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Please, Let It Be That El Kabong Guy

El Caballo, El Kabong: roughly similar.
Our Next Leftfielder?
I guess you've read that The Chronicle is reporting that the Astros have offered multi-year contracts to both Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Lee.

If one of the two accepts, I sure hope it's Carlos Lee.

The Soriano-fear got fleshed out by some numbers once I looked at them, but the root of it is sourced from the 2003 playoffs, when especially the Red Sox, but also the Marlins, just could not wait for Alfonso to take his hacks, so that a swift end to any incipient Yankee rally might be most quickly effected. I know, I know, small sample size, but once you witness it, this stuff sticks with you, and for a reason.

11 K's in 30 at bats during the 2003 ALCS. A .133 average during same. 9 K's in 22 at bats during the World Series.

If you saw it, you will never forget it. Good pitching--playoff pitching--had found a hole in Alfonso's swing, and that, as they say, was all she wrote. I almost felt sorry for the guy.

Sure, Soriano has grown up a little bit since, but there's no denying the huge hole in his swing remains. Last year, Soriano struck out 160 times in 647 at bats, good for a cool 24.7% K rate. This is not only well more than double Carlos Lee's 2006 strikeout rate of 10.4%, this is also higher than Preston Wilson's strikeout rate. Imagine--if you can--someone who strikes out more often than Preston Wilson. Imagine Mike Lamb at third, if it helps you, then imagine seeing a player who strikes out in one-quarter of his plate appearances stroll to the dish for the good guys.

I know, I know, it's almost too awful to contemplate. Another year of runners stranded at third!

In some ways, if you can ignore the K's, Lee and Soriano were very similar last year. They both had an RC27 right around 6.80. They both had an OBP of right around .350, and they both had an OPS hovering around .900.

But the strikeouts are so extreme with Soriano, that they drag the other parts of his game down. They make the advantage he has in homers over this Kabong guy disappear. I would imagine it's because` Soriano doesn't put the ball in play enough with men on third base, doesn't hit enough singles with men on second.

Carlos Lee had 116 RBI's last year, and Soriano, despite outhomering Lee 46 - 37, only had 95. Now, of course Washington put fewer men on base for Soriano than Milwaukee and Texas did for Lee, but the fact is that the RBI rates showed the same kind of differential in Lee's favor. Lee converted something like 18% of his total RBI opportunities; Soriano more like 14%. Lee converted 60% of his RBI chances with a runner on third, Soriano only 42%.

Does this mean that the dude with the mask and the acoustic guitar is "clutch" while Soriano is not? Or does it simply mean that with runners on base, pitchers do what they did in the 2003 playoffs, which was to concentrate really, really hard on searching out that prominent chasm in Alfonso's swing?

Either way, the choice is clear. Go with the guy who puts the bat on the ball with men on base more often, and sacrifice a little power if that's what you've got to do.

Throw in the selfish tantrum Soriano threw when asked to play the outfield by the Nats, the fact that he is still unused to the outfield, and the fact that his range factor and fielding percentage bear out your initial prejudices,and you get several good reasons, I think, why we should be hoping that Purpura can get the fancy-looking papers signed with Carlos, rather than with Alfonso.