Here was the thing: Joakim Soria seemed magical. That was the word. Magical. He came to the Royals in late 2006 as a Rule 5 draft pick, an almost complete unknown at 22, and by the end of April ’07 he was already being asked to close some games. He had a nearly two-month stretch — from the end of May to the end of July — when he did not give up a single run. By the end of the 2007 season, he was the Royals’ full-time closer. Over the next three seasons, he averaged 38 saves and had a 1.84 ERA for bad Royals teams, and while his nickname around Kansas City was the Mexicutioner, he was known around baseball as “One of the Royals’ few bright spots.”
The thing that made him magical, though, was that he succeeded subtly. Mysteriously, even. There was no OBVIOUS or BLATANT reason why he dominated hitters. He did not throw his fastball in the mid-to-high 90s like other dominant closers. Often, he did not even throw his fastball in the low 90s. He did not have a Mariano Rivera cutter or a Trevor Hoffman changeup or a Bruce Sutter split-fingered fastball. He did not have a wild-man act, did not stomp around the mound or glare batters down or intimidate in the slightest. He mainly looked like he had just woken up from a particularly refreshing nap.