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March 2012

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COMMENTS

Soto's Seesaw

Written by , Posted in General

It wasn’t that long ago the Geovany Soto was being compared to Johnny Bench.  Soto’s performance in 2008–.285/.364/.504, starting in the All Star Game, winning the Rookie of the Year, and generally taking the league by storm–put him into elite company.  However, his subsequent performance has forced many to rethink those early comparisons.

Put simply, Soto has been riding a statistical seesaw the last few years.  2009 was a nosedive season (.218/.321/.381) plagued by injuries and off-the-field issues.  He failed to dodge the injury bug again in 2010, but when he was on the field he looked like his former self (.280/.393/.497), giving Cubs fans reason to hope his ’09 campaign was an anomaly.  Unfortunately 2011 (.228/.310/.411) proved it wasn’t.

The fact is, Soto doesn’t fall into the usual whatever-you-get-at-the-plate-is-a-bonus category of catchers.  He’s proven he can be a legitimate offensive threat–one that could be mighty handy for this Cubs team that looks to be FAR short of production and pop.

And while the seesaw pattern of his career ought to be due for a swing back to the positive side this season, the prognosticators over at Fangraphs aren’t convinced.  Bill James is the most optimistic, guessing at predicting a line of .252/.345/.450.

I’ll be looking for Soto to improve in a few key areas this season.  Like almost every other Cub, he needs to cut down on his strikeouts.  He’s always floated around a 20% strikeout rate, but last year it shot up above 26%.  It’s not realistic to think his offense will improve if he can’t learn to be more selective at the plate.

Along with that, I’m also looking (hoping) for a significant bump in his batting average.  (And yeah, I know that’s not the most popular measuring stick, but since he pulls a pretty steady average of .090 points for his walks and HBP, I’m targeting the area where he has shown a lot of fluctuation–between .218 and .285.)  Even a modest .050 point improvement–which would be only his third best season so far–would be a significant improvement over the anemic .228 he posted last season.

Finally, I want to see him make it through the season without another momentum-killing visit to the Disabled List.  Since his rookie campaign, Soto hasn’t made it through the season without a tweaked shoulder, wrist, or groin.  Considering he’s already missed some Spring Training with a groin strain, maybe this is unrealistic.  But few Cubs take longer to heat up after a trip to the DL, so consistent playing time might be the simplest solution for what’s ailed Soto in the past.

I like Soto–not nearly as much as Lizzie, but certainly more than Joe.  For his sake and the Cubs’, I hope he can turn things around at the plate and give Theo and Jed a reason to invest in him.  When he’s at his best, his hitting is what separates him from his peers.  But if he fails to improve at the plate this season, the Cubs might be inclined to go with a younger, cheaper option.

  • Buddy

    Having a backup catcher who can actually hit a little would sure be nice. 

  • Buddy

    Having a backup catcher who can actually hit a little would sure be nice. 

  • Eddie Von White

    You don’t have to apologize because you want to see a bump in his batting average. When his average goes up, so will most everything else – including his defense. 

    • Joe Aiello

      Why would his defense go up as a result of the batting average increase? Those are in no way correlated.

      • Gymjok

        They can be connected. Even though they are SUPPOSED to be separate issues, many players can’t mentally and/or emotionally let one not effect the other.

      • Disagree.  Booting a ball or making a web gem will directly impact plate approach.  Professionals are better at disconnecting, but it is still there.  

      • Eddie Von White

         That’s what I was getting at.

      • Joe Aiello

        I’d like to see the evidence. All you’re doing is guessing.

      • Eddie Von White

        I’m just speaking from my own experience in playing and coaching. I am not a professional player, but I suspect human nature is the same with them even though they make millions playing a boys game. .

      • I have zero evidence, but a whole bunch of anecdotal experience.  I guess it boils down to the whole saberdork vs baseball player thing…every single rookie yammers about ‘getting the first [whatever] out of the way’ so they  can play the game, so I’m fairly certain that I am not alone here.  

      • Jedi

        You’d have to sift through a player’s career – but a good example of offense affecting defense is former Cub Carlos Zambrano.  If he hit a HR, the chances of him surrendering runs in the next half-inning when he returned to the mound was greatly increased.  What you do at the plate can affect your play in field.

        Chuck Knoblach is a decent example too – All-Star to out of the league because after he couldn’t field a ball he lost the ability to be an above average hitter too (at the ripe young age of 30-31).

      • Eddie Von White

         Jedi – exactly. I thought of Zambrano too but Knoblach is an excellent example – as was Steve Sax way back when.

      • Eddie Von White

         jswan – exactly.

      • Gymjok

        It’s not so much guessing, but more of a common sense approach. People’s job performance, both good and bad,are effected by their mental and emotional state. Including and especially baseball players.

