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A Positive Sign That The World Is Returning To Normal: Juan Soto Is Fully Back To Being Awesome At Baseball


A lot of people have been freaking out lately because Juan Soto was basically trash since getting traded to the Padres. We've talked relentlessly on the Barstool Baseball shows about how insanely frustrating it's been because all of his other numbers check out. He walks at a high rate. His exit velocity was routinely high. Pitchers were throwing the same kind of pitch mix to him. There was a deviation from his traditional Whole Fields approach that became familiar in DC. But not enough to suggest a different man wore the same uniform. 

His slash line told a different story. After posting a .966 OPS in Washington, Soto was just .242/.387/.418 going into the last week of games as a Padre. Great production from an average big leaguer. Moderately troubling from a generational talent on the fast track to Cooperstown.

If you zoom out to the last 30 days though, he's been remarkable at .293/.440/.522 which is dead on balls to the .966 OPS I just referenced above. He's got 6 long balls over the same time and is top 20 in WAR among position players. Whatever's different, something's different. 

The guys at Baseball Prospectus spent a lot of time last week talking about Horizontal Approach Angle, which I repurposed in layman's terms a few times since. The general idea is that the advancements in pitch design (i.e., using data to create the most effective pitch grips, etc.) have allowed pitchers to reverse engineer more effective offspeed to counter league-wide adjustments in hitting. The sheer volume of data has ushered in a new adjustment era that we're just starting to see. Obvious point in the timeline can be seen as Velocity Increases and the evolution of the 3-outcome hitter. And now you'll see more rapid back-and-forth, especially with the rule changes. 

A good example of this next wave of adjustments will be the offensive skillsets. Scouts that clamor over power will start to spread some of that towards speed and defensive versatility. Two-way guys get longer leashes as the Pop Time Revolution takes full shape. 

There's a lot of moving parts. 

One unwavering tenet is the value of left-handed production in the middle of your batting order. That's never going away no matter how much vertical launch angle gets attacked or whatever the next metric is. As long as we're playing baseball, thunderous lefties will have a place in the game. 

Now that Juan Soto seems to be solved, the Padres should move their attention to Manny Machado. If anything he's benefited from the PR protection much less lineup protection afforded by Soto and Tatis. But if those guys are somewhat normal now, what the hell happened to Manny? 

.654 OPS while playing every day? 

Half of that sounds like Manny. 

I don't know what to make about the offense though. Unless he's hurt - he always gives a fuck enough to hit line drives. And he plays almost every single day going back to every year of his career. So something doesn't line up here and we're far enough along to start asking serious questions. 

My read? 

This time next week I'm writing another blog about how Manny Machado has returned to form. That's usually how this works. The Padres are too good not to be too good. Just a matter of time before they actually go out and do it, right? 

Stay tuned in San Diego. So far, not good: