Do you go to Fangraphs at all? If you go there now, and you bring up Juan Soto’s stats for the first month and a half-ish of the 2022 campaign, you might notice he is chasing more pitches out of the zone than usual early this season.
Soto’s O-swing%, “Swings at pitches outside the zone/pitches outside the zone,” is sitting at 22.6% right now, as of Thursday morning (5/12), up from 15.5% in 2021, and a career mark of 20.4%.
Over at BaseballSavant, they have Soto’s Chase% at 19.8%, up from 12.2% in 2021, and his career mark of 17%.
Soto’s Zone%, “Pitches in the strike zone/Total pitches,” as defined by Fangraphs, is sitting at 36.3%, down from 41.6% in ‘21 and a career mark of 40.3%.
BaseballSavant has Soto’s Zone% at 43.8% this season, down from 47.8 in ‘21 and 46.2% in his career.
“I think he is expanding a lot more than he typically does,” Soto’s manager, Davey Martinez, told reporters before Wednesday’s matchup with the New York Mets in Washington, D.C., “and … it comes with a little bit of he wants to drive in the runs when they’re out there, but he just needs to be him, and we always talk about — I always talk to him about he’s a really good hitter when he takes his walks, so just understand that he needs to take his walks.”
Soto’s 25 walks as of Thursday morning did lead the majors (tied with the LA Dodgers’ Max Muncy), but his BB% is at 17.5%, down from 22.2% in 2021, 20.9% in 2020, and from an 18.5% career BB%.
His manager did say he expects Soto to get back in the zone and get back to the sort of advanced plate discipline he’s shown thus far in his big league career.
“100%, yeah,” Martinez said.
After Soto went 1 for 4 with a 2-run home run and a walk on Wednesday night, the fifth-year skipper said he liked what he saw, even on a fly to left that didn’t fall in for a hit.
“It’s coming,” Martinez said. “He just missed the ball to left field, I thought that was a really good swing, he just got underneath just a tad, but he’s going to hit, there’s no doubt about it, he’s going to hit.”
The home run was Soto’s 7th this season, and his 1 for 4 game left him with a .256/.392/.479 line overall on the year, but Martinez said he thinks the slugger will get back to where he’s expected to be based on what we’ve seen from him since 2018.
His homer on Wednesday night was his first this season with a runner(s) on, which, yeah it’s weird.
“I just want him to hit home runs, I want him to just hit, it so happens he was hitting them with nobody on base,” Martinez said of the previous six homers this season, “but I tell him, ‘Hey, just focus on the here and now and focus on every at-bat, every pitch like you do.”
Soto barreled up a 100.6 MPH fastball from Edwin Díaz in the ninth inning in Thursday’s series finale with the Mets, hitting his 7th solo homer and 8th home run overall 394 feet, and it came off the bat at 106 MPH.