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On Soriano

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I'm not sure how much more I can say about Alfonso Soriano than Nate already wrote in an excellent post at Nats Triple Play. So I'm going to incorporate by reference just about everything Nate wrote.

On a personal level, I'm learning to love Soriano. Of course, it's easy to love a guy after a three-homer game, even if you generally disapproved of his existence on the roster just a few weeks before. But it's more than that: Soriano is an exciting player, brings a dimension that the team did not previously have, appears to respond well to instruction, tries hard, and projects a good attitude. Suddenly, I find that Soriano is one of my favorite Nats, if not my favorite.

All that said, I was obviously sour on the trade (and, by extension, Soriano himself) previously. With that in mind, it might sound hollow to try to convince you or anyone else that I've come to a great revelation about the deal Jim Bowden made to bring Soriano to the District. Would it be better if I fessed up to wrongheadedness over it? If you think it would, then I will. But, like I said, it's easy to heap praise on a guy when he's coming off a three-homer game.

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It's not just the three-homer game, though. Soriano is, for the most part, playing an intelligent, dynamic brand of baseball. He's battling in left field, and even if he misplays some balls---as he appeared to last night---then he shows promise of learning to cut back on such things once he's played more than a month out there.

Plus, there is the not-insignificant factor that the guys unloaded for Soriano---most prominently Brad Wilkerson, but also the recently-demoted Terrmel Sledge and pitching prospect Armando Galarraga, who is struggling in the minors---are underperforming. Just as it is easy to praise Soriano this early, it is easy to slam Wilkerson, who is hitting .203/.272/.338 only after a recent mild surge. (Fun fact: Despite Wilkerson's horrid start, despite Soriano batting leadoff half the time now, Soriano has only scored one more run on the season than Wilkerson. Don't blame Soriano and his .384 on-base percentage for that, though.) Obviously, all things equal, Wilkerson is nowhere near this bad; however, there exist significant odds that his arm injury will become too much for him, and it remains to be seen whether he will be more of an asset for the Texas Rangers on the disabled list.

So, what's the scorecard right now? Pretty damned good for Jim Bowden, at the moment. And, while things can change from April to May, and May to June, and so forth (just ask '05 Vinny Castilla), we must not only accept this (as cynical observers of Bowden's decisionmaking) but enjoy it (as ardent fans). Soriano has been just short of awesome. That's pretty good.

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And now, a word on strikeouts: pay them no mind, or at least very little.

We have heard---and will continue to hear---several reminders of how many times former Nats Brad Wilkerson and Preston Wilson strike out. They stuck out a lot for the Nats last season and have only increased their strikeout rates since leaving DC. Focus on overall performance, people; pay little mind to disingenuous references to strikeouts. Performance is what is important.

Why do I call the references to Wilkerson's and Wilson's strikeouts disingenuous? Because, like many things in life, strikeouts are an evil when you want them to be an evil and can be readily disregarded when they are inconvenient to mention. For all the moaning about Wilkerson's strikeouts last season, you would think that Bodes would have tried to reform the offense by acquiring Juan Pierre---or some other contact-conscious, average-based performer. Instead, he acquired . . . Preston Wilson, a second-tier slugger who is heavy on the whiffs. And Bowden was complimentary of Wilson, because: a) he acquired him, and b) acknowledging Wilson's strikeout reputation would have been inconvenient at the time. Now that Wilson is no longer a Nat, he's a barely-remembered whiff machine.

Not surprisingly, strikeouts are treated as a rhetorical club. But they're basically just another out, on balance just about as damaging as a ground-out or a fly-out.

Instead, look at performance---look at batting average, on-base percentage, slugging average, and more advanced metrics. The strikeouts might be a symptom of something worse bothering a player---especially Wilkerson, knowing his injury problems---but, on balance, they're way down the list of things to scrutinize.