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Soria’s struggles continue with Sunday’s loss

Posted By Ryan Riordan On May 29 2011 @ 9:35 pm In Kansas City Royals | No Comments

Kansas City’s Joakim Soria blew the save Sunday, as Texas scored two runs off the Royals closer in the ninth inning to win 7-6.

That marked the fourth time Soria has blown a save this season, which ties him with six other players for the most in baseball.

No one could have seen this coming. In fact, the most saves Soria has ever blown in a whole season coming into 2011 was four in his rookie year of 2007. In each year from 2008-2010, he blew three.

And Soria was so good last year that he finished 10th in AL Cy Young voting after saving 43 games with a 1.58 ERA in 66 games.

So what’s been the issue this year?  Well to start, his strikeouts are down and walks are up, which is never a good combination.

Soria struck out 9. 73 batters per nine innings last season, which was actually a little down from th 11.72 K/9 rate he had in 2009. This year? His rate is at just 6.20 coming into Sunday.

Meanwhile, his walk rate, which has never been above 2.72 per nine innings in any of his seasons in the majors, was at 4.43 per nine innings coming into Sunday

He is also getting hit much more this season, as opponents were hitting .267 entering Sunday’s game, which is 39 points higher than his worst mark in that category.

Is Soria hurt? Maybe, maybe not. If he is, either he or the Royals aren’t saying. But one thing that is definitely different this season is his fastball.

According to Soria’s Pitch f/x [1] on Fangraphs.com, in 2010 Soria substituted his regular fastball with a cutter for the first time, using the cutter 74.6 percent of the time. As stated earlier, it was his best year.

But in 2011, Soria is using the cutter only 56.6 percent time, while going with any other type of fastball 22.5 percent.

Is this the reason for a change? It’s tough to say since he was successful before 2010 even though he never threw one cutter. But, it would be nice to know why he isn’t going with the cutter as much this year.

At any rate, we must remember that it’s still just the end of may and Soria has only thrown 20 innings, so it’s a small sample size. Still, considering coming into the season he was viewed as one of the very few players on the Royals MLB roster that would be big part of the future, his poor start is something to definitely worry about and monitor as  the season moves forward.

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[1] Soria’s Pitch f/x: http://www.fangraphs.com/pitchfx.aspx?playerid=6941&position=P

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