Soriano's Changed Approach
Minutes before beginning this post, Alfonso Soriano hit his third home run in as many games. Don't look now, but if he can hit 25 home runs in 130 games -- he still may not be worth $18 million, but perhaps much closer to that than was expected a few months ago.
In the at-bat resulting in today's home run, Soriano took the first pitch. It was a low breaking ball -- the kind of thing Fonz used to swing at often. That got me wondering about whether Soriano's recent power burst has had anything to do with a changed approach at the plate, so I hopped over to Fangraphs to check out Soriano's swing rates (and yes, I realize the sample size is still pretty small).
I thought it was interesting to see that Soriano is swinging at almost exactly the same ratio of pitches outside the zone so far this season: 36.9% in '10 vs. 37.0% in '09.
What's different is how many strikes he's swinging at.
Last season, Soriano swung at 72.2% of pitches thrown to him that were in the strike zone. For context: since 2006, the league average swing rate at pitches in the zone (also called Z-Swing% for short) has hovered right around 65%. And so far this year, Soriano's Z-Swing% is 66.1%.
Soriano has always swung at a good percentage of balls thrown outside the zone, and it appears he'll continue to do that. But if indeed he can take a few more so-called "pitchers' pitches," and wait a little longer to get the pitch he wants, perhaps that will boost his offensive numbers overall.
At least, that seems to be what's happening so far.