The Rays won another close game last night. With that victory came sole possession of first place in the AL East and the best record in baseball. Many of those victories have been aided by the outstanding relief work of Rafael Soriano.
When healthy Soriano has been a very good reliever over his career, and at times has been downright dominant. In 375.1IP he's racked up 6.7WAR; not bad for someone who was mostly used as a set up man for the better part of seven seasons. In his past few outings Soriano hasn't seemed as sharp as he was in the first half. While random fluctuation certainly plays a part in that, last night's performance elicited this tweet from friend of the site, Jason Collette, before the final out:
Now I'm beginning to see what Braves fans were talking about with Soriano and the 2nd half. Another rough appearance that ain't over yet
Is this true? Does Rafael "MFIKY" Soriano really seem to fade as the season progresses, especially in months August and September?
One must assume that if a player were to struggle in the second half that there would be a noticeable drop in said player's numbers. Let's start with the strikeout rate. If someone is tiring down the stretch then this should be one of the main areas where decline rears its ugly head.
Instead of getting tired it seems as if Soriano gets stronger as the season progresses. As you can see, from May until the end of the season Soriano's strikeout rate actuallyincreasesevery month. Now let's move on to FIP and xFIP.
Again you can see that Soriano gets better nearly every single month. Even if you go by a traditional statistic like ERA it's clear that Soriano has been remarkably consistent over his career, with no month being higher than 3.33 or lower than 2.01. He's even been a bit unlucky in August with a career HR/FB % of 12.7 for the month, far more than his next highest monthly total of 9.3%.
The Rays’ bullpen has pitched extremely well this season despite the loss of J.P. Howell, its best weapon. That loss instantly made Soriano the best, and most important, reliever the Rays had. Joaquin Benoit’s performance has been amazing, but it’s Soriano who the Rays can ill afford to falter. To continue their division lead over the Yankees the team needs Soriano to be effective. If the numbers are any indication he’ll be excitedly/angrily un-tucking his jersey long into September and October.