After a hot start to 2019, Gleyber Torres appeared to hit a wall. As Freeni pointed out last month, Torres labored through a 10-game stretch where he posted a wRC+ of eight, and with the Yankees losing position players left and right, they needed one of their best hitters to pick things up.
Torres has done just that, entering Tuesday’s action with an .851 OPS during an 11-game hitting streak. With the help of Torres, the Yankees have continued to win and put together one of the best records in baseball, despite a painfully depleted roster. So, what changed for Torres?
Back when Torres was struggling, many clamored for the shortstop to start hitting to all fields, perhaps taking pitches on the outer part of the plate to right field, which obviously could be advantageous at Yankee Stadium. In fact, pitchers seem to be daring Torres to go the other way, given how they have been pitching him this season.
However, Torres has turned things around, and it’s not due to the balancing of a spray chart. During Torres’ slump, from April 8 to April 23, Torres hit to the opposite field 30.3 percent of the time. Since then, as Torres has ramped up his offensive production, he has hit the opposite way 11.4 percent of the time, per FanGraphs. Torres has actually drastically cut the rate at which he has gone the other way as he has heated up.
Also of interest is that Torres’ hard contact percentage is almost exactly the same during his hitting streak as it was when he was slumping. If the nature of Torres’ contact hasn’t changed, then what has?
The true difference in Torres’ approach lies in his plate discipline. During his swoon, Torres was swinging at 38 percent of pitches outside of the zone, but has dropped that rate to 29.6 percent during his hitting streak. Despite his overall swing percentage dropping during this time, his zone swing percentage has slightly increased, which suggests a much improved eye in the batter’s box. This of course has led to some promising results overall, in terms of his overall expected wOBA, courtesy of Statcast:
This is obviously a very optimistic trend for Torres and the Yankees. Miguel Andujar and Clint Frazier have returned, but Torres still remains a fixture in the middle of the lineup until bats like Aaron Hicks, Aaron Judge and Giancarlo Stanton return. A Torres that is not taking pains to go the other way, but instead exercising patience at the plate and hitting the ball hard, is crucial to keeping the lineup afloat as the cavalry begins to arrive.
Torres was tearing the cover off the ball until those other bats starting falling to the IL, but he appears to be heading back to that level of production now. Of course, it might not be for reasons you might expect. Torres isn’t making a point to ‘go with the pitch’ as many clamored for. He’s just become more selective and waiting for his pitch, and it’s paying off.