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Gleyber Torres is hesitating on off-speed pitches

Not a ton has changed since Gleyber’s All-Star-caliber first half, but his approach to off-speed pitches has ushered in a slump.

MLB: New York Yankees at St. Louis Cardinals Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees have slumped through a somewhat-concerning 7-12 stretch since the All-Star break, and Gleyber Torres has struggled right along with them. During that time through the end of play on Tuesday, the Yankees’ second baseman has hit to the tune of a paltry 54 wRC+, slashing .200/.231/.320 over 78 plate appearances. Up until the break, his wRC+ was 129.

Interestingly, Torres, who is prone to frequent approach changes, looks like he’s making similar choices at the plate as he has over the course of the season. Many of his recent issues seem to be stemming from his inability to hit, or effectively take, off-speed and breaking pitches.

All of Torres’ swing rate numbers — overall rate as well as those in or outside of the zone — have been largely the same before and after the All-Star break. There are obviously some slight shifts, but nothing eye-popping that would have this much of an effect. What’s important to note, however, is the fact that Torres has only walked twice in that span, and is striking out over 30 percent of the time — the former less than half as often as he has overall, and the latter nearly 10 percent more often. This concerning change, and the overall drop in production, can at least in part be attributed to his issues facing non-fastballs.

In Tuesday’s frustrating extra-inning marathon against the Mariners, fans saw perfect examples of what seems to be going wrong for Torres against off-speed pitches:

Since the break, the second baseman is seeing off-speed and breaking pitches about half the time, and has a .133 wOBA against them in that stretch. That is a concerning number in its own right, but is particularly interesting when considering Gleyber’s wOBA against those same pitches prior to the break was a much more impressive .341.

As one might expect, issues against these pitches are often some combination of poor timing and trouble picking them up out of the pitcher’s hand. The result has often been chases out of the zone, or weak and hesitant swings on the ones inside the zone. Torres’ troubles seem to be heavily related to that hesitation. This is exactly what these pitches are meant to do, and it’s working perfectly on him.

On breaking and off-speed pitches outside of the zone, Torres has found himself making poor attempts at them, resulting in whiffs or weak contact:

Of course, chases aren’t the only issue either. On pitches inside the zone, even ones that would be considered very hittable mistakes, Torres’ hesitation seems to be hindering his timing, resulting in more weak swings and poor results:

On some of these swings, there even seems to be a separation between Gleyber’s foot coming down and the actual swing itself, particularly on those pitches that stayed in the zone.

Torres’ ability to hit non-fastballs was actually quite the strength for him prior to the midseason pause. More recently, it has been a crucial part of his slump — a poorly-timed slump at that, given the absences of Giancarlo Stanton, Matt Carpenter, and until yesterday, Anthony Rizzo. Torres’ previously-displayed ability to do damage is somewhat comforting though, as this recent stretch may just be a mental or mechanical hitch that can be worked out with relative ease. But in the meantime, as Torres was in the midst of rediscovering his power, this combination of weak swings on off-speed pitches, high strikeouts, and low walks is not one the Yankees (or their fans) want to see.

Torres’ season has been filled with distinct stretches where certain things are working, and others are not. This post-All-Star break sample is not a huge one, and hopefully won’t be indicative of prolonged frustrations.