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Pitchers are avoiding him and he is attacking anything they give him.
Looking at just the past couple of months, when you think of hitters going on an extended tear at the plate, a few come to mind. Obviously, Mike Trout, as he seems to find himself at the top of any leaderboard at any time. Other names suspected are there, like Christian Yelich, Ronald Acuña, J.D. Martinez, and Cody Bellinger, along with some young stars in Yordan Alvarez and Juan Soto.
One name that might not be getting the level of credit he deserves is Jorge Soler. In terms of wRC+, there have only been eight qualified hitters better at the plate than him the last two months. In terms of xwOBA, only Nelson Cruz is clearly ahead of him, while Soler is hitting at the near same level as Mike Trout in that time frame.
About roughly a month ago, I wrote about the recent success Soler was having at the plate. I had pointed out his struggles in the early parts of the season, as through the month of May, he was not very good by DH-standards, hitting just around league-average. I then pointed out how Soler had found success at the plate, as from the beginning of June up until the point I wrote that article, he had slashed an impressive .246/.354/.536.
“Luckily for Soler, his performance has taken a full-180. Since the beginning of June, he’s slashing a much improved .246/.354/.536, good for a 133 wRC+ (fourth among designated hitters). Driving the increased production has been a considerable jump in his walk-rate and dip in his strikeout-rate, as for the past six weeks he’s been working with a much more manageable 0.44 BB/K ratio (sixth among designated hitters). In terms of Statcast data, it would not be an understatement to say he’s been one of the hottest hitters in baseball for a fourth of the season. Among 81 hitters with at least 150 plate appearances since the beginning of June, his xwOBA ranks sixth. His xSLG ranks seventh, fueled by a stellar exit velocity of 93.4 miles per hour.”
Considering that I had already written about Soler’s hot-streak at the plate, it would take a lot for me to write about him again—something along the lines of absurdity. Well, absurdity he accomplished and here I am again. Since that article, Soler has slashed an even better .325/.461/.750 at the plate. His wRC+ is sixth among qualified hitters in that time and his xwOBA ranks third, trailing other hot streaks from Nelson Cruz and Giovanny Urshela.
Looking at smaller but more recent times, Soler has a 303 wRC+ in the month of August, equated from a .429/.556/1.086 triple slash. His xwOBA ranks first by a considerable margin, standing at .576. It would not be an overstatement to say that he’s currently the hottest hitter in baseball, with the only viable argument being Giovanny Urshela (305 wRC+, .525 xwOBA in August).
So how has Soler gotten to this point? Well for starters, hitting the ball hard. Very hard. Unbelievably hard. To a point where he’s currently on a whole other level than anyone else currently in the majors. The last two weeks he’s averaging a 101.3 mile per hour Exit Velocity. In second place is Urshela at 95.5 miles per hour. In third place is C.J. Cron at 95.4.
What’s been helping Soler isn’t just the quality of contact, it’s the amount of contact. For the last calendar month, he’s striking out at a below-average rate of 18.5 percent, something that isn’t the usual for him. Part of this can be attributed to him and part of it can be attributed to the pitchers facing him. Among 170 qualified hitters the last calendar month, the rate that Soler has seen pitches in the zone ranks second-lowest, with only Bryce Harper being lower. The rate that he’s swinging at those pitches is the 19th lowest.
The combination of these two metrics heading in the right direction has caused a positive-shift in Soler’s plate discipline metrics, which were the root of his problems early in the season.
Then, of course, when Soler finally does receive pitch that’s inside the zone, he tends to obliterate it. Over the last month, only Urshela and Cruz have done more damage on said pitches.
When Soler started to heat up at the plate again, he scared off pitchers from pitching to him and he adjusted by laying off. Add in his always good batted ball skills and the result is an elite level of production at the plate.