Just about two hours ago, the New York Yankees answered what has been a lingering question for the past couple seasons: who will be the 8th inning set up man for the Yanks? The answer for at least the next three years is Rafael Soriano. Soriano and the Yanks agreed to a 3-year, $35 million deal.
Do you know what Soriano did last year? He did almost too well to settle for an 8th inning set-up role. It is said that he was not looking for a closing role and was not going to go out of his way to get a closer role, he was looking for the money and he got it from New York.
In what looks to be his career year, Soriano posted a 1.73 ERA, 45 saves, just 3 blown saves in 62.1 innings. He showed that he was able to post good numbers in the American League East. He gave up just 12 runs through out the whole season, that is pretty amazing and I, personally, think that it is a little mind-boggling that just 12 runners crossed the plate against Soriano in 2010.
I'm sorry but I just have to tell you some negatives on Soriano but I don't want anyone to be surprised when he turns in a (still good) 3.50 ERA.
Soriano is a fly ball pitcher and that being said, pitching in New York, more specifically, the hitter and homer friendly Yankee Stadium won't be amazing for his ERA. Last year, he posted a 51.5% fly ball rate and a career 49.9% fly ball rate as well as a 31% ground ball rate.
He also posted a .212 opponent BABIP in 2010 and with that in mind, he probably won't be as lucky as he was last year. What he did do, though, was bring his line drive rate down from 21.2% in 2009 to 16% in 2010. So perhaps it was a combination of him getting a little lucky and he also just a had a good season skill wise.
Soriano's xFIP, which measures what an ERA should have been when measuring the pitcher's defense as "average", was 3.81, yet his ERA was 1.73. He played in the homer-dry Tropicana Field last year so that could be one reason as to why his ERA stayed low. Now he is moving over to New York, as mentioned before, and that could be a factor for him this year and in the upcoming years for his New York tenure.
The Yankees have also made a questionable move by signing Soriano to a multi-year deal. The famous Dave Cameron of Fangraphs wrote an article on why multi-year deals for relievers are not a very good idea. If you have the time, read the article, it is not very long. To view the article, click HERE. If you don't feel like reading it: Dave Cameron makes a point that relievers that have gotten multi-year contracts in recent years, for the most part, have faltered.
It seems that Yankee GM Brian Cashman signed Soriano to make up for the loss in Cliff Lee and the fact that it looks like Andy Pettite will not be coming back. So although it appeases SOME fans (not me), it was not very smart to sign Soriano to a multi-year deal but ultimately, it bolsters the Yanks bullpen by a pretty good amount.
I can't really give an accurate prediction on how Soriano will do this year being that it is very hard to predict relievers. He is a good addition and now this takes pressure off David Robertson and Joba Chamberlain and put those two in the middle relief spots in New York's bullpen. This would have been a much better sign if it was for one-year, or even two years. All we Yankee fans can do is hope that the Yanks won't get the multi-year-reliever-curse. Soriano had some elbow issues two years ago as well as earlier in his career but it seems that it is a non issue now (*Knock on wood*).
(Statistics in courtesy of: fangraphs.com)