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How Juan Soto can shake off another slow start

How Juan Soto can shake off another slow start

Juan Soto’s start to the 2022 season hasn’t been exactly reflective of the “best hitter in baseball” moniker he’s earned over the last few years. His .215 batting average and .434 slugging percentage are not in the echelon we’ve come to expect of him. Of course, for a player like Soto, those expectations are impossibly high.

To that point, he has a 130 OPS+ – which means he has been 30% better than league average, offensively.

If this sounds familiar at all, it’s because last season, Soto had a similarly not-as-good-by-high-standards first half before crushing it in the second half. Before the All-Star break last year, Soto had a 139 OPS+, along with a .283 batting average and .445 slugging percentage.

In other words, he’s turned around a slower start before. Here’s a look at how and why he can do the same again this year.

The plate discipline is still there, but needs to feast more

From the day he debuted, Soto’s eye at the plate has set him apart. That underlying foundation is still there this year. He’s second in the Majors in walk rate, at 18.3%. His chase rate is in the 96th percentile. At 18.7%, it would be the second-highest of his career, but the perspective is important – it’s still a well below average chase rate, and an elite mark.

Last year, Soto coupled the lowest swing rate in baseball with the highest percentage of swings producing hard contact – waiting for his pitch and then making each swing count. This year, he ranks 17th in percentage of swings producing hard contact.

What’s been different about those swing decisions? Last year, he had 57 swing/take runs, where every individual pitch is assigned a value based on its outcome, and swing/take adds those together. Only Vladimir Guerrero Jr. had more, with 61. So far this season, Soto is tied for 74th in swing/take runs – meaning that even with taking his walks, his swing decisions haven’t been the best.

“I’m feeling pretty good, my swings feel very on…

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