Alfonso Soriano's weird defensive stats

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
6:00
PM ET
Just noticed this today when looking up something else on Alfonso Soriano on Baseball-Reference.com:

Most double plays turned as left fielder:

2006 NL: 9 (1st)
2007 NL: 4 (1st)
2008 NL: 5 (1st)
2009 NL: 2 (1st)
2011 NL: 2 (4th)
2012 NL: 6 (1st)
2013 AL: 2 (1st)

Soriano led all National League outfielders in assists in 2006 (22) and 2007 (19) and ranked second in 2012. The last outfielder with more assists in a season? Gary Ward of the Twins in 1983, with 24. I don't remember Ward having a good arm, but I don't remember him having a bad arm; I mean, it's Gary Ward. Like Soriano, he played left field. It's not necessarily true, however, that outfielders with weak arms get more assists because people run on them more often. I mean, it's true to some degree, but most of the outfielders with high assist totals do have good arms -- Alex Gordon, Jeff Francoeur, etc. Jesse Barfield led his league several times, so did Roberto Clemente.

Soriano, of course, has a bad defensive reputation, mostly owing to his range and some bad routes, but throwing out runners is part of defense and Soriano is pretty good at that. He actually rates at +18 Defensive Runs Saved in 2006 and +17 in 2007. (Another defensive system, UZR, rates his 2007 season as the best defensive season of any position in the past 10 years at +32 runs, and that's one reason why a lot of people still don't believe in defensive metrics.)

Anyway, Soriano has provided a huge lift for the Yankees, both on offense, where he has 29 RBIs in 28 games, and on defense, where's he played adequate in left field ... and has four assists in just 21 games.

Soriano is two home runs away from 400 in his career and passed 2,000 career hits recently. I would argue that earlier in his career, Soriano was probably a little overrated/overhyped, as everyone focused on the power/speed aspect of his game and ignored some of the negatives. The Cubs did end up overpaying him for most of his contract, but I'll say this about Soriano: He's had a pretty fascinating career.

Including a knack for turning two in the outfield.

David Schoenfield | email

SweetSpot blogger

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