During April and May, Gleyber Torres could do little wrong in the batter’s box. He slashed .325/.381/.596 and cranked nine home runs during his first two months as a big leaguer. Torres looked to be the latest Yankees’ rookie sensation, following the tradition set forth by Aaron Judge and Gary Sanchez the past two years.
Since then, Torres has encountered a few obstacles. First, he slowed down at the plate. To make things worse, he battled a pesky hip injury next. When he came back, Torres continued to scuffle offensively, and he even botched some easy plays in the field. He just didn’t look like himself.
Torres has redeemed himself lately. Over his last 11 games, Torres has slashed .368/.478/.553 and popped two home runs. He’s gotten a hit in nine of those contests, he’s cut down on his strikeouts and he’s even stolen two bases and made some flashy plays in the field. After a clutch home run against the Chicago White Sox on Monday, Torres flashed that trademark smile fans had grown accustomed to seeing. He was officially back.
But what has brought on this change in fortune? Well, Torres fell into some bad habits during his slump. In May, Torres hit 9 of his 20 home runs. This was a higher home run rate than Torres had ever produced, so of course he’d want to try to keep blasting baseballs over the fence. Yet Torres began to sell out for power. Instead of taking advantage of all of his offensive gifts, Torres seemed to just be focusing on bopping dingers.
Some of Torres’ rate stats demonstrate this. First, his fly ball percent (yellow) skyrocketed between games 40-70, while his line drive percentage (red) plummeted. During his slump, Torres popped a lot of balls up. Now, Torres is back to tearing the cover off the ball by lacing line drive and ground-ball singles.
With this comes a rise in balls hit right back up the middle, traditionally where the most open field and thus the most base hits occur. As seen in red, Torres has dramatically raised his “up the middle” percentage, while his pull percentage (blue) has dropped off a lot from where it was during his tough times.
Of course, some of this could merely be a player on a hot streak who’s getting lucky. After all, Torres isn’t going to keep smashing line drives up the middle every time he comes up to bat. Still, this next graph hints at one sign that maybe Torres is maturing as a hitter. In blue, we see Torres’ “out-of-zone” swing percentage, more often called the “chase rate.” In red, we see Torres’ walk rate.
See how the graphs sort of mirror each other? Obviously, Torres walks more when he chases less. More importantly though, Torres’ walk rate has hovered at a career-best level for the last few weeks or so. Perhaps Torres is finally developing a truly effective batter’s eye. He’s only walked twice in a game seven times, and three of those games were in his last eleven. Again, it could just be a small sample size, but Torres may be becoming a more complete hitter.
In the end, Torres has gotten hot again for the Yankees when they need him most, and that will please Yankees fans everywhere. What will make Aaron Boone and the Yankees’ coaching staff most happy are the improvements that Torres has made to his approach. Torres is not purely a home run hitter; he said so himself. Thus, it makes sense that by not selling out for power like he did during his slump, Torres would get back on track. Thanks to improved plate discipline and a change in philosophy, Torres is back to doing what he does best: hitting the baseball.