I wrote yesterday about how Joakim Soria hasn’t pitched like his usual dominant self this season with a 5.18 ERA, similarly ugly strikeout and walk numbers, and decreased velocity.
While his performance so far should definitely have the Royals worried, it’s no surprise that manager Ned Yost made it very clear Soria is in no danger of losing closing duties, telling Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star:
There’s nothing different with Soria and there’s not going to be anything different with Soria. He’s not that far off from being right. His problem is he was just so automatic before, when he stumbles a little bit, people go crazy. That’s the nature of being a closer.
That’s certainly true about the nature of closers, but it’s tough to agree that “there’s nothing different with Soria” when, even ignoring the bloated ERA, his strikeouts are down 40 percent, his walks are up 85 percent, and he’s missing 1.5 miles per hour on his fastball.
There’s no need to overreact and change Soria’s role yet, but there’s more reason to worry about Soria than the usual hysteria whenever a great closer blows a save or two.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.