+

José Soriano Is Mayhem On A Pitching Mound

José Soriano is baseball's most chaotic pitcher, but could it work?

José Soriano is a pitcher of many extremes. He’s potentially the scariest starter for a hitter to face for every reason conceivable, good AND bad. He brings otherworldly stuff to the table but has little command of it. Yet, here we are. Despite the headaches and cardiac events he may cause, the stuff is undeniable. So good is it, in fact, that it warrants a deeper dive into what makes him one of one.

 

The Curveball

Soriano’s most used pitch is a devastating knuckle-curve that he throws with a lethal mix of power and movement. A lot of harder curveballs tend to be more of the gyro/hammer variety. This is not the case with Soriano’s. He throws it 86.3 mph, with -7.5” of iVB, and 10.3” of sweep. He releases the curveball a little bit higher (6.1’) than his other pitches (5.9’) but not enough to be tipping it to hitters. 

With the slightly higher-than-average release, this curveball has depth, power, and sweep. This gives it the ability to miss bats and induce unimpressive contact. Despite the knocks on his command, Soriano has done a good job of zoning this pitch, and also keeping it close enough to get chases. It’s still missing more often than I’d like, but it’s a very strong pitch at present.

 

The Sinker

Soriano’s superior fastball is surprisingly the one he throws less hard. Be it due to comfort or motor preference or something else entirely, Soriano throws his sinker 1.5 mph slower than his four-seam. 97.6 mph is nothing to sneeze at though, this is still absurd velocity for a starter. It’s not even the best part of this pitch though. This is a sinker with true downer movement. He suppresses the iVB down to just 4.8”, to go with 16.7” of run. 

While this isn’t outlier sinker movement from his release, with the velocity he brings it makes for a foundational fastball to build off of. While he hasn’t gained enough control over it to back-door it or run it in on righties, it’s still more than good enough to get bad contact. A high 90s sinker with -0.28° VAAAA is just not a common pitch. There aren’t many good comparisons to make to put it into context. The closest I could find was: “Think like Jordan Hicks’ sinker this year, but better”.

 

The 4-Seam

We’ve reached the weak link of Soriano’s arsenal. It probably bodes well that we’re describing a 99.1 mph fastball as a weak link. The issue lies in the movement. If you follow prospects at all, you’re probably familiar with the exaggerated reports about Paul Skenes’ fastball shape. No, his fastball shape isn’t optimal but it’s not as bad as people have said it is. José Soriano’s four-seam shape quality is closer to what people think Skenes’ is. 12.2” of iVB and 12.6” of run from his generic release is just abysmal movement.

Even with his velocity, if this were his primary fastball he’d be in some trouble. Thankfully, he has other pitches he can use to hide it and make it playable, rather than having to scrap it entirely. Similarly to Keaton Winn as was discussed in the article last week, Soriano’s fastballs spin on the same axis. However, they have decent movement separation, allowing them to play off of each other.

Being that Soriano throws five pitches, he could, and probably should, throw his four-seam a bit less. It gets obliterated on contact and he’s using it too much for it to come as a surprise to hitters. This one needs some workshopping, but it’s not all bad. 99 is 99, even with a truly putrid shape. You can still blow that by a hitter if you’ve created a good situation for it.

 

The Splitter

This pitch is just silly. A so-called “offspeed” pitch, he throws it 93.8 mph. Making it even more ridiculous is the -0.8” of iVB, and the 13.9” of fade it gets. Yes, that’s correct, this pitch actually has movement that goes down a bit, a rarity for non-breaking balls, especially ones thrown by pitchers with normal releases/arm slots. This pitch vanishes from hitters’ sights as it comes to the plate.

He throws it exclusively to lefties, which for now is probably for the best but oddly enough I could see this being something he could use against righties too. In general, offspeed pitches get hammered on contact, especially against same-handed hitters. However, this one is thrown so hard, it’s almost like a really good sinker. Come to think of it, if a starter were throwing this pitch as their primary fastball, it’d probably be above average.

