Decision 2008: Vote for Soria
Royals closer up for DHL Delivery Man of the Year Award
KANSAS CITY -- Joakim Soria has given the Royals something they haven't had since the heyday of Jeff Montgomery back in the 1990s -- that feeling that when he's in the game, victory is assured.
That aura and the 41 saves in 44 chances that Soria had amassed through Wednesday have placed him among 10 candidates for DHL Delivery Man of the Year. That's 41 saves in the Royals' 73 victories.
"He's had a tremendous impact," Hillman said. "Just looking at the statistics and the number of saves in comparison to the number of team wins. And there's just a psychological advantage there for the whole team, just knowing that he's available and the consistency of the product he brings to the mound."
Soria also had a 1.63 ERA in his 62 games, a 2-3 record and 66 strikeouts in 66 1/3 innings. Opponents were hitting just .170 against him.
He's a comforting sight for Royals fans and for starting pitchers who have a win hanging in the balance.
"He's been amazing all year and last year," starter Zack Greinke said. "And I've gotten over the fact that he's just getting lucky and he's bound to struggle eventually. But it's dominating how he does it. It seems like 1-2-3 innings and 10 pitches and it's amazing to watch."
Soria was plucked in the Rule 5 Draft from the San Diego Padres at the 2006 Winter Meetings. As a rookie, he was in and out of the closer's role, but finished 2007 with 17 saves. And he was just getting warmed up for this year.
He's got some rugged competition in the fan voting for the DHL award: Francisco Rodriguez, Brad Lidge, Mariano Rivera, Jonathan Papelbon, B.J. Ryan, Brian Fuentes, Joe Nathan, Bobby Jenks and Brad Ziegler.
Everyone who votes will be entered into a sweepstakes for the chance to win a two-day, one-night trip for two to Game 4 of this year's World Series. The prize will include round-trip airfare, if needed, to the National League city of the Fall Classic, as well as accommodations and two tickets to the game.
To create the ballot, the editorial staff at MLB.com compiled a list of 15 relievers who have had outstanding regular seasons. The 10 finalists then were chosen from the list by a special Major League Baseball yellow-ribbon panel.
A panel of Royals players and fans say amen to Soria's selection.
"Lot of Joakim Soria fans in that clubhouse," Hillman said. "He's very professional with the way he goes about his business and prepares every day. He's a good teammate. He doesn't say a whole lot but he's got a lot of very similar qualities that I've seen in another very good closer, in New York."
Comparisons with Rivera have abounded this year.
Soria appeared on the big stage in the July 15 All-Star Game and worked 1 2/3 tough but scoreless innings. He opened the season with 13 straight saves, wiping out Al Hrabosky's Royals record of 11 straight in 1978. And he's the record-holder for most saves by a Mexican-born pitcher, eclipsing Juan Acevedo's 28 for Detroit in 2002.
He's got that essential attribute for a successful closer: ice water flowing through his veins.
"He's got a real great ability to just eliminate what happens. He feels bad about the home run but he has the ability to set that aside and we'll worry about that later and get back in the count to the very next hitter," Hillman said. "You don't see him fall apart and that's another one of his great strengths."
Dick Kaegel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.