With Juan Soto, it is not simple physics on the energy created by two moving objects in opposite directions that collide at a point of impact. What Statcast can measure in exit velocity and distance, it cannot measure Soto’s eye and hand coordination or his heart of a champion. While we know E = MC², Statcast isn’t measuring the inertia and magnus force effect.
“I just try to touch the ball,” Soto said. “When I get to those 98s down and hit it that way, it’s just amazing. I think my swing is right on time, right on point.”
Sir Isaac Newton was known for his three laws of motion, including inertia and “for every action there is an equal, but opposite, reaction.” But Newton never accounted for backspin, park effects, and air quality. Even the subjective effect of an umpire can have an impact on the results.
These final nine games of 2021 represent the final 5.56% of a marathon season. While Soto cannot hit the deciding single in this year’s Wild Card game, he can change baseball history in the regular season.
The 22-year-old is just two home runs from 100 in his career. A number he would have passed a long time ago if the 2020 season wasn’t shortened to 60-games due to COVID while also robbing Soto of games played due to a “fake positive” COVID test that sidelined him. In total, Soto was only able to participate in 47 games last year.
Soto is chasing legends like Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews in home run history. Last night he passed Bryce Harper for the 4th most career home runs in MLB history before a player’s 23rd birthday (98). Only Ott (115), Mathews (112) and Tony Conigliaro (104) have had more home runs at that age.
As you may remember last year, Soto edged out Pete Reiser to become the youngest NL batting champ ever. Reiser hit .343 as a 22-year-old with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1941 and Soto did it at 21. Soto was the first National ever to win the batting title, and he probably wants to prove that was no fluke. As of today, he leads everyone in batting average. But Soto has to keep it up to stay in front of former teammates Trea Turner and Harper who are right behind him.
Those 2018 teammates once batted 1-2-3 in the batting order for the Washington Nationals with Soto at lead-off, Turner second, and Harper third on May 30th of that season. That is the exact ordering in the batting crown race at this point and just one of the crazy coincidences in sports. Soto said he is keeping in touch with Turner as the two are still good friends. He said that Turner told him to win the MVP and let him get the batting title. The competitive Soto wants both. Vegas has Harper as the favorite to win the MVP and Soto to win the batting crown, but Turner might have the last laugh if he can win another World Series this year with the Dodgers.
At this point, Soto is just playing to be his best version of himself. Since the Home Run Derby, he has been en fuego. He has 18 home runs and 50 RBIs since the Derby in just the 61 games he has started.
Can you say that a little louder Buster? 📣 #MVP #MVP #MVP https://t.co/dbsN2bcB2u
— Talk Nats ⚾ (@TalkNats) September 24, 2021
Not to be overlooked since taking walks aren’t sexy, Soto broke the Nats’ record last night for most walks in a season at 131. He passed Harper for that record. Some say records are meant to be broken, but you expect them to last for a while. Soto is rewriting the record books, and he seriously needs to be considered for the MVP even though he is playing for a team that won’t make the playoffs. There are plenty of examples of standout players who have won the MVP from teams that fell way short of the playoffs. Shohei Ohtani will probably win the MVP in the AL and the Angels won’t sniff the postseason. That didn’t stop Mike Trout from winning his last two MVP awards or Barry Bonds with the Giants.
The comparisons to Bonds and Ted Williams don’t stop there. Players with 95+ HR and 350+ BB in their first 455 games are just Soto (98 HR | 359 BB) and Williams (96 HR | 367 BB). Then you have the fact that the young Nats phenom has reached base safely four times per game in 24 games so far this season and that puts him in rare company with only Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Williams and Bonds doing it more times in a season.
“I played with a guy that was pretty impressive in his day, and that was Barry [Bonds],” Nats’ manager Dave Martinez said. “If he keeps going the way he’s going, if you compare anybody to Barry, it would be Juan right now.”
It once seemed blasphemous to compare Soto to Williams, and Jayson Stark of The Athletic dove into those deep waters earlier this year with the comparison. Stark was spot on. Stark wrote, “Juan Soto just might be Ted Williams. I have lots of data to make this case. It’s coming up any paragraph now. But first, I want you to know that I understand exactly what I just got myself into, so I’ve recruited witnesses.”
“I would say the numbers don’t lie,” former pitcher Jim Kaat said to Stark, and keep in mind that Kaat pitched against Williams.
Soto is eight RBIs from 100 which is a major milestone to go with his 100+ runs scored. He leads in every part of the slashline triple crown except for slugging percentage.
For those who believe that WAR should determine the MVP, Soto is fractionally above Harper for the lead in Fangraphs’ WAR at +6.5. There you go, debate it all.