Joakim Soria is pretty much persona non grata in Kansas City today, mentioned in the same breath as public enemies like former Chiefs kicker Lin Elliott. And the ire has been for good reason, when you look at the twelve times he has coughed up a lead this year, and consider that he is costing the Royals $25 million over three seasons.
But is he a bad teammate? Many Royals fans are irate today over a tweet from Rustin Dodd using a quote from Soria after last night's loss.
Joakim Soria: "Today, it was probably supposed to be no-doubles defense and he gets a double right to the middle of the field."— Rustin Dodd (@rustindodd) September 14, 2016
Many fans interpreted Soria putting the blame on his teammates or coaching staff for putting the wrong defense out there. The Star collected some of the more angry tweets decrying Soria's quote. But when you look at the full context of the quote, it is pretty clear he is not putting the blame on the defense. Here is the full quote:
"The whole season has been weird. It’s been different. Broken-bat hits. Today, it was probably supposed to be ‘no-doubles defense’ and he gets a double right to the middle of the field. Overall, it’s a weird season."
Soria is clearly frustrated with the season and feels he has been the victim of some bad luck. He is not saying it was a bad idea that the team was playing a "no-doubles defense", just that Yonder Alonso happened to hit it where the outfielders might have been positioned had they not been in that defense. He is attributing his poor performance, in part, due to poor luck.
Is he right about that? Probably not. As Pete Grathoff points out at the Star.
The exit velocity on that ball was 105.3 mph. Only six balls were hit harder all game, and according to the excellent Baseball Savant site, the expected batting average on the ball was .626.
Joakim Soria has not exactly had an unlucky season. As Shaun Newkirk points out, Soria has the most meltdown in baseball this year, and the third-worst win probability among relievers.
After last night, Soria now has the 3rd worst win probability added and most meltdowns among relievers. pic.twitter.com/uDjKGv9j0q— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) September 14, 2016
Soria seems to crumble under high pressure situations.
Also in high leverage situations, Soria has the worst FIP and 8th worst ERA— Shaun Newkirk (@Shauncore) September 14, 2016
Soria has allowed the highest walk-rate of his career in a full season, with the highest home-run rate of his career. His fastball is one of the lowest-rated among relievers this year. He has the tenth-highest opponent's SLG and eleventh-highest opponent's ISO among relievers.
There is no getting around it, he has been a bad reliever. And perhaps what is frustrating is that he does not seem to acknowledge his own poor performance, continuing to maintain he is making "good pitches." If his good pitches are getting hammered....that's a problem. An adjustment needs to be made. And Soria seems unwilling to recognize the need to make that adjustment.
In a lot of ways, it is sad that this is the Joakim Soria many fans will forever remember. Soria was a standout reliever from 2007 to 2011 on a team full of forgettable players. He saved 161 games with a 2.69 ERA and was a two-time All-Star. By all accounts he was an exemplary teammate and a wonderful person. He is not a bad teammate. But he is a lousy reliever this year.