Getting back on track though, he could probably use this as a hybrid offspeed/groundball-inducing type of pitch even though he already has a heavy sinker. The possibilities are fun to consider. 

 

The Slider

Once again, similarly to last week, Soriano has an unsung hero of a slider hiding in the back of his arsenal. A gyro breaker, this one comes in at 90.4 mph, with 1.6” of iVB, and 0.2” of iHB. It’s another one of those perfectly straight, “let the gravity do the work”, bullet sliders that seem to stump hitters.

This one has the added bonus of being thrown very very hard. This kind of breaking ball with this much depth is rare at this velocity. Not just rare, but this is the lowest amount of iVB on any breaking ball thrown this hard. Coincidentally, again like last week, Soriano like Winn only throws this pitch to same-handed hitters. I’m once again going to complain about this and suggest he throw it to lefties too, gyro pitches are good against lefties! This one is theoretically good against everyone though, it’s an outstanding weapon for him to have.

 

The Outlook

So, we’ve established that José Soriano is one of the nastiest pitchers in baseball. He throws four very easily plus pitches, and a bonus 99 mph fastball that can work if used properly. The issues are glaring and obvious, but we should cover them anyway. Soriano’s command is pretty terrible. He generally just aims for the strike zone and hopes for the best.

This isn’t as bad as it sounds— you don’t need pinpoint accuracy to be a great pitcher, especially with stuff like this. I’m loathe to reference something by paraphrasing from an incomplete memory, but I think it was Gabe Speier who’s spoken about “aiming for quadrants” and trusting his stuff instead of trying to hit a bullseye with every single pitch.

I don’t need to ramble on about Soriano’s inability to locate, we all know that he has that problem and that it’s something he needs to work on. The actually interesting and thought-worthy discussion is how he should adjust what he’s doing in the meantime.

He needs to throw his four-seam less. I’ve harped on it already, but I’m saying it again. I do not care that he can’t throw his sinker as hard as his four-seam, it’s a considerably better pitch despite that. He uses both fastballs against both types of hitters but favors the platoon-friendlier fastballs in both matchups. This makes sense for the righties, his sinker is great. For lefties, it’s time to start throwing the gyro slider there to take some pressure off of the four-seam and give hitters more to think about.

This is going to be Soriano’s other main hurdle. The lack of command is undoubtedly his biggest, but being able to get lefties out is just as important. As an east-west pitcher who doesn’t have a rising fastball or a cutter to run in on them, he has to find other means of success. It’s going to come from spreading out his arsenal and using the pitches that are better suited to beating them. That’s the gyro slider and the splitter. It’s doable. He’ll probably always have noticeable platoon splits, but I think he has it in him to keep it manageable.

The tools are there, and they’re obvious. There are very few pitchers as fun to watch as Soriano these days. There are also very few pitchers as frustrating as him. He’ll likely always be a better real-life player than he is in fantasy baseball, as his stuff is aimed more toward a strikeout/bad contact combo rather than just nothing but whiffs. He’ll likely always have a high walk rate too. But I don’t think that means he can’t be successful. The stars are the limit for a pitcher with stuff like this, but I’d settle for the sky. It seems pretty attainable to me.

 

Photo by Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Aaron Polcare (@bearydoesgfx on X)

Jack Foley

Jack is a contributor at Pitcher List who enjoys newfangled baseball numbers, coffee, and watching dogs walk by from the window where he works. He has spent far too much time on the nickname page of Baseball-Reference.

One response to “José Soriano Is Mayhem On A Pitching Mound”

  1. Markit8 (Dude) says:

    Great article, I’ve added and dropped him a couple times already exactly because of the command issues you point out. Could you explain why the low ivb numbers on some of his pitches are good – if I’m reading that correctly – I understand that on fastballs we are looking for high ivb,

    Thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Account / Login