With two outs in the ninth inning, down by a run, Yonder Alonso stepped up to the plate against Washington Nationals’ closer Rafael Soriano. Soriano only needed 9 pitches to retire both Seth Smith and Chase Headley on strikes. Alonso, his .207 batting average and .257 wOBA posed a path of no resistance. Soriano decided to stay away from Alonso, a common strategy for opposing pitchers. His first pitch slipped, coming in around 6 inches outside of the zone. Missing your spots is never recommended, and in this case Soriano had to be extra careful. Alonso has had significant success in the middle of the plate, and middle away.
After falling behind 1-0 on a pitch well off the plate, catcher Wilson Ramos calls for a pitch in a similar spot, but closer towards the zone, hoping to play off Alonso’s aggressiveness.
But Rafael Soriano is not a good control pitcher. He’s walking 10.5% of all hitters faced so far, and his fastball is at a career low 49.5% strike zone percentage. He lives off of the good life on the fastball despite the poor command on the pitch by having a low 77.4% contact percentage, a fantastic rate for the pitch. But by throwing near an area where a hitter is known to do damage, being so fluky is not only ill-advised, it’s a good way to get a special “manager meeting” after the game. Soriano’s approach is a brave one, and has helped him become the big name closer he is known as today. But sometimes it can also be his biggest weakness.
Soriano again missed his location, and left the pitch elevated down the middle. Look at where the pitch ends up”
The pitch is the light blue around coordinate points (2.9, -.3) with a number 2 below it. Needless to say, that’s a great pitch to hit. Soriano left his pitch up right in Alonso’s wheelhouse. All of Alonso’s home runs this year have come from elevated pitches, and four of his five have come off fastballs. And Alonso made pretty hard contact once again.