Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Soriano shows what he can do

USA Today Sports Images
After a dominant afternoon by Stephen Strasburg, a two-homer day by Bryce Harper, and a scoreless eighth inning by Tyler Clippard, it was time for prized free agent closer Rafael Soriano to take the mound and do what the Nationals paid him all that money for.

Soriano entered Monday’s game with a two-run lead in the ninth and the Marlins’ top of the order on deck. And despite a rough spring that may have raised questions, he emerged with the save after just 11 pitches, a closeout as textbook as they come.

Soriano allowed six earned runs in 6 2/3 innings during spring training, but as far as the Nats are concerned, that’s in the past.

“Obviously, spring training’s overrated,” manager Davey Johnson said. “He certainly turned it up a notch. Made nothing but quality pitches. He did outstanding.”

“I think we all realized that in spring training, he’s a veteran guy,” Clippard said. “He knows what he needed to do to get ready and he was ready. It was fun to watch.”

Johnson said pitching coach Steve McCatty lamented before the season opener that he wished Soriano had a few more spring outings. But Soriano worked quick to quell those concerns with a pop fly for the first out and two strikeouts to close the game.

The two strikeouts came against former N.L. Rookie of the Year Chris Coghlan and superstar slugger Giancarlo Stanton. Afterwardm Soriano’s catcher, Wilson Ramos, was amazed at how easily he finished the inning.

“His pitches were perfect. Especially [against] Stanton. That guy can hit for a lot of power, but he froze him with his pitches. That was a great, great inning for him,” Ramos said.

“The ball for him moves a lot. All the pitches move a lot. The players, they see something, they're going to make a swing. The ball moves and freezes them. That was pretty good stuff. I'm excited to catch him.”

Monday could have been just the first of many, as Soriano saved 42 games for the Yankees last year and could get even more opportunities with Washington this season. It also served as his teammates’ first introduction to Soriano’s signature celebration, un-tucking his jersey immediately after the final out is sealed.

Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman says he and the others in the field will need to catch on, that he wasn’t aware the whole team is supposed to follow suit.

“I was not," Zimmerman said. "But he can un-tuck his shirt 60-some times if he wants."

53 comments:

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

"Third baseman Ryan Zimmerman says he and the others in the field will need to catch on, that he wasn’t aware the whole team is supposed to follow suit."

Man, this signing free agents stuff is complicated! Did they have to clear this with Werth? I saw Bryce asking Chad Tracy if it was OK to take a curtain call.

Theophilus T. S. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tayo said...

Storen Should learn a lot from watching Soriano's pitch. He obviously has the talent and stuff to be a great closer. Some time watching more experienced closer like Soriano would do him some good.

Natslifer said...

Any comments/questions from anyone about Soriano's velocity? I thought he threw harder than that last year?

Theophilus T. S. said...

I think Soriano was throwing as hard as he thought he had to.

Joe Seamhead said...

Sofa, you saw what happened to the guy that dared to wear green shoe laces without clearing it with the Wolfman first.

baseballjones said...

This is a tough first series for the Nats. They are in a no-win situation. If they dont sweep, heavens to bitsy. If they sweep, the asterisks come out (the Marlins are a AAAA-league team).

Oh well - a team can only play what the schedule makers put in front of them, I guess.

bowdenball said...

Theophilus T. S. said...

"With due respect and gratitude for what Storen has done for the Nats in the past, it was nice to watch a closer who couldn't decide whether he was there to intimidate hitters or just to get them out."

How exactly is this "with due respect"? It seems to be intentionally disrespectful.

And this questioning of Drew based on one blown playoff save (which by the way came on his third consecutive appearance- Davey doesn't get enough blame for that) is so so wrong Drew was one of the best closers in the league in 2011 and again once healthy at the end of 2012. There's nothing wrong with him closing, and he'll do it again many times in his career.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

"Sofa, you saw what happened to the guy that dared to wear green shoe laces without clearing it with the Wolfman first."

You better stay away from him -- he'll rip your lungs out, Jim.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Jones, just "win the series" and they're fine. Oh, and don't get hurt.

Faraz Shaikh said...

A story on Ramos would be nice.

Sec. 3, My Sofa said...

Good idea, FS!

NatsJack in Florida said...

As for guys throwing hard, all of themwill be throwing harder in a couple of weeks when they get more work in and the weather warms up.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I thought Ramos looked great on the field yesterday. I think Suzuki is going to have a hard time starting games soon enough. I especially liked his quick jump and throw to first. I don't think I have seen him do that before. He did not drop the ball at home plate either. This may finally be the year where he breaks out.