      • Norm Bothwell

        I’m agreeing with Joe.

  • Eddie Von White

    You don’t have to apologize because you want to see a bump in his batting average. When his average goes up, so will most everything else – including his defense. 

    • Joe Aiello

      Why would his defense go up as a result of the batting average increase? Those are in no way correlated.

      • Gymjok

        They can be connected. Even though they are SUPPOSED to be separate issues, many players can’t mentally and/or emotionally let one not effect the other.

      • Disagree.  Booting a ball or making a web gem will directly impact plate approach.  Professionals are better at disconnecting, but it is still there.  

      • Eddie Von White

         That’s what I was getting at.

      • Joe Aiello

        I’d like to see the evidence. All you’re doing is guessing.

      • Eddie Von White

        I’m just speaking from my own experience in playing and coaching. I am not a professional player, but I suspect human nature is the same with them even though they make millions playing a boys game. .

      • I have zero evidence, but a whole bunch of anecdotal experience.  I guess it boils down to the whole saberdork vs baseball player thing…every single rookie yammers about ‘getting the first [whatever] out of the way’ so they  can play the game, so I’m fairly certain that I am not alone here.  

      • Jedi

        You’d have to sift through a player’s career – but a good example of offense affecting defense is former Cub Carlos Zambrano.  If he hit a HR, the chances of him surrendering runs in the next half-inning when he returned to the mound was greatly increased.  What you do at the plate can affect your play in field.

        Chuck Knoblach is a decent example too – All-Star to out of the league because after he couldn’t field a ball he lost the ability to be an above average hitter too (at the ripe young age of 30-31).

      • Eddie Von White

         Jedi – exactly. I thought of Zambrano too but Knoblach is an excellent example – as was Steve Sax way back when.

      • Eddie Von White

         jswan – exactly.

      • Gymjok

        It’s not so much guessing, but more of a common sense approach. People’s job performance, both good and bad,are effected by their mental and emotional state. Including and especially baseball players.

      • Norm Bothwell

        I’m agreeing with Joe.

  • BLPCB

    I hope Soto can rebound too and put up consistent numbers. When he got rookie of the year in 2008, I was thinking to myself, great we’ve got our future at catcher locked up for the next decade. Then he went to the WBC, hit the bong and started eating too much.

  • AC0000000

    I hope Soto can rebound too and put up consistent numbers. When he got rookie of the year in 2008, I was thinking to myself, great we’ve got our future at catcher locked up for the next decade. Then he went to the WBC, hit the bong and started eating too much.

  • Chuck

    Regardless of Soto’s warts as a player, at least 20 other teams would trade you their starting C for Soto in a heartbeat.  Anytime you have a catcher who can slug over .450 you are in a good position.  There just aren’t that many catchers who can hit in this day and age.
    I think part of the problem is that all the day games are taking a toll on him.  The Cubs need to get a decent backup who can produce enough so he can take some day games off.  It may be a good idea for Geo to learn some 1B because his bat could play there and he could be in the lineup every day.  God knows the Cubs need the good-Geo this year.  If bad-Geo shows up it could be a long year.

    • Seymour Butts

      I’m thinking the Cubs have some one in mind for the 1b position for a while.

  • Chuck

    Regardless of Soto’s warts as a player, at least 20 other teams would trade you their starting C for Soto in a heartbeat.  Anytime you have a catcher who can slug over .450 you are in a good position.  There just aren’t that many catchers who can hit in this day and age.
    I think part of the problem is that all the day games are taking a toll on him.  The Cubs need to get a decent backup who can produce enough so he can take some day games off.  It may be a good idea for Geo to learn some 1B because his bat could play there and he could be in the lineup every day.  God knows the Cubs need the good-Geo this year.  If bad-Geo shows up it could be a long year.

    • Seymour Butts

      I’m thinking the Cubs have some one in mind for the 1b position for a while.

  • Smokie Lover

    Speaking of catchers that can hit, how about what Blake Lalli is doing in spring training. He is batting 462 with two homers and a 1400 OPS. I have watched him for 3 years at Tennessee and the kid can flat out hit!

  • Norm Bothwell

    I hope good Geo shows up until at least July so the Cubs could trade him for something good that will be around for awhile.

  • Norm Bothwell

    I hope good Geo shows up until at least July so the Cubs could trade him for something good that will be around for awhile.

  • cap’n obvious

    A stable catcher is so important to the performance of a pitching staff that I actually hope the Cubs keep Soto around no matter how dismal his offensive performance.  He is above average defensively, a good receiver, catches pitches going toward the strike zone rather than away from it, and throws out base stealers at an acceptable clip.  A lot of teams would trade places with the Cubs, even with the low triple slash. 

