Category Archives: Geovany Soto

A look at the Soto era in Chicago

The Geovany Soto era finally came to an end as the Cubs traded him to the Texas Rangers for 24 year old Double A pitcher Jacob Brigham last Monday night.

Geovany Soto, Texas-bound. Image courtesy graphicshunt.com.

The lasting impression I have of Soto is not the All-Star start in 2008, the general greatness of 2008, the struggles (’09, ’11, ’12), or the brief resurgence in 2010. What will be etched foremost in my mind is the 2-run home run he hit off of Doug Davis in Game 2 of the 2007 NLDS.

Remember the Cubs catching situation that year? It was a mess that included a declining (and eventually traded) Michael BarrettJason Kendall‘s Cub stop of his trip around the majors, Henry Blanco and the first appearance of Koyie Hill. Soto played 18 games towards the end of the year and provided a ton of hope (.389/.433/.667, 3 HR).

And then came that home run. I can still remember how energized I was by it. The Cubs had been shut down in Game 1 by Brandon Webb. When Soto found the seats in the second inning of Game 2 to put the Cubs up 2-0 it was the first bit of momentum they had all series. In typical Cub fashion, Ted Lilly gave up four runs in the bottom half of the inning, threw his glove, and the Diamondbacks didn’t look back.

As I think about it, that home run, and what followed that inning, sum up Soto’s career with the Cubs: a lot of hope (and very exciting hope at that) but in the end disappointment.

During 2008, I remember smugly thinking that the Cubs had a better catcher for the long haul than the Cardinals did with Yadier Molina (whoops). And though he couldn’t continue that success in 2009 the hope resurfaced in 2010. He walked a ridiculous amount that year (.393 OBP) and showed some power again (17 HR, .497 SLG). But in 2011 he regressed again, and that point, at least to me, the hope that he’d fulfill the expectations he’d created in 2008 disappeared.

But now he heads to Texas, and with how anemic his bat has looked this year I can’t be disappointed with Brigham as the return. At least the Cubs were able to pick up a “live arm” (Brigham supposedly can hit 97 mph) that might become bullpen fodder.

So where does Soto rank among catchers in Cub history? His 12.4 career WAR puts him 7th all-time (Gabby Hartnett is first with 55, but it drops off after that). On teams that seemed allergic to  being patient and taking walks, Soto’s signature was that he did just that. His final walk rate with the Cubs was 11.6 percent, and this puts him first all-time. And though he was only a “full-time” Cub from 2008-2012 (he played 18 games in ’07, ’11 in ’06, and 1 in ’05), he caught the 12th most games (555) of any Cub catcher, ever.

For lack of a better term, an “interesting” career is over in Chicago. The Cubs will now turn to Steve Clevenger and Wellington Castillo the rest of the way, in the hopes that one will seize the job for next season.

 

 

3/15 quick hitters, Cubs drop two in one day

Neither of the Cubs split squads could pick up a win yesterday, as the squad Rodrigo Lopez valiantly led into battle lost 7-5 t0 the Colorado Rockies, and the Ryan Dempster-led squad fell 12-2 to the Arizona Diamondbacks. As always, here’s what stood out:

  • Carlos Marmol had a steadier outing, possibly in part because of a conversation he had with apparent magic-worker Dale Sveum. Marmol struck out one, walked one and gave up one hit in one inning (that’s four “ones” if you are counting). Marmol seems from afar to be a “quietly emotional” player (as opposed to the “loudly emotional” Carlos Zambrano). Confidence has always seemed to be the key with him. A specific example I can remember is when he was struggling before the 2008 All-Star break, got an unexpected All-Star replacement selection and after the break went back to pitching well. Hopefully this is something Sveum realizes, and these little talks with Marmol will continue.
  • Junior Lake hit a 3-run home run, which was only his second hit in 12 at bats. We’ve seen everything we expected from the raw prospect this spring: power, speed (3 steals) and plate discipline that isn’t there yet (5 strikeouts). I’ve read that at his size (6’2” 215 lbs.) he isn’t destined to play shortstop. He seems a ways away from the big leagues but with the Cubs unsettled situation at third base, perhaps he has an eventual future there.
  • Catcher WatchGeovany Soto picked up his first two hits of the year. All three involved in the race to be his backup were in action because of the split squad day. Since I didn’t see the games I can’t comment on their defense (which is unfortunate because that’s probably more important). But at the plate Wellington Castillo had a walk and Steve Clevenger went hitless in one at bat. Michael Brenly did have a home run, which predictably made his father even happier than he is when Soto makes a fundamental block in the dirt:

 

3/14 quick hitters, Cubs fall to Brewers 6-5

After an inexcusable 5-day hiatus we are back (and back to stay). Let’s take a quick look at what stood out from the Cubs 10-3 drubbing at the hands of the Aramis Ramirez-led Brewers:

  • I haven’t written since he’s been back, so here goes the annual “Geovany Soto looks really slim” comment. I don’t think his weight has anything to do with performance, because the only season I remember his weight being an issue was in 2009, and he’s had good and bad seasons since then. But it can’t hurt to show up looking physically good. He has not, however, shown up at the plate yet going 0-2 today to drop to 0-7 during his brief time in Arizona. But, like anything with Spring Training, seven at bats isn’t anything to get worried about.
  • Trever Miller pitched a perfect inning and a third, and might be earning himself a spot in the bullpen. It’s been assumed that James Russell will take over as the go-to lefthander in the bullpen this year. But Miller has looked good in spring (1 hit given up in 4.2 IP) and has a LOOGY track record. Going with youth in a rebuilding year is probably the wise decision, but Dale Sveum wouldn’t be in the wrong to want a known quantity veteran specialist in the bullpen too. There is certainly room for both.
  • Travis Wood had a rough afternoon, lasting a third of an inning while giving up five earned runs on three hits and two walks. It wasn’t a good outing and the other rotation candidates (including Randy Wells in this game) are pitching well, but I don’t think the curtain is closing on Wood’s starting spot. I’d be nothing less than incensed if Rodrigo Lopez got in over him. I also think he has more upside than Wells. And if for no other reason, he was the return for one of the better players on the Cubs’ roster when Theo Epstein took over, so I’d like to see what he can do.