Nationals rookie Juan Soto is doing something he is not supposed to be able to do very well
Soto's success against lefties might be what makes him truly special.
Juan Soto did this on Wednesday:
Juan Soto isn't supposed to be able to do that.
That an uber-talented 19-year-old went deep twice in a game is noteworthy, sure, but that's not what he's not supposed to do. Here's what Soto isn't supposed to do: Hit lefties this well.
It's early, but Soto has dominated left-handed pitching in the majors. His homer Wednesday was his fourth in 31 plate appearances against lefties, and he's 10 for 26 with five walks and two strikeouts against them overall.
Even the best left-handed hitters in baseball tend to do worse against left-handed pitching. It makes sense: It's just plain harder to hit pitchers of the same handedness, and you see a lot more righties throughout your career as an amateur and a prospect than lefties.
To illustrate the point, let's take a look at the five best left-handed hitters in baseball (based on 2018 wOBA) and their career platoon splits:
For the most part, they aren't hopeless. Benintendi and Gennett have improved enough against them to where they are no longer embarrassing themselves against lefties, a big part of why they have enjoyed breakouts over the last year. But every single one of them has hit worse against lefties than righties. That's pretty much what happens.
Soto's success against southpaws this season has come in a small-sample size, sure, but it goes further back. Combining his performance in the minors in 2017 and 2018 with what he's done so far in the majors, here are Soto's overall numbers against lefties:
You're not supposed to be able to do that to lefties when you're a left-handed hitter. You're especially not supposed to be able to do that when you're a 19-year-olf left-handed hitter. For some context, only 11 rookies have ever managed an OPS over .900 as a lefty against lefties dating back to 1954, and none have ever done it while walking more than they strike out.
For even more context, only two left-handed hitters have an OPS above .900 against left-handed pitching since 1992: Barry Bonds (1.189), and Larry Walker (.902). Since the start of 2017, Juan Soto has hit like Steroids-Era Bonds against lefties.
Typically when it comes to young left-handed batters, this is the biggest issue they need to fix. For Soto, it doesn't even look like an issue. It's just 20 games, but this is about as impressive a start to a career as you could hope for.
You're not supposed to be able to do what Soto is doing. But he is.
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