Juan Soto’s well-documented plate discipline is pacing the San Diego Padres outfielder with legends of the past.
It has been well-documented that Juan Soto has a keen eye for telling whether pitches are balls or strikes. In many cases, when he takes a good pitcher’s out pitch for ball just off the strike zone, he does his jump, shuffle, and stare at the pitcher which has been named the “Soto Shuffle.”
This maneuver was never meant to be intimidation towards his opponent, but rather a self-confidence in his ability to take tough pitches. Back in 2020, Juan Soto was quoted as saying it started in Low-A ball as he was developing his craft and was first done in celebration of his take on a good pitch:
“One day they throw me a pitch down in the dirt and I just jump…How happy I was because it was a nasty curveball.”
Just recently, FanSided writer Mark Powell wrote a piece on Marcus Stroman dishing the “Soto Shuffle” back at Juan Soto after striking him out. This was no disrespect to Soto, but rather a sign of respect for his incredible ability to take those tough pitches. Stroman later stated:
“He really doesn’t swing at anything outside the zone. So, it’s always a game, know what I mean.”
This season, Juan Soto is taking his ability to a new level. Currently, he has 101 total walks on the season, 93 regular base-on-balls and 8 intentional walks. The next closest is Ian Happ of the Chicago Cubs with 68 total walks.
On the flip side to talking walks, he also is better than average at not striking out. This season, he has taken a minor step back, ranking 100th out of 151 players with 300 or more plate appearances with 87 strikeouts. Even so, he still qualifies third in walk-to-strikeout (BB/K) ratio with a 1.16 rate. In comparison, Luis Arreaz leads the Major Leagues with 1.68 rate (37 walks and 22 strikeouts) and Jose Ramirez at 1.37 rate (56 walks and 41 strikeouts).
When looking at his career in total, he currently only has one season with more than 100 strikeouts. He may have another at the end of this season due to already being so close, but I also would not be shocked if he only had 12 more through the end of the season as well. You never know with a player of his caliber.
The reason his skill of taking walks and not striking out is historic is where he compares to former legends of the game and the tough era he is currently playing in.
We all have heard how strikeouts in the game are up. There may be various reasons for that, including pitchers not going through the order a third time, velocity, etc. I am sure at this point you have heard it all. However, one thing is certain, the BB/K ratio in today’s game is much lower than any time in history. Here are a few snippets of previous seasons that show how the game has changed with the increase in strikeout frequency:
2022: 15,328 walks/40,812 strikeouts = 0.38 BB/K Ratio
2012: 15,764 walks/36,426 strikeouts = 0.43 BB/K Ratio
2002: 17,698walks/31,394 strikeouts = 0.56 BB/K Ratio
1992: 14,997 walks/25,538 strikeouts = 0.63 BB/K Ratio
Of players with more than 3,000 career plate appearances, Juan Soto ranks 64th out of 2,039 with a career 1.24 ratio. He has 663 walks and only 535 strikeouts. His ratio is about three times better than average in the game today.
In comparison, here are some other famous sluggers in the game’s history whom which is he nearly on par with:
Pete Rose: 1,733 walks/1,143 strikeouts = 1.52 BB/K Ratio
Hank Aaron: 1,667 walks/1,383 strikeouts = 1.21 BB/K Ratio
Albert Pujols: 1,689 walks/1404 strikeouts = 1.20 BB/K Ratio
It is hard to believe that, at only 24 years old, Soto is already in his sixth season, including nearing a full year with the San Diego Padres. He has a long way to go in his career and players regress with age, so he very well could fall down the list. The fact that his BB/K ratio is near other legends of the past this far into his career while playing in such a tough era just shows how we should respect his game.
Juan Soto’s plate discipline is pacing to be historic and will continue to be fun to watch as his career progresses.