The first win of the season can set the tone for the year. On April 4th, the Yankees were in Tampa Bay, sitting at 0-1, still searching for it. They were also searching for their first home run. That’s when little Ronald Torreyes stepped to the plate.
Toe, as he’s so lovingly referred to, was subbing for an injured Didi Gregorius to start the season. He turned on a first-pitch fastball in the third inning and sent a two-run homer into the left field stands. Just like that, the Yanks had their first home run of the season and their first win would soon follow. That set the stage for the 121 home runs and 41 wins that would come after.
It’s hard not to love Torreyes. At five-foot-eight, 150 pounds., he’s the kind of guy you just have to root for. That’s not to say that he’s the only small guy in the league, but there’s something that separates him from the likes of José Altuve or Dustin Pedroia. For starters, he doesn’t have Altuve’s raw talent or Pedroia’s
awfulness attitude. Toe’s an underdog. When you see him have success, you can’t help but smile. The question is, is he good for the team?
There are two ways in which you can view Toe on the 2017 Yankees:
1. Toe through stats
Torreyes has been an important role player for the Yankees this year. With their growing list of injuries, they’ve desperately needed a utility man to step up and fill a wide range of positions. Toe has been that guy. Coming into the halfway point of the season, he’s played in 50 games, close to his 2016 total of 72. The issue is that he’s been adequate at best.
Toe is batting .277/.299/.369 with a 76 wRC+. That’s not...great. Though his 11.5% strikeout rate is substantially below the league average of 21.5%, his abysmal 2.7% walk rate sits far below the league average of 8.5%. His saving grace is that he makes excellent contact. His contact percentage is 87.2%, well above the 77.5% league average. But his most impressive stat is his 96% contact in the zone percentage. That’s a very promising number.
When it comes to defense, he’s also been adequate. For a little guy, Toe has pretty solid range and a good arm. He’s played a few positions this year and though he struggled a bit at third, he’s produced a 1.0 UZR at shortstop, where he’s played the most innings.
All of this leads to a very OK 0.3 WAR. Will you tell your grandkids about that WAR? Probably not. But for a role player, the Yankees will certainly take it.
2. Toe through intangibles
Everyone loves Toe—his teammates love him, Joe Girardi loves him, and the fans love him. He brings a certain lightness to the team that helps to counterbalance the gravitas of the organization. It’s no secret that the Yanks aren’t the most fun team on the planet. Yankee players don’t have long hair, they don’t have killer mustaches, and they are expected to play the game with reserved respect. That’s why you need a guy like Toe.
For my money, nothing is more entertaining than the adventures of Aaron Judge and Toe. I could watch Didi pick up Toe to high five Judge in the dugout after one of his monster mashes every day of my life.
That only laid the groundwork for the newest phenomenon: Didi lifting Judge to high five Toe after one of his (slightly less monster) mashes.
And may we never forget the Yankees Magazine shoot where Toe put on Judge’s jersey.
Super fun photo shoot today with Aaron Judge and Ronald Torreyes. Story to come! ❤️⚾️ pic.twitter.com/nMkTHn8zdd— Yankees Magazine (@YanksMagazine) May 2, 2017
Come on. That’s incredible.
Can anyone honestly say that they didn’t scream watching Toe’s walk off single against the Rangers last week? Bottom of the 10th, two outs, runners on the corners, and the game tied up at 1. Toe lifts one into shallow center, immediately raises his hands in little guy triumph, and then gets mobbed by the happiest Yankee players in history.
That celebration was downright jubilant. Aaron Hicks picked up Toe like he was a bag of cotton candy. Judge was so giddy, he looked like he just found the BB gun he asked Santa for under the tree.
As a man of similar stature, I can effectively speak for all short men when I say, we need Toe. We live vicariously through him. He gives us hope. He also lets us see what we would look like standing next to Judge.
He may not have All-Star numbers and this incoming wave of fresh-faced baby bombers may make the Yankees question his value, threatening his spot on the bench, but Torreyes is a valuable member of the 2017 Yankee team. What he lacks in production, he more than makes up for in personality. He is the Jerry to our Tom. He is the Rob to our Big.
He is the Toe to our Judge.