cause him to lose playing time.
First, his career strikeout percentage is 21.2 percent, which according to Fangraphs.com is below average compared to the league. Soriano has always been known to have a long swing, causing him to strikeout frequently. His strikeout percentage is much higher than his middle of the order teammates, Brian McCann (14.5 percent), Carlos Beltran (15.9 percent) and Mark Teixeira (17.2 percent).
McCann, Teixeira, and Beltran have a combined career On Base Percentage of .359. They will all be batting in front of Soriano, which opens up more RBI situations for him. Batting lower in the lineup can help his offensive production and result in him driving in more runs.
Another aspect of Soriano’s game that needs improvement is his plate discipline. In 2013 he swung at 43.3 percent of pitches outside of the strike zone. The league average is around 30 percent. Out of those pitches he swung at outside the zone, he only made contact with 57.9 percent of them. This can explain why Soriano only sees about three pitchers per plate appearance, and why he only walked 5.8 percent of the time last year. In order for him to be more productive at the plate he must learn to extend at bats by taking pitches, and waiting for the right one.
Through 581 At Bats in 2013, Soriano only saw a 3-0 and 3-1 count 25 times. In those 25 ABs he had 10 hits resulting in a .400 Batting Average. When in this situation, Soriano, like many others, takes advantage of the hitter’s count and delivers.
Getting on base more would increase Soriano’s value to the Yankees, and would result in more playing time. He has always relied on power, but as he ages he should be looking to get on base more. In 151 games last season, his On Base Percentage was .302, about 20 points below the league average. Through 15 spring training games, his OBP is .317, an improvement—but it’s still not where he should be.
Soriano will usually be in the six hole in the lineup, which means he won’t have much protection as he did in the beginning of his career. This might help Soriano in a way. Teams know that he is a power threat and will potentially pitch around his to face guys like Kelly Johnson, Brian Roberts and Brett Gardner. This is an opportunity for him to take pitches and look for a good pitch to drive. This shows the Yankees’ lineup depth, and how not many teams have a player being pitched around who bats sixth.
Weighted Runs Created+(wRC+) is a sabermetric statistic that according to Fangraphs.com," Attempts to quantify a player’s total offensive value and measure it by runs." The league average for wRC+ is 100 and in 2013 Soriano had 109, and 112 on his career.
After trying to break down Alfonso Soriano from all different aspects and statistics, it can be said that he’s very important to the Yankees’ lineup. The Yankees are one of few teams that can possibly get 30 home runs out of their sixth hitter, but Soriano has things he can work on to further transform his game. It’d be nice to see a 38 year old fix flaws in his offense and end his career on a high note.