Midseason Analysis: Jorge Sosa
What a difference a year makes. Sosa went from scrap heap to sensation in the blink of an eye, all on the success of a nasty slider.
A last-minute addition to spring training, Jorge Sosa was an afterthought in Port St. Lucie, buried behind a slew of other starters, such as Aaron Sele, Alay Soler, and Chan Ho Park. He was essentially another can of paint to throw at the wall, and in the end Sosa was the one that stuck — though it didn’t happen overnight.
In seven spring training appearances, Sosa allowed 20 hits in 12 2/3 innings, sporting a hefty 8.52 ERA. His miserable audition earned him a ticket to New Orleans, but something special happened down there. He went 4-0 with a 1.12 ERA and 29 strikeouts to only 4 walks in 32 innings — in the PCL, a league notorious as a “hitter’s league”. That earned him a spot start in early May and he hasn’t looked back since, stringing together six outstanding starts in eleven tries — a much-needed jolt at the backend of the Mets’ rotation.
Though seven of his first eight starts were nothing short of spectacular — capped by an eight-inning, scoreless gem in Detroit — he’s been inconsistent since, and landed on the disabled list after trying to beat out a bunt against the Phillies.
There were enough questions about Sosa’s success — and whether he could keep it up — before he injured his hamstring. Now he has to come back from an injury that could adversely affect his pitching motion if he’s not 100%. Considering Sosa’s desperation to save his career, combined with his recent success and competitive fire, it’s possible he’ll come back too soon and either re-injure the leg or pitch ineffectively upon his return.
Assuming he comes back 100%, one must wonder how much longer he can keep up the bar he’s set for himself. After all, he’s essentially a one-pitch pitcher, throwing sliders over 75% of the time. His fastball can touch the mid-90s but he doesn’t have good command nor movement, and often leaves it up in the zone, and his change-up is only average when it’s working well. His repertoire is vulnerable to long fly balls (sliders thrown in the strike zone often lack sharp downward movement, and stay flat and fat), and indeed that’s been his major bugaboo in the past. Somehow this year he’s been getting a remarkable number of ground balls — he’s allowed 82 flyballs and 78 grounders, in contrast to a career flyball:groundball ratio around 1.3:1.
If he can come back healthy and duplicate his first-half success, the Mets would obviously be thrilled. But if he can’t, or is pushed out of the rotation, will he be effective as a reliever? His stuff says maybe, but his head says hmmm. Upon joining the Mets in January, he insisted he would be a starter, and continued that meme even after his awful spring. His career ERA as a reliever is a full run higher than as a starter, so he may be on to something.
In the end, the best plan for Mets fans is to be happy with what he’s done to this point, and have low expectations for him the rest of the way. It’s unrealistic to expect him to continue pitching well into the sixth and seventh inning of every start — and if he does, it will be a pleasant and welcome surprise.