Alfonso Soriano's projections entering the season (below) weren't anything special. It was a slightly below league average wOBA with expected poor defense and baserunning skills. Overall, he was expected to be about as close to replacement level as possible.
In 2011, Soriano didn't have a terrible season if fWAR is your thing, but it wasn't especially good either. He hit .244/.289/.469. His wOBA was .326 and his WRC+ was a tick better than average at 101. His fWAR was a semi-decent 1.4, but his rWAR was -0.3 and his WARP was -0.2. According to BPro's WARP, it was even worse than in 2009 and they actually have him with the lowest WARP in his career. It was not a good season and there was little reason to believe we'd see an improvement in 2012.
His .237/.250/.263 line in April (.220 wOBA, 29 wRC+) led some, including me, to believe he was done. Over the next couple weeks Soriano improved considerably, but was still hitting poorly even in that span. Then on May 15th he hit his first home run of the season. In the 121 games he played after that he hit .265/.331/.551.
He finished the season with 32 home runs, which was only one shy of the most he had hit in a Cubs uniform (33 in 2007). Those are the only two years in a Cubs uniform in which he has hit 30+ home runs. He played in 151 games, more than any in a Cubs uniform. He finished with 615 plate appearances, the most since 2007 (617).
Overall his wOBA as .350 and his wRC+ 116. He was worth 1.8 rWAR, 2.4 WARP and 4.0 fWAR. He shattered every projection for him. He was at about his 80th percentile according to PECOTA's 2012 projection.
Soriano has taken a lot of shit in a Cubs uniform. Some of it has been deserved, but most of it not. It's been a pleasant and welcome surprise to see the media covering him in an entirely different way this year. After years of almost nothing but negativity from the media and the fans for that matter, the praise thrown his way is nice to see.
It's even led some to argue that Soriano hasn't been overpaid. That's true if you look only at fWAR, but if you look at the others, he is in fact overpaid. We knew that would be the case when the contract was signed so it really seems irrelevant to me. What is relevant is that Soriano somehow rebounded, had a very productive season and is now much easier to trade. The Giants and Cubs had completed a trade for Soriano, but he exercised his no-trade rights, a decision he likley regrets right now.
The injuries took a toll on Soriano. The guy had been relatively healthy prior to putting in a Cubs uniform and since then it's seemingly been one injury after another. Take a look at the table below, which is taken from his page on Baseball Prospectus.
|Date On||Date Off||Body Part|
Of the 26 injuries listed here, 19 of them happened after he began his Cubs career. Not all of these were serious as you can tell by the time injured, but they all take a toll and Soriano, who once looked younger than his age, now looks like 84 years old.
I think Soriano does get traded this offseason. The Cubs won't get much of anything and they'll have to send some money along in a trade, but I think it happens. I also think we'll see both B.J. Upton and Justin Upton playing alongside one aother next year in a Cubs uniform with David DeJesus switching to LF. I'll probably write more about that before too long.