Righting the Soriano ship

The RAB Radio Show: April 27, 2011
At Long Last: New RAB Merchandise
Bad Soriano. Bad. (Kathy Willens/AP)

Rafael Soriano is not this bad. He has shown in his nearly 400 innings prior to signing with the Yankees that he is, indeed, an elite relief pitcher. At his best he can blow pitches by batters while avoiding dreaded walks and home runs. That’s the guy the Yankees inked to a multi-year deal last winter. The guy who has showed up has been a cheap facsimile, a carbon copy that has cost the Yanks games and caused the fans much agita. But this isn’t the real Rafael Soriano. Once the Yankees get him right, things will go much smoother.

Exactly what’s wrong right now is anyone’s guess. We know the symptoms: hanging sliders, fastballs that catch too much of the plate, a general inability to throw quality strikes — and sometimes the inability to throw strikes at all. He has faced 50 batters this season, but has retired just 31 of them, and of those only seven on the strikeout. The rest have reached base either via the hit, 12, or the walk, eight. That’s all fine and good, but we all see that. If the symptoms aren’t immediately apparent when watching him, they sure as hell are on the stat sheet. What we don’t know is the cause.

Of course, searching for the cause can lead us down false paths. The easy path is the old narrative that closers struggle when they’re not in save situations. With Soriano that’s pretty ridiculous, since he wasn’t a full-time closer until last season. In fact, in 2009 he split time between setting up and closing, and he produced a marvelous season. It was, in some ways, better than his year in the closer’s role with the Rays. Before that he was purely a setup man, recording single digit saves in every season of his career prior to 2009. Unless he completely forgot how to pitch in non-save situations during the course of a single year, the idea that he’s struggling because of his role is ridiculous.

It could be just a matter of time before Soriano comes around. After displaying some lower fastball speeds earlier in the year, he was dealing last night, averaging almost 95 mph with his four-seamer and 94 mph with his cutter. His slider speed also appears back up to par. It will only be a matter of time, then, before he returns to form and starts shutting down opponents. Unfortunately, that requires patience. At this point, patience is understandably thin among the fans. We’ll just have to suck up it for a bit longer. But sooner, not later, we will see the Soriano that dominated in 2009 and 2010.

Really, though, it doesn’t matter what we think. We’re just the spectators. The guys involved know that patience is the only cure to whatever ails Soriano. “I still believe he’s going to be very, very good for us and he’s going to play a huge role for us,” Joe Girardi said after the game. Translation: there are no plans to shy away from him in the eighth inning of close games. Maybe that’s a mistake; maybe backing off a bit and using him in lower leverage situations would be for the best. But it’s hard to right the ship if he’s not pitching at all. At least in the eighth he starts with a clean slate. That is, when there are tough situations, Soriano is not the guy. That helps mitigate matters, if only a little bit.

Chances are we will not see Soriano tonight. He sat out the weekend with a bad back and then pitched on consecutive nights. In fact, we might not see him until Sunday, if his words carry any weight. “I’ll come back next month and see what happens,” he told reporters after the game.

Soriano has a long way to go in redeeming himself with the fan base. Normally great performances make people forget about the past, but Soriano’s past now includes two squandered games. It’s hard to forget those, since they’re forever etched in the loss column. Have faith, though, that he’ll return to form soon enough. He’s just too good a pitcher when healthy to go through more than a short stretch in this manner.

The RAB Radio Show: April 27, 2011
At Long Last: New RAB Merchandise
  • The209

    It might be ridiculous to you, but there’s a difference between the 8th & 9th, to him, anyway, for what it’s worth:

    “A lot of people know it’s a little different to me to be the closer or to be the setup man,” Soriano said.

    • 28 this year

      Until last year though, he wasn’t a full time closer so it shouldnt matter.

  • Billy Mumphrey

    He is this bad right now. Soriano has a 9 ERA, Robertson 0. We need to get Soriano fixed but we can’t keep trotting him out there in one run ballgames in the 8th inning. Robertson needs to take over the 8th for now and Soriano needs to get right in the 6th and 7th with 3+ run leads.

    • nsalem

      and last year on April 27 Soriano’s ERA was 2.25 and Robertson’s was over 10.
      Robertson yielded 11 runs last year by May 8th and only 15 the rest of the year.
      Patience Soriano will be on track soon.

  • Tom “the fat guy” Lin

    Last Year, 26 Batters are .417/.462/.583 against D-Rob at Apirl… he has 10.80 ERA during the slump. And he ended the season with 3.82 ERA and 10.4 K/9. I believe Soriano will bounce back as well.

    • Esteban

      I think hatred for Soriano’s contract has turned into hatred for Soriano, which has caused a lot of people that normally preach patience to ignore that advice and have determined that Soriano is not going to be a good pitcher for the Yankees. It’s possible that he’ll never pitch good, but it’s not particularly likely.