Sofa, just saw that you predicted SS won't last the season. How could you?

NatsJack in Florida said...

Aroldis Chapman only hit 98 yesterday.

NatsNut said...

From previous thread:
Yes, Natsie, I did notice Jayson's beard. I daresay he is starting to look a little handsome again. And yes, for the record I HATE Espinosa's beard and would pay good money toward the Photoshop removal of Desmond's evil mustache.

Off topic (as if beard discussions weren't), maybe we can start a "Sweet Fancy Moses" (SFM) count on NIDO?

Whack-a-Mule said...

Reprise of my older son's post-game text message:
"That is what closer stuff looks like."
Good to know.

Theophilus T. S. said...

I realize the original of this post lacked semantic clarity. The following revision, however, probably won't appease people who think I was disrespectful of Storen.

"With due respect and gratitude for what Storen has done for the Nats in the past, it was nice not to watch a closer who couldn't decide whether he was there to intimidate hitters or just to get them out."

Storen's persona as a closer has always seemed to be that he (A) could out-glare hitters; (B) out-think the hitters; (C) over-power the hitters. This is not the same as just going up there and throwing it where they can't hit it. As a consequence he felt he needed to show all of his pitches, including those that weren't his best; fell into a lot of long counts; walked some people and often made the outcome seem in doubt up to the final pitch. Mostly it worked out OK, but I'd much rather have the economy, efficiency of effort was saw from Soriano yesterday.

Faraz Shaikh said...

I guess that 'only' matters to Chapman because if it was anyone else, they would be happy with 98 mph. He is an exciting guy to watch, I hope he is OK.

SCNatsFan said...

The question is how does Storen handle all of this; he can be dominent early in the game and give the Nats an amazing weapon or he can sulk. Lets hope he chooses to be the weapon.

bowdenball said...

I see where you're going with that, Theo. I'm still fine with Storen as potential closer- and I still think most of the blame for Game 5 falls on Davey for using him needlessly in Game 3 and wearing him down- but I get that perspective about him seemingly needing to show everything every time.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Theo.... I agree totally.

All Nats relievers will benefit greatly from Soriano. Clippard has the same issue with not throwing strikes IMMEDIATELY to every hitter.

That goes for Mattheus, Stammen and anyone else in the bull pen.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

Soriano only hit around 92 - 93 on the gun. But he hit his spots like a dart thrower, and fooled every guy he faced. Pierre, in particular, saw SS well enough to square up line drives to the OF in all his ABs against the Nats ace. Against Soriano he managed a weak pop fly. And Stanton must still be wondering WTH happened.

If he pitches like that every time out, the Nats are not going to blow any late inning leads like they did last year when Henry and Lidge were trying to do the job, and failed to d it, so often.

He can't be that good every time out, but I sure hope he is.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Laddie -- recognizing that the motion for throwing darts probably doesn't work for throwing a baseball.

tayo said...

@baseballjones.
Really don't care what outsiders think and our fans don't need to be thinking like this(expecting nothing short of a sweep against any team)
We just need to do what we did last year,which is win the series and hen get the occasional sweep and we will be fine.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

"Clippard has the same issue with not throwing strikes IMMEDIATELY to every hitter."

Clip makes me feel like Henry does. You just can't come on and walk the first guy you face, especially in a 2-run game, and bring the tying run to the plate with no outs. Throw strikes. He was wild high, for some reason, to the first hitter he faced. You warm up in the bull pen to sharpen yourself for the game. Clip was not sharp when he should have been.

Soriano was like a surgeon's scalpel, right from the start. Maybe it's the experience factor, but the rest of the guys in the pen can learn from him. He is a great addition as the new closer. I thought that Rizzo overpaid for him, but he looks to be worth every cent.

Laddie Blah Blah said...

Theo - "Laddie -- recognizing that the motion for throwing darts probably doesn't work for throwing a baseball."

But hitting your spots like a dart thrower works just fine, no matter how you do it. It was a metaphor, Theo. I was an English major, so don't hold it against me when I indulge the impulse to use them.

Theophilus T. S. said...

NJ --

Thanks for the support. Mattheus and Stammen are probably the least likely to be overcome with their own ability. They're both one-pitch wonders: sink, sink and more sink, until the batter is willing to swing at the ball that bounces in front of the plate.

bowdenball said...

