It’s taken me awhile to even entertain this, but I think that Gleyber Torres may be figuring it out. I’ve been extremely hesitant to admit this for Torres, since his last 700 plate appearances or so have been wildly inconsistent in terms of both his swing mechanics and swing decisions. Because of that, it takes a lot to be convinced that the at-bats/hot streak are signs of a permanent improvement.
Torres’ slash line isn’t all that exciting. It sits at .222/.256/.417, which is actually near-league average production. It’s enough to make one think, “Well, how hot can he be if his numbers still look like that?”
Obviously, whatever streak that Torres is currently in isn’t so crazy that he has recovered his average numbers to the type of hitter he can be. Regardless, it may be a little more exciting as an analyst to predict whether we should expect this performance to stick around.
All this certainly doesn’t mean that Torres is definitively back, but it’s good to see anyway. His last 20 plate appearances or so have been marked by some great at-bats and more swings with noticeable intent. What do I mean by that? Gleyber has been doing this bit for two years or so where he just takes B, C, and D swings regularly — either he doesn’t completely finish his swing through contact, or he loses his posture or legs before ball even meets bat. Below are a few examples from earlier in the season.
This one is a lazy two-strike, protect hack from Torres that led to a sac fly. Obviously, he wanted to get the run in here, but this has been a bad habit of his for a long, long time.
And here is another lazy, blown posture swing in a 1-1 count on a changeup in the middle of the plate.
Then another 1-1 swing which was easily avoidable. 1-1 should be an advantage count, but instead, Torres takes this off-balance hack on a pitch outside of the zone.
This is the frustrating thing about Gleyber. He takes swings like this in counts where he simply does not have to. When in a 1-1 count — or other advantage counts — you need to get your best swing off and be locked in on a specific zone. There is no need to protect when you have a strike or two to go! This isn’t anything crazy.
Now, Torres has still taken these swings during his hot streak; that may always be his downfall. However, his frequency of taking aggressive, fast swings on pitches in the middle of the plate is increasing. Let’s see a few.
The first is a good swing. Gleyber may have been late and made contact too deep in the zone, but the process and aggression of the swing is significantly improved.
A lot of Torres’ hits have come from right-center to right field. This was a solid line drive shot to right field on a slider in the middle of the zone.
This is it. Torres was geared up for a fastball in a 1-1 count and made a full swing through contract. It’s clear to me his goal is to let the ball travel. This could help him in a few ways. First, it gives him more time to make swing decisions, which has been a big issue for him. If he gives himself time to decide, then his decisions should improve.
You may have heard Cameron Maybin say on the YES broadcast this season, “Good hitters break bats.” While this cue/mindset doesn’t work for all hitters, it may help Gleyber. By swinging as late as possible, he ensure that he takes a fast swing on a pitch in which he had plenty of time to decide to swing. It may be the exact cue that will help lift him out of a multi-year long slump.
Last year, I wrote about how Gleyber’s power will be determined by how he uses his hips and posture in his swing. When he takes the types of swings like he has in the last two weeks, where he swings as late as possible, he more effectively fires his hips in terms of speed and direction. The batted-ball results are there too. While his slash line is still not pretty, his expected stats are looking up to par with 2019. Believe it or not, his xwOBA, xwOBACON, and xSLG all rank higher than they did in his great 2019 season. That alone should tell you there is something there.
It’s been a positive development to see Torres change his mindset in this manner. It can’t be argued that he has a gifted swing. It’s very short and produces more power than one would expect from somebody his size. If he can harness that swing to hit the ball like he has, then Dillon Lawson would deserve big credit for the way he has communicated with Torres. Don’t get me wrong, there are still more rollover, slow swings than there should be, but his development won’t be A-to-Z. It will be a process and so far, he is showing steps in the right direction.