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June 9, 2003

by Larry Mahnken

On April 27th, on the second pitch of the ballgame against the Texas Rangers, Alfonso Soriano peaked. Hit by an errant Chan Ho Park pitch, Soriano's rate stats had all reached levels they had not been at since the first ten games of the season, when rate stats are always ridiculous--.389/.448/.699.

Just before the game started, Sean Forman wrote:
If you are like me, you check the box score every day hoping for the satisfaction of seeing a big, fat 0 for 5 next to Alfonso Soriano's name. Instead, Peter Gammons is proven more and more right with each passing series. If it were going to be easy to get Soriano out chasing bad pitches (call it the Samuel Theory), it would have happened by now and he would be hitting .260 with a .290 OBP.
And yes, this is the thinly veiled attempt of a Red Sox fan to jinx him.
Two days earlier, fellow blogger Aaron Gleeman wrote:
I still say a guy can't walk once a month, strike out 150 times a year and hit like Soriano does. Of course, I just said "and hit like Soriano DOES," so I guess maybe I should start believing it, huh?
And a few days later, some twit wrote his own idiotic theory about why Soriano was doing well, and created a crappy blog to publish the idiotic theory.

Well, since trotting down to first that afternoon, Soriano has batted .238/.294/.457.

Interestingly, another ballplayer noted for their poor plate discipline was having an outstanding season through the games of April 26th last season, too. Batting .342/.391/.620, the player was not as good as Soriano, but as the season went on, he alternated between hot and cold streaks, the cold streaks outweighed the hot ones, and he finished with a respectable .293/.330/.459. Just like Alfonso Soriano, people looked at Shea Hillenbrand through the first few weeks of the season and insisted that he defied the sabermetric theories of plate discipline. But once again, the defiant player has come back to reality.

Alfonso Soriano is a fantastically talented player, perhaps one of the most unique players in baseball history. His tremendous talent has made him a very good player despite his lack of plate discipline, because when he does hit, he hits the ball well. But he does not defy sabermetric theory.

Coincidentally, the game in which Soriano peaked was the same game where the Yankees peaked. 20-4 at that point, the Yankees took a 5-4 lead into the bottom of the 5th. Three outs later, they trailed 9-5, and since that day, they've gone 15-23. Of course, this is all Derek Jeter's fault, not Soriano's, but it's an interesting parallel.

Oh, by the way, I really do hate the Devils. Almost as much as the Red Sox.