  • Fred Phelps

    Knowing it was Levine, I kinda have trouble rooting for Sorry-ano.

    • NJYankeeFan

      Why do you hate Levine? What has he done that’s so bad?

      • Pat D

        He’s a complete and total tool. He knows nothing about baseball. He was brought into the organization for the purpose of getting a new stadium built.

        That mission has been accomplished. He now serves no purpose at all. Yet he convinced Hal to sign Soriano to that ridiculous contract.

        • NJYankeeFan

          So you hate him because he went against Cashman’s decision to sign Soriano.

          If Soriano was pitching lights out, would you still hate him?

          • Pat D

            Again, “he’s a complete and total tool” and “he knows nothing about baseball” and “He now serves no purpose at all.”

            I’ve disliked him since he’s been with the team. Same goes for Lonn Trost, too. They did their job, they have no need to be associated with the team anymore. Seeing them up there on the podium accepting the 2009 World Series Trophy when Cashman was not was the last straw. The only good thing he’s done was criticize that idiot Chuck Greenberg.

            So, no, if Soriano was pitching well my opinion wouldn’t be different in the least.

            • NJYankeeFan

              Other than Soriano, what other baseball decisions have these guys gotten invovled with?

              For all you know, Levine, who has been around MLB since 1996, solicited the opinions other baseball experts before deciding to supercede Cashman’s decision.

              It’s not Levine or Trost’s fault the yankees starting rotation is so weak right now nor is it their fault that it’s easier to win the lottery than it is for the Yankees to develop a decent starting pitcher.

              I have no strong opinion on either of these guys but I don’t think either would make the top 10 list of the Yankees biggest problems.

              • Pat D

                You’re not really hearing what I’m saying, so I give up.

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          My favorite (and only) personal experience with Randy Levine was attending Assemblyman Richard Brodsky’s hearing on the sketchy dealings with the land valuations and tax abatements/credits surrounding the building of YS3 and the panel of elected officials was waiting for Levine to show up to testify… and I walked into the restroom and he was in there talking on his cellphone.

          • Pat D


            • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

              He was all red-faced, too, as if he knew I knew that he was stalling. (In an actual stall, no less.)

              • Pat D

                Wait, you were looking into the stall?

                • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

                  It was open. He wasn’t using the facilities, he was standing (fully dressed) talking on his cellphone.

                  And he was about 45 minutes late to his scheduled testimony time at that point, btw.

                  • Pat D

                    Ah, OK.

                    Yea, how can you not dislike a guy like that??

          • Thomas

            I’m sure he was just lost and calling for directions.

  • Gonzo

    Call me crazy, but I still think he’ll be the 2nd best reliever for the Yankees this year.

    If you looko at his #’s what really sticks out is that he’s walking more and striking out less. If you think he can strike out more and walk less, and I do, he’ll be much better.

    • NJYankeeFan

      I agree. The only time he hasn’t been a top flight reliever is when he’s been injured and judging by his improved velocity the last few starts, he looks healthy to me. I think it’s just a matter of time until he becomes nearly automatic in the 8th inning.

    • MannyGeee

      Call me crazy, but I still think he’ll be the 2nd best reliever for the Yankees this year.

      at 3/35M he goddam better…

      All told, how many more blown saves before Soriano is labeled as Vazquez 2.0? Can you feel it coming on yet?

      • nsalem

        No I don’t. I feel an ill wind emanating from fans who pass judgement on 4 bad performances.

        • jsbrendog

          9 bad performances. 10 appearances, opening day was good

          • nsalem

            He has 6 appearances where he has let 0 or 1 man on base. Your comments are both inaccurate and agenda driven

      • NJYankeeFan

        To be Vasquez 2.0, he first would have to give up a grand slam to Pedroia in the ALCS thereby knocking the Yankees out of the playoffs and then come back to the Yankees in 2015 and pitch like Kei Igawa for the whole year.

  • Wil Nieves Number 1 Fan

    Imagine how bad Soriano would have been if it wasn’t a perfect 68 degrees last night. Since it’s common knowledge that Soriano can only pitch in temperate climates.

    • Epy0n


    • Midland TX

      It seemed like the whole Latino contingent of the 2008 team, especially Abreu, Melky, and Bad Cano, used cold weather as their excuse for sucking hard in March and April.

      It rings as lame as an excuse now as it did back then. Time to see the old MFIKY again.

  • Gonzo

    Also, if you look at PitchFX, he got squeezed on three pitches and got none in return last night. I don’t know if this is a this is a continuing trend or not.

    • Mike

      Not hard to see why. When Soriano is on the mound, he looks like a kid that’s just been told he has to eat carrots instead of pizza.

      Get the goddamned puss off your face and maybe the umpires will be a little more generous. He’s not helping matters pacing around the mound glaring into homeplate when he doesn’t get a favorable call.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        I wish I could say this is silly and doesn’t happen, but I don’t trust umps enough that they wouldn’t let a player’s demeanor influence their calls.


