PITTSBURGH -- It doesn't take a sabermetrics expert to understand Chicago Cubs right fielder Jorge Soler hasn't had the best of years on defense. His arm isn't the problem -- it's his routes to fly balls. What looked like a few isolated moments early in the season has become a pattern.
"He does need some work with his technique," manager Joe Maddon admitted Tuesday afternoon.
Fortunately, one of his mistakes was erased due to Monday's rain out but it doesn't take away from the sight of him trying to unsuccessfully track down a fly ball which fell in for a double. It wasn't the first time this season either.
"He got caught in a bad position on a ball that should have been caught," Maddon said of Monday's mistake. "He's been outstanding on some days and on some days he gets a little bit tangled foot out there."
The actual numbers don't paint a pretty picture. Defensive metrics don't always tell the whole story but by most accounts he's one of the worst among qualified outfielders. He's only made one error but that's partly because he's not getting to enough balls.
Soler has minus-4 runs saved, according to FanGraphs, that's tied for 14th of 19 qualified outfielders. And according to Baseball Info Solutions, Soler has made five "good" fielding plays compared to 12 "misplays" this season. The following chart is a breakdown of those misplays.
As you can see, Soler has had issues with a little bit of everything. We know he has raw talent -- he climbed the wall in Milwaukee on Sunday to save a home run -- and his arm is top notch. But it's those routes to fly balls which are confounding. Maddon says they've been working on it, but when the Cubs get reinforcements, could his subpar play on defense find Soler on the bench? With an underwhelming season at the plate don't be surprised if it happens because the Cubs may not be able to afford more plays like Monday's missed fly ball.