Clemens: How does Mike Soroka do it?

From Ben Clemens at FanGraphs on June 11, 2019:

Baseball has changed a lot in the last five years, so much so that watching a game from 2014 already feels like a blast from the past. Offense was low, sinking fastballs were everywhere, and groundballs and defense were the order of the day. 2019 hardly feels like the same game — unless you’re watching Mike Soroka, that is. Though Soroka is only 21 years old, he pitches like he’s from a previous era. In a time of four-seam fastballs, Soroka pitches off of his sinker — he’s throwing only 16% four-seamers this year and 46.3% two-seam fastballs. In a world of exciting high-velocity young aces, Soroka sits around 93 mph. In a world of home runs, he has allowed only one all year. In short, Mike Soroka doesn’t fit in 2019. How does he do it?

As is almost always the case with pitching, Soroka isn’t doing one specific thing that makes him dominant. If it were that straightforward, that easy to reverse engineer, everyone would be doing it. Still, dominant is an apt description of Soroka’s 2019 season. He’s posted a 1.38 ERA over ten starts. His FIP is nearly as jaw-dropping — fifth in baseball at 2.70. Has he been a little lucky that only 2.9% of fly balls hit against him have become home runs this year? Certainly. Still, though, his 3.5 xFIP is no slouch, 20th-best among qualified starters.

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Originally published: June 11, 2019. Last Updated: June 11, 2019.