Everyone has a certain version of Joakim Soria who they to loved to see pitch. My favorite memories are of his strike 3 knee buckling curves that had the hitter moving backwards, but ended up being a strike. Here is a one of those classic curveballs:
Moments like these are why most people loved him. Also, it is why he may never be the same pitcher again.
From 2007 to 2009, he threw his curve ball between 13% and 14% of time. In 2010 and 2011, it was closer to 7%. It was during that same time that his swing strike rate dropped along with his strikeouts.
At the start of 2011, he seemed to abandon the curve ball completely and used a cutter instead. The results were horrible. Five blown saves. A 6.55 ERA. As a fan i couldn't understand why he didn't throw the curve more. It was his punch out pitch. Why was he not using it?
Soria knew more about what was going on with his arm than we did. It hurts to throw a curve ball. It is probably more painful with a surgically repaired elbow. He knew that he would not be able to continue to throw it much longer. In 2011, Soria didn't move to the cutter to be like Mariano Rivera. Instead, he didn't want to have surgery again.
He tried to make it without his out pitch and it wasn't working. He had to make a decision of either having a limited time in the majors and pitch as he always had OR become a middle reliever and pitch a bit longer. He decided to take his chances, drop the cutter, and go back to the curve. He rolled the dice and decided to pitch at 100% for unknown shorter time frame. His luck ran out this past weekend.
Soria was making the decision for us. He wanted to save his arm, but couldn't be the same pitcher. Now he may never pitch to the same level as a Royal ever again. As fans, would we have wanted Soria to pitch a little longer or better? It is always a tough call when it comes to one of our heroes.
I am not sure which way I would have like to see him go. Either way would have suck. Even if he does pitch again as a Royal, he is not likely to be close to the same pitcher he was before. I happily enjoyed seeing him pitch the past 5 seasons. I am sad it over. Thank you Joakim Soria for the memories.