September 20, 2020

Statistically Speaking: Soriano’s Historic (?) Implosion

What was expected to be a straightforward 6-0 drubbing of a National League East foe turned into a bit of a laugher come the ninth inning for the Washington Nationals on Monday night and unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. The inning and the game was lost by the usually steadfast closer, Rafael Soriano, whose stat line was a veritable house of horrors for a team in need of a strong showing against the Miami Marlins in order to stay atop the NL East standings:

IP H R ER BB SO RE24
0.1 3 4 4 1 0 -3.68

In a word, yuck. Four runs, all earned, with only one out recorded. To add insult to injury, Soriano was pulled in favor of lefthander Jerry Blevins, making the outing and the game all the more dramatic. Hand wringing aside over who the ‘true’ closer is or should be, the last statistic provided, RE24, is one that really sums up how bad Soriano was Monday night, and can also paint a more clear picture as to how valuable a pitcher *is*, versus how valuable he *should* be.

Considering he came into the Marlins game with a 12.49 RE24, giving up five runs all season, the offensive fireworks provided by a Soriano—courtesy of some very flat cutters and sliders up in the zone—were of epic proportion, for both the player and the organization.

Epic, yes…but historic?

For Soriano, yes, the Miami meltdown was as bad as it gets (at least with RE24 as our gauge of ineptitude), with only three other outings finding him giving up at least four earned runs in one inning of work or less:

Date Team Opp Result Inn IP H R ER BB SO RE24
2014-07-28 WSN MIA L 6-7 9 0.1 3 4 4 1 0 -3.68
2009-09-19 ATL PHI W 6-4 9 1 5 4 4 1 1 -3.51
2013-07-25 WSN PIT W 9-7 9 0.1 2 4 4 2 1 -2.68
2011-04-05 NYY MIN L 4-5 8 0.2 1 4 4 3 1 -1.26

For the Nationals, as the Nationals in D.C., the Soriano meltdown has some company. Using his RE24 of -3.68 as our line in the sand for measuring horrendous outings and also only considering ninth inning appearances, Soriano’s most recent attempt to close out a game doesn’t seem so egregious:

Player Date Opp Result IP H R ER BB SO RE24
Chad Cordero 2006-05-13 ATL L 5-8 0.2 5 5 5 0 1 -4.57
Henry Rodriguez 2011-07-26 FLA L 2-11 0.1 3 5 5 3 0 -4.41
Ryan Perry 2012-05-06 PHI L 3-9 0.2 5 6 6 1 0 -4.11
Drew Storen 2010-09-19 PHI L 6-7 0 4 4 4 0 0 -4.00
Drew Storen 2013-07-26 NYM L 0-11 0.2 3 3 3 0 0 -3.86
Chad Cordero 2007-08-24 COL L 5-6 0 4 5 4 1 0 -3.85
Sean Burnett 2011-04-27 NYM L 3-6 0.2 4 4 4 1 0 -3.85
Zack Segovia 2009-09-10 PHI W 8-7 0.1 2 4 3 1 0 -3.77
Julian Tavarez 2009-04-30 STL L 4-9 0.1 2 5 2 2 0 -3.69
Rafael Soriano 2014-07-28 MIA L 6-7 0.1 3 4 4 1 0 -3.68

Thought you had your memories wiped clean of Zack Segovia, didn’t you?

Some blasts from the past notwithstanding, we do see some familiar names who are familiarly effective in the late innings. In particular, Chad Cordero and Drew Storen show up on our Table of Shame and sadly they show up twice, proof that even the most durable and reliable can have an off day (or two).

Getting back to Soriano’s Monday, let’s look at some PITCHf/x data, to see if we can confirm his stuff being a little high in the zone. The heatmap on the left shows us his pitch location for Monday and the heatmap on the right is from his previous 2014 outings:

Screen Shot 2014-07-30 at 12.16.34 AM

Percentage-wise, Soriano was up in the zone quite a bit Monday; let’s now see if there were other 2014 PITCHf/x results that could shed a little more light on the meltdown:

Pre-Monday Pitch Type Freq Velo (mph) pfx Hmov pfx VMov H. Rel (ft.) V. Rel (ft.)
Fourseam 65.02% 91.90 -1.85 8.43 -2.83 6.08
Sinker 5.27% 92.15 -7.78 5.69 -2.76 6.09
Slider 29.55% 85.59 3.08 1.85 -2.76 6.16
Monday              
Fourseam 30.77% 91.62 -2.61 10.17 -2.61 6.15
Sinker 42.31% 91.95 -7.13 6.44 -2.59 6.11
Slider 26.92% 86.14 2.79 2.78 -2.54 6.17

Aside from going to the sinker a lot—more than likely due to getting behind batters often during his outing—nothing really screams out as really ‘off’ for Soriano ; his velocity and release point (H. Rel and V. Rel) was consistent with previous outings this season, with only his slider on Monday showing some flatness to it, in the form of a slight drop in horizontal movement (pfx Hmov).

While his approach inspires many to cringe and cower when the game is in his hands, the clunker of an outing provided by Soriano Monday was simply that—a clunker. His effectiveness and the way in which he is used might be showing some wear and tear and much will be made of the poor showing, but the outing against Miami barely registers in the team’s history of ninth inning meltdowns, despite it being a historically bad showing, personally.

Data courtesy of Baseball-Reference and Brooks Baseball.
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Stuart Wallace is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A neuroscientist by day, the Nevada native also moonlights as an Associate Managing Editor for Beyond the Box Score and a contributor at Camden Depot and Gammons Daily. A former pitcher, his brief career is sadly highlighted by giving up a lot of home runs to former National Johnny Estrada. You can follow him on Twitter @TClippardsSpecs.

About Stuart Wallace

Stuart Wallace is a Contributor to District Sports Page. A neuroscientist by day, the Nevada native also moonlights as an Associate Managing Editor for Beyond the Box Score, stats intern at Baseball Prospectus, and a contributor at Camden Depot. A former pitcher, his brief career is sadly highlighted by giving up a lot of home runs to former National Johnny Estrada. You can follow Stu on Twitter @TClippardsSpecs.

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