      • Mister Delaware

        Smile to called strike correlation: 0.57

  • steve

    Who cares about this clown. How is our boy Phil doing? Didn’t he go for more testing today?

  • OldYanksFan

    Well written. I believe he will be MUCH better. I wish I felt that way about Posada, Jeter, and to some extent, Gardy. And Swisher is scaring me too.

    And even though Sori ‘blew it’ last night, I put the loss… the last 2, on the offense. 5 hits in 2 games? No excuse for that.

  • paul a


    • http://www.twitter.com/cephster Ross in Jersey

      If he has a shitty year and no other team is likely to offer him more money, he isn’t going anywhere. Horray for stupid player options! /sarcasm

    • Pat D

      Yea, it’s as good as the whopping $1500 bonus I’ll get if I’m still employeed when the merger goes through.

      • Zack

        Hopefully Levine is making the calls with the company you’re merging with, he’d bump that up to $15,00,000

    • JobaWockeeZ

      I hope it was Soriano’s side that pushed for the opt out. I really hope it is.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        It has to be. The Yankees would push for a team option, not a player one. Every player option is a request from the player’s side.

        I may not care for Levine the negotiator, but he’s not THAT dumb that he’d push for/offer a player option unsolicited as a team request, and even if he is, he didn’t do this deal all by himself, I’m sure someone would have overridden him.

        • Mister Delaware

          I still keep hoping it was a (probably unethical, possibly against the rules) one year deal with a wink-and-nod “you let me make it look like I got him a 3 year deal and we’ll opt out and decline arbitration if you choose” between whomever and Boras.

          • toad

            Dubious. Worse than dubious.

            Why would Boras do that to begin with?

            And say Soriano has a bad year and opts out. He won’t get anything like his current contract. How does anyone explain that? And why would Soriano opt out just because Boras wants him to? Boras is his agent, but he can’t make Soriano opt out.

  • JobaWockeeZ

    The only way this ship will be right is if it opts out.

    • JobaWockeeZ

      While keeping a type A label.

      • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

        And we replace him in the leverage chain with David Robertson, and Robertson’s replacement is (wait for it!) Tim Norton, who (at the age of 29) is finally done with his injury woes and puts his big fastball to good use as a quality setup man heavy on the K’s and light on the walks.

        Your mind, it is blown.

    • http://twitter.com/steveh_MandAura Steve H

      Hopefully the Rangers smarten up and move Neftali back to the rotation, need a closer and go with the Boras client in Soriano.

      • JobaWockeeZ

        Hopefully the Rangers smarten up

        Well Nolan has to leave for that to happen…

  • Randy A.

    I don’t really care how long he has been a good relief pitcher. It was a dumb signing to begin with and it is strange for them to add $16 million in relief pitching for this one year when over the past two years they have gotten it done with young pitchers who are paid very little (Marte being the exception to this). The volatility of relievers not named Mariano Rivera should further emphasize the need to stick with the younger guys who are just as likely to have the same blow ups that Soriano has been having. The way I see it…unless Soriano HATES being in NY the Yankees are stuck with overpaying him for the next two years.

    • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

      The signing was/is likely a panic move based on the fact that Mo’s in his 40s and the team hasn’t fully found a suitable replacement/heir for him trustworthy enough.

      Let’s hope it’s a panic move that works out in the end, though. It still can.

      • Randy A.

        Yeah, let’s hope. But what I find interesting is even if Soriano opts out and the Yankees want to receive the draft pick from him being a type A free agent, couldn’t he just accept arbitration and be almost guaranteed a raise in salary? Particularly if he does that after his second year of the deal when Rivera’s contract is up. The “Yankee Deus” should have never gotten involved in signing players…

        • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder

          I doubt Soriano would opt out and then accept arb. His base salary is already way higher than all his peers in similar roles; he’d be hard-pressed to get an arbitrator to agree that his higher number is more justified than the Yankees lower number (provided the team isn’t offering a paycut or something silly).

          If he’s opting out, it’s to become a free agent and get a closer’s job somewhere. It’s not to go to arb and get a small percentile increase on his salary (and thus also forfeit his option year for 2013).

        • JobaWockeeZ

          Maybe Cash gives him the Vazquez treatment and make an agreement.

          • http://twitter.com/tsjc68 tommiesmithjohncarlos a/k/a Ridiculous Upside the Elder


  • Poopy Pants

    It was weird last night when they were blaming cold northern weather for his early struggles or him just not wanting to pitch.
    They said he’s used to pitching in Atlanta and Florida. Atlanta and Florida have never faced a team in the north in April or September/October???

  • nsalem

    There is a good chance that too many closers on the market next year for Soriano to even think of opting out. This would keep him in a Yankee uniform through 2013.

  • Poopy Pants

    “Righting the Soriano ship”

    The last word is misspelled, right?