Gleyber Torres is back. If you’ve been watching the last month of Yankees baseball, you know this to be true. His expected offensive statistics all fall in the high percentiles and the standard slash line is slowly creeping up week by week. His nine home runs are no fluke. The power is real. There is no denying the expected home runs by park on his Statcast profile. They indicate that his home runs have been good enough to be sitting in the double digits in over half the parks.
One good indicator of a hitter’s return to their peak is their at-bats against the league’s best pitchers. So far in 2022, one of those pitchers has been Tampa Bay Rays starter Shane McClanahan. He has arguably been at least a top-five pitcher in all of baseball. With a 2.10 ERA and 12.50 K/9, he has been dominant to start the season. On Sunday, May 29th, McClanahan ran into the streaking Torres in the second inning. This at-bat was a battle on both sides.
A heavy 96-mph fastball started off the at-bat. With McClanahan’s funky release and high velocity, he can afford challenge pitches like this dead center. Torres took a great swing but just missed it; 0-1.
Look where catcher Mike Zunino sets up on this one. This isn’t a miss. McClanahan is focused on the middle of the plate, and letting his movement do all the work. This may have ended up in the middle of the zone, but with the previous offering also being middle-middle, this was not a bad pitch. The velocity difference was enough to mess with Gleyber, who was geared up for a fastball.
An 0-2 count against one of the league’s strikeout leaders? Good luck.
McClanahan’s run from his release point is unique. If you’re interested in knowing why, check it out here. The short version is that no lefty fastball has the type of horizontal run into the zone from a release point which is very similar to a righty — deception, deception. That’s why this changeup is an even better pitch and take than you realize. Torres wasn’t fooled by it despite its nastiness, and the count moved to 1-2..
That’s a great two-strike, fight-off hack. For the same reason as the previous pitch, fouling this off is nothing to sweat. Running back over the plate at 99 mph on a 1-2 count? In most worlds, this is a strikeout. Good fight; 1-2, again.
Oooh, a little back-door bender that nearly clipped the top of the zone. It broke just too late to be a strike, but there is no doubt that it fooled Torres. Sometimes, you get a little lucky during these long battles. Torres only had good swings and takes until this one. In the last few seasons, I would’ve considered Torres doomed after this. Luckily, he wasn’t, and the count went even at 2-2.
Nearly identical to the changeup earlier the count, this was another great take from Torres. He was in swing mode on this pitch. His adjustment to letting the ball travel as deep as possible before making a decision has paid off, especially in at-bats like these against a pitcher with multiple movements and velocities.
Zunino and McClanahan have had it going well all season. They know that going into this 3-2 count, the changeup was off limits. Torres’ takes on the two thrown were too good to throw another. The curveball isn’t the type you throw twice in at-bat. Torres was fooled on it, but that type of spin is recognizable from this level of hitter the second time around. That leaves the fastball and slider. With no runners on and the best lefty strikeout pitcher in baseball on the bump, you have to go to your next best whiff pitch. He did and it didn’t go so well.
One slider in the middle of the zone is fine. But two? That’s a big yikes. If you’ve learned anything from this article series, you know that even one mistake in an-bat will hurt you, no matter the caliber of pitcher and hitter. To do so twice in the same at-bat against a hitter with 3 home runs in his last 19 plate appearances is just too dangerous.
This is one of those at-bats that Gleyber will look back and think, “I’m back and I’m not going anywhere.” I’m incredibly excited to see where this season goes for him. He’s back in the top tier of second baseman in the league.