Gleyber Torres is having a career year. Granted that isn’t so hard when you’re 22 years old and it’s only your second year in the league. But that simplicity doesn’t do his season justice.
With 37 home runs and two weeks left in the season, he’s got a real shot at 40 home runs. His total also leads all middle infielders. Take a look:
All three components of his triple slash line have gone up. His wOBA and wRC+ have gone up. He’s got a higher ISO while keeping a similar walk rate. In that vein, he’s managed to drop his strikeout rate while hitting for more power and walking just about the same (8.5% this year vs. 8.7% last year). For any player, that’s impressive; for a 22 year old in his second Major League season in a strikeout-laden environment, it’s even more so.
In 2018, Torres had a 25.2% strikeout rate. That was a little worse than average and ‘traditionally’ a little high for a middle infielder. But his walk rate was just about league average and his power–a .209 ISO–was well above league average (.161). When you walk that ‘much’ and have that kind of power output, it’s easy to live with a relatively high strikeout rate.
This year, his strikeout rate has dropped to 20.8%, a full 2% below the league average. Couple that with a increased power (.263 ISO, about 70 points higher than league average) and home run production and you’ve got one hell of a combination. Let’s take a closer look at how he’s gotten here. All following numbers courtesy of Statcast.
First, here’s his in-zone swing and miss rates on the three types of pitches:
Gleyber, who is good, is missing fewer pitches in the zone, regardless of pitch type. This is especially true of offspeed pitches. Missing fewer pitches in the zone is a damn good way to reduce your strikeout rate. What about pitches outside the zone?
While Torres has chased and missed more fastballs out of the zone this year, he’s more than compensated for it by not missing as many breaking and offspeed pitches. This combined with the drops in in-zone whiffs has, predictably, led to his lower overall strikeout rate, both overall and granularly by pitch types.
The numbers above do a good job of speaking for themselves. It’s impressive when any player can keep–let alone improve–his power while dropping his strikeouts, especially in today’s game. When we’re reminded that Torres isn’t even 23 yet, this becomes all the more special.
Gleyber has lived up to every bit of the hype. And given his power outputs in both 2018 and 2019, he’s exceeded it in at least one way. It isn’t likely that he has a season more powerful than this, but the drop in strikeouts is encouraging and hints that he might be able to add better-than-average walk rates at some point. If he does that, he’ll somehow be even better than he already is.