The 2015 MLB playoffs are the bomb y’all. Bombs, to be more accurate. Lots and lots of bombs. And for the St. Louis Cardinals, Jorge Soler might be the most dangerous bomber of them all.
In yesterday’s four Divisional Series games, postseason hitters slugged 21 home runs, the most on any single day in playoff history. The St. Louis Cardinals were responsible for two of them. But the Chicago Cubs had six of them. Rookies Kyle Schwarber, Kris Bryant and Jorge Soler each had one.
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So much for my assertion that the Cardinals rookies are outshining the Cubs’ newbies.
Schwarber and Bryant are excellent hitters, but Soler is the one who bears watching in today’s late afternoon matinee at Wrigley Field (4:30 p.m. on TBS). The Cuban outfielder has yet to make an out in the postseason and has become the first Major Leaguer ever to reach safely in his first nine playoff plate appearances.
“I’ve got tremendous confidence right now,” Soler said through translating Cubs bench coach Dave Martinez in last night’s postgame presser. “I’m seeing the ball really well.”
Thank you, captain obvious.
If you look at Soler heat maps (here’s one from ESPN, and here’s another from last year posted on Gammons Daily), the plan of attack is pretty clear. Do not elevate your pitches, but do throw out of the zone, preferably preferably breaking balls away, because Soler chases and hits nothing but fastballs.
According to this detailed chart on Fangraphs, Soler whiffs on more than 40 percent of his swings at pitches out of the zone, one of the top ten rates in baseball this year. He also hits 200 points lower — and comfortably below the Mendoza line — off non-fastballs.
Well, if you look at Fangraph’s breakdown of Soler’s nine postseason at bats, guess what you see? A more patient hitter. He’s not only laying off pitches out of the zone, Soler is also staying back on breaking balls long enough to hit them with authority. That set him up last night to homer off a Michael Wacha fastball that the righthander didn’t locate far enough outside.
Game Four starter John Lackey is unlikely to have an easier go. Soler has doubled against him three times — once on a slider and twice on the fastball — in nine regular season at bats. He’s also singled off a Lackey heater and walked on four straight fastballs.
Judging from Lackey’s pitch location, his tact was to tie up Soler with a balanced diet of fastballs and sliders on the inner half of the plate with. It didn’t really work. Other than the walk, Soler put the ball in play every time.
Those words you’re searching for right now in response? Uh oh.