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Gleyber Torres’ strikeout rate is a pleasant surprise

Torres has struck out at a career low rate, helping buoy him as one of the Yankees’ few successful hitters this year.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at New York Yankees John Jones-USA TODAY Sports

As the sole possessor of what could be considered an above-league-average hitting line in the entirety of the Yankees infield, Gleyber Torres has introduced some changes to his approach in 2023.

The final product isn’t necessarily that much better. Gleyber hasn’t reached the numbers that put him on the map as one of baseball's more exciting young middle infielders back in 2018-19. However, at this point, it’s unwise at best to point to those seasons, and best to look at where Gleyber is as of late, and how he can improve on that.

The big thing that has changed for Gleyber revolves around his improved plate discipline. Coming into the year, the Yankees’ second baseman had a career 21.9 percent K rate. With only a couple of months to go before the end of the year, Torres is well on pace to set a drastic mark as a career low in strikeout rate, currently sitting at 13.7.

The walk rate, on the other hand, remains in line with his career mark of 8.6, as he’s currently sitting at 8.8. It is not quite common to see such a big change when it comes to these statistics for an established big leaguer. Even with late breakouts and such, most of the time a hitter sticks to a specific approach, plate discipline-wise, with minor adjustments.

As far as the cause for the change, it is rather straightforward, even if what led Torres to deploy it might be a little murkier. Despite seeing the same percentage of pitches inside the zone as he did last season, Gleyber is on pace for his lowest swing percentage (45.2) in any campaign outside 2020. Torres has also been making the most in-zone contact of his career at 83.9 percent, a mark that’s never been above 80 before. The swings outside the zone have decreased, and with that, Gleyber has gone from a SwSt% above to below the big league average, sitting at 10.1 at the moment.

A part of what makes this whole thing frustrating is that with these changes, some of Torres’ power has gone away. Despite this, Torres is still on pace to surpass 20 bombs on the season for the fourth time in his career.

Torres boasts a .430 slugging percentage so far this year, not quite near the high of his breakout 2019 but consistent enough with his numbers from last year to show that he’s pulled himself out of his personal canyon. Some more encouragement comes from the fact that the underlying metrics suggest a little better output than what he’s currently doing, as his .272 BABIP would be by far the lowest of his career across a 162-game season.

Even if Gleyber doesn’t manage to build on these improvements, and remains the hitter he has been since the beginning of last season, there is one positive sign to take away from it. With a drastically improved strikeout rate and a walk rate that has bounced back to at least league average, Gleyber has a better chance of sustaining stability over a full season, limiting, to some extent, those slumps.