One of the biggest and funniest stories of the 2019 Yankees season was Gleyber Torres’ performances against the Orioles. In 18 games and 75 plate appearances against Baltimore, Torres hit .394/.467/1.045 with 13 home runs. He crushed nearly any pitcher the Orioles trotted out against him, much to the dismay of their broadcaster Gary Thorne.
Continuing at that pace over 162 games, Torres would’ve hit over 100 home runs. Even as well as he hit against them, and as poor as the 2019 Orioles’ pitching was, that’s probably not feasible. Yes, he’s extremely talented, but his numbers would have evened out somewhat. But...just how strong of a season could Torres have had if he only had to play the Orioles?
Back over the COVID-19 delay ahead of the MLB season, I ran some experiments on baseball simulator Out of the Park Baseball 21, and now it’s time for another one. I specially created a league that contained just two teams: the 2019 Yankees and the 2019 Orioles. I turned off trades so that Baltimore couldn’t manage to better their pitching staff in any way. Other than that, I kept the 162 game season and the rosters as they were.
So just how good could Torres be against an entire season of Orioles? The answer is very.
In one season of what I have dubbed the “Gleyber Baseball League,” Torres appeared in 138 games, making 723 plate appearances. He led the league with 71 home runs and also in slugging percentage at .782. Torres recorded 214 RBI and put up a triple slash line of .395/.480/.782.
He also helped the Yankees to a 142-20 record, winning the two-team division by 122 games. The Yankees finished with a run differential of +1320, having scored 2080 in total. Not shockingly, those would all be records.
One genre of stats that didn’t have Torres as an other worldly player are the ones that compare players to league average ones. He only had a 158 OPS+, which while still really good, it’s not what you would expect after hitting 71 home runs. He also was worth 5.9 WAR, which is a similar story to his OPS+.
The reason for that is while he gets to face Orioles’ pitching every single time, so does every other Yankee hitter. While Torres put up the best numbers against Baltimore in 2019, plenty other Yankees also hit well against them. On a long enough timeline, the numbers would’ve evened out, and that’s what happened in this simulation.
Aaron Judge hit .416/.561/.750; Mike Tauchman hit 52 home runs; Austin Romine even put up a 122 OPS+. It’s hard to put up a massively above average OPS+ when nearly half the hitters in this two-team league have an OPS of over 1.000. Torres was probably the Yankees’ second-best hitter, but he would have a lot more competition if everyone got to face the 2019 Orioles hundreds of times.
A weird thing then happened when the playoffs started. In the best of seven World Series, the Orioles jumped out to a 3-0 lead, holding the Yankees to just 11 runs combined in those games. After literally winning 88% of the games in the season, were the Yankees going to blow it against the 2019 Orioles in the playoffs?
The answer is no. They won four in a row, combining for 45 runs, and rallying to win the series. Torres went 9-for-21 with a home run in those four games.
Sadly, because time travel doesn’t exist (that we know of) and because you can’t only play one team (unless this whole pandemic thing keeps going and MLB has to tighten the schedule even more), so we’ll never know what would actually happen. However, a 71 home run season feels right.