Are there really people here complaining about Tyler Clippard? The guy with the WHIP under 1.00 in his last two seasons plus one game as a Nats' reliever? The guy with the career K/9 rate over 10.0? The guy with the FIP between 3.17 and 3.31 each of the last three seasons? We're complaining about him now because he walked a guy before getting three straight outs, and then because a different guy got three straight outs without walking anyone? We're passing judgment on two one-inning appearances?

I hope Tyler Clippard keeps doing exactly what he's been doing for the last three seasons, end of story.

#4 said...

Things to love about Soriano:

1. He has very little mileage on him for an established closer. He was lightly used before the age of 25 and should last a long time.

2. His spirit is one of complete confidence and control. His spring training attitude is a great example.

3. Closers get beat with walks. Period. His BB/9 ratios are strong and he attacked yesterday.

4. It's great to have a bad a$$ Dominican closer. The 9th inning simply had a different feel yesterday. It's gives you the sense they are a much more veteran team.

NatsJack in Florida said...

I hope Clip does what he's done for the past 3 seasons, too, just with more efficiency.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Clippard-4 batters faced, 23 pitches, 14 for strikes. Soriano-3 batters faced, 11 pitches, 8 for strikes.

Faraz Shaikh said...

Sofa, thanks for the link on Ramos.

bowdenball said...

NatsJack and others:

Clippard's best pitch is a changeup, which he threw 35% of the time last year. Soriano's best pitch is a nasty slider, which he threw 40% of the time last year. Big differences between the two, in particular the fact that a changeup works best if it's changing up from something else.

Ultimately, the guys have different approaches. Each approach works incredibly well for each guy. I say let them do their thing. The one thing I DON'T want is Clippard grooving first pitch fastballs in the zone. As a guy who doesn't get a lot of ground balls he has enough of a HR problem as it is. No reason to make it worse.

Another point- you're judging performance based on one inning. Clippard and Soriano have pretty similar BB/9 rates over the last two years. That seems like a much more useful way to compare the two.

SonnyG10 said...

I believe Clip was affected by his adrenalin level with those high pitches starting out.
Being geeked up will affect your mechanics. Got the first game out of the way, so he'll be fine.

NatsJack in Florida said...

Clippard regularly goes more than 20 pitches in an inning. That is what I base it on.

tayo said...

I have no problems with Clipard. However, what I want to know is what happened to him throwing that high Heater that got so many swing and misses in previous years. There were significantly fewer of those last year.

natsfan1a said...

Agreed. And I love the metaphors, Laddie. Then again, mom was an English major.

tayo said...

@baseballjones.
Really don't care what outsiders think and our fans don't need to be thinking like this(expecting nothing short of a sweep against any team)
We just need to do what we did last year,which is win the series and hen get the occasional sweep and we will be fine.
April 02, 2013 10:38 AM

Steady Eddie said...

After watching at the game yesterday, i'm not worried about Clip. He was way over-amped and overthrowing like HRod until he settled down and returned to being Clip. Given his dominance in ST, it was clearly just an Opening Day moment.

Steady Eddie said...

Having said I'm not worried about Clip, of course, how can anyone not tip your hat (unless you're not wearing one) to Soriano?

The greatest thing was his whole demeanor -- "I got this. No doubt." Definitely the benefit of a proven veteran in that role. I hope the entire rest of the bullpen can start to learn that from him.

NatsLady said...

NJ, Clip's lack of "efficiency" (pitches per inning) is probably the main reason he's not a starter. That doesn't mean he's not an effective reliever--which happens to be his job. Even though they have very different styles, I do feel he will benefit from watching Soriano, because he has that ambition.

Storen, I'm not so sure about. Storen has a bit of Trevor Bauer in him, meaning he wants to think about it and figure it out himself, which is obviously frustrating to Davey.

I think Storen wanted to pitch in Game 3 and Davey acquiesced. He had pitched an inning on Oct. 7 (Game 1). If he did not pitch in Game 3 (Oct 10) he would have gone four days without pitching.

He (and Davey) probably figured that with the blowout, it wasn't going to be that much more stressful than a "throwing session" in the bullpen. Part of the problem was--as we discovered later--that he was pitching in pain. It may also be that he wanted to see how the pain would affect him.

NatsLady said...

Did you see that Robinson Cano fired Scott Boras and he is going to hire Jay-Z, who will get certified as an agent. Only in New York--or Hollywood.

Faraz Shaikh said...

http://bit.ly/16tLX8h

2012 stats for 2013 Nats bullpen. You can extend the seasons at the top and look at multiple seasons.

Faraz Shaikh said...

uh NL, Cano is represented by CAA and Jay-Z's company is just being launched under CAA.