    Plus, ya know, according to Lizzie (and probably Tommy), he’s dreamy.

  • cap’n obvious

    A stable catcher is so important to the performance of a pitching staff that I actually hope the Cubs keep Soto around no matter how dismal his offensive performance.  He is above average defensively, a good receiver, catches pitches going toward the strike zone rather than away from it, and throws out base stealers at an acceptable clip.  A lot of teams would trade places with the Cubs, even with the low triple slash. 

    Plus, ya know, according to Lizzie (and probably Tommy), he’s dreamy.

  • Kris

    He’s proven he can be a legitimate offensive threat…

    Has he really? Four seasons–two of which were mediocre, and another one which he was injury-ridden–doesn’t make me feel particularly secure. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy and think he is good. But I’m not 100% sold yet on him haven proven anything other than having lots of potential and great rookie season.
    I hope Lizzie will still be my friend now that I’ve said that. 🙂

  • Kris

    He’s proven he can be a legitimate offensive threat…

    Has he really? Four seasons–two of which were mediocre, and another one which he was injury-ridden–doesn’t make me feel particularly secure. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy and think he is good. But I’m not 100% sold yet on him haven proven anything other than having lots of potential and great rookie season.
    I hope Lizzie will still be my friend now that I’ve said that. 🙂

  • flyslinger2

    He’s a keeper.  And three months from now I’ll be eating my words.

  • flyslinger2

    He’s a keeper.  And three months from now I’ll be eating my words.

  • Noah_I

    I think two things need to be kept in mind with catchers: (1) among position players, they are at the highest risk of injury; and (2) there is no position that a player has a shorter career span at than catcher. 

    I think if Soto has a good season and gets his trade value back up you have to go ahead and pull the trigger.  The Cubs do have catchers that are ready or near ready to contribute in the Majors that should be able to provide at least league average production at catcher for dirt cheap prices. 

  • Noah_I

    I think two things need to be kept in mind with catchers: (1) among position players, they are at the highest risk of injury; and (2) there is no position that a player has a shorter career span at than catcher. 

    I think if Soto has a good season and gets his trade value back up you have to go ahead and pull the trigger.  The Cubs do have catchers that are ready or near ready to contribute in the Majors that should be able to provide at least league average production at catcher for dirt cheap prices. 

  • Tommy

    Soto has shown he produces in even numbered years. So 2012 will be a good year, in my unscientific opinion.

  • Tommy

    Soto has shown he produces in even numbered years. So 2012 will be a good year, in my unscientific opinion.

  • Lizzie

    The beauty of my love for Soto (and, undoubtedly, his return love for me) is that I can still love him while understanding and admitting his flaws. And I can also see him as a delightful bit of trade bait if the need arises. There are plenty of dreamy, beefy catchers waiting in the wings to accept my affections. And I can keep an eye on Geo wherever he may go. He will have a job somewhere, I think we can all agree on that!

    • Seymour Butts

      I hear he has deformed toenails.

      • Lizzie

         I bet you can find that out for $11.79. 😉

      • BLPCB

        He has a really really hot wife

      • cap’n obvious

        I have a really hot wife, too….doesn’t make me a big leaguer.

  • The beauty of my love for Soto (and, undoubtedly, his return love for me) is that I can still love him while understanding and admitting his flaws. And I can also see him as a delightful bit of trade bait if the need arises. There are plenty of dreamy, beefy catchers waiting in the wings to accept my affections. And I can keep an eye on Geo wherever he may go. He will have a job somewhere, I think we can all agree on that!

    • Seymour Butts

      I hear he has deformed toenails.

      •  I bet you can find that out for $11.79. 😉

      • AC0000000

        He has a really really hot wife

      • cap’n obvious

        I have a really hot wife, too….doesn’t make me a big leaguer.

  • RichBeckman

    I see over at Baseball Reference Geo’s All Time Ranking (among batters) is one above Adolfo Phillips. I was a big Phillips fan (I was young….)

    I like Geo.  But that does not mean that I would not prefer to see a return to the offense of his rookie year. And it does not mean I would cry if he does so return and the Cubs trade him (assuming they get the goods in return).

    I would be in favor of Geo getting plenty of days off.  They can’t all be Randy Hundley (of course if Hundley had had Geo’s “good years” numbers…..)

  • RichBeckman

    I see over at Baseball Reference Geo’s All Time Ranking (among batters) is one above Adolfo Phillips. I was a big Phillips fan (I was young….)

    I like Geo.  But that does not mean that I would not prefer to see a return to the offense of his rookie year. And it does not mean I would cry if he does so return and the Cubs trade him (assuming they get the goods in return).

    I would be in favor of Geo getting plenty of days off.  They can’t all be Randy Hundley (of course if Hundley had had Geo’s “good years” numbers…..)