NatsLady said...

FS--well, then Twitter is wrong. Which wouldn't be the first time.

Here is where I got the info.

Cano

http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2013/04/02/with-free-agency-around-the-corner-robinson-cano-fires-scott-boras/

Faraz Shaikh said...

I only read MLBtr for rumors (which come from tweets and articles) and they say that Cano's agent is Brody guy from CAA. I think they were also initially reported what you posted earlier. It was a misunderstanding I guess.

Avar said...

Some data on Clippard. Last year, he had 74 appearances, none more than one inning and he threw 20 or more pitches 26 times or 35%. I guess that technically qualifies as "regularly" but certainly not "usually". However, in '11, he had 45 appearances of 1 IP or less and threw more than 20 only 8 times.

1) Not sure how guilty Clip is of inefficiency based on that data.
2) Who cares?? His job isn't to throw the fewest pitches, it's to get outs and he's been as good as just about any reliever in baseball at that the last three years.

I look at this like Ks for a hitter. I could care less how much he whiffs if he gets on base at >.350. Same here, if he gets guys out, I could care less how many pitches it takes him to do it.

NatsLady said...

Avar, I with you on this. The only problem with throwing a lot of pitches is if it makes the pitcher "unavailable" the next day. But what with warming up and all, it's not that significant a factor. Yes, if a guy uses 5 pitches to get the side out vs. 30 pitches and that were a consistent pattern, you might worry, but it's not. I remember several times Clip got the side out very efficiently last year. Depends on who comes up and a lot of other factors.

Soriano was impressive, but, y'know, small sample size.

NatsLady said...

FS, obviously it's more dramatic if Cano fired Scott Boras than if he fired Brody. I expect it will sort out in the end. I'm not sure how all these sites track it unless the player or the agent makes it public. I know the players have to register who is their agent.

Theophilus T. S. said...

Some of the people now defending Clippard's efficiency, or lack thereof (or both) were saying a few months ago how he needed to throw something besides his FB and change. The problem with throwing "a lot" of pitches isn't tomorrow -- it's the batter right then and now. Once you've thrown four or five pitches, you've pretty exhausted your repertoire. The batter has now seen everything you throw, and probably the best of everything you've got. Up through a 2-2 count, the advantage is to the pitcher. Once it gets to 3-2, the advantage is clearly to the batter. For one thing, you're now one pitch from being on base. For another, having seen everything you're likely to see, you only have to foul it off; "squaring it up" is only one possibility. It becomes much more difficult for the pitcher to get the hitter -- any hitter -- out. Exhibit A: Werth. Go through that with two-three hitters in the inning and the ship is pretty much sunk.

Exhibit B: Strasburg. If he can become a pitch-to-contact pitcher, so can everybody in the bullpen.

Avar said...

"Once it gets to 3-2, the advantage is clearly with the batter". Sorry but that is false. First of all the advantage is NEVER with the batter.
The pitcher has MUCH better odds of getting an out in every pitch count than the hitter has of getting a hit.

Second, hitters have their best averages when they have less then two strikes. It peaks of course at 3-0 which is around .395. Once a hitter gets two strikes, their average goes way down. At 0-2, 1-2 and 2-2, it's below .200. Even at full count it's only about .230 and .230 is terrible. A .230 batting average against is an all star. Only 10 qualified pitchers had a BAA below .230 last year. Once you hit a full count, the average pitcher becomes Jake Peavey (wrt to BAA).

But all this aside, I still return to my original point. Clippard has been successful at getting outs so who cares how many pitches he throws?

Avar said...

OK, full disclosure as this weakens my argument. I just found on BR.com that while the Nats batting average with 3-2 was .240 last year - right around what I found earlier. Their OBP was .475! They drew 231 walks in the 748 PAs where they got to 3-2.

So, I will grant Theo that at a full count, the pitcher has a relative advantage. Not an absolute advantage because the pitcher is still more likely to succeed. But, no one would argue that a .475 OBP isn't awesome for the hitter.

But, I stand by my broader point of who cares how Clippard gets to AllStarville? He gets there!

As an aside, the Nats had a .921 OBP at 3-0 with a .286 BA the 14 times they swung. So, no green light with 3-0!!

Unknown said...

I think Drew has much better stuff that Soriano but he doesn't trust it. He's constantly nibbling and throwing the ball out of the strike zone in the hopes the batter will go fishing.

Soriano throws strikes and dares the hitters to swing.

I like that.

Farid @ Idaho

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