Not many teams would be off to a 9-2 start with a few star players slumping the way the Yankees have had thus far. Good thing the Yankees are loaded with stars. Yesterday, Matt broke down what’s going on with Gary Sánchez. Today, let’s take a look at what’s going on with Gleyber Torres.
Gleyber’s off to a .147/.216/.235 (32 wRC+) start in 37 plate appearances thus far. He’s reached base in just three of the Yankees’ 11 games this year. Two of those games were in the opening series vs. Washington a week and a half ago. Since that Nationals series, Torres is 2-for-25 with one walk and now 0 for his last 15. Who could have seen this coming after he went 3-for-4 with a homer and the game-winning RBI single in that series finale vs. the Nationals?
Simply put, Gleyber looks way out of whack at the plate. I think yesterday’s game really exemplified that, particularly his first plate appearance of the game. The Yanks had Zack Wheeler on the ropes in the first inning: bases loaded, no one out, and Torres at the dish.
That’s a middle-up fastball that Torres should have crushed, not hit into a routine double play. Wheeler does tend to induce soft contact (90th percentile in hard hit percentage), but that doesn’t matter when you throw a pitch right in Gleyber’s usual happy zone.
Take a look at what Torres did against pitches like that last year:
That wasn’t the only time Gleyber grounded out on a high fastball yesterday, either. Here’s the result of his second matchup with Wheeler:
This fastball was above the zone, but Torres managed to get on top of it anyway.
To see Torres chop a couple of high fastballs to the left side indicates that something is off with his mechanics at the plate. I’m not hitting coach or scout, so I won’t venture to guess what’s wrong, but I think it’s fair to assume his swing is not right if those are the results against pitches in that location.
I’ve made a sweeping conclusion regarding Torres’s swing by cherry-picking a couple of at-bats from yesterday, but there’s certainly more to this slump. One other thing that caught my eye is that Torres is 0-for-13 in at-bats that end with a breaking ball. It’s not unusual for hitters to struggle against curves and sliders, and it’s the pitch group Gleyber’s struggled the most with in his young career. That said, he did hold his own against this pitch category last season:
|2019||xwOBA||wOBA||Whiffs per Swing|
This year, Gleyber’s seen 52 breaking balls (37.4 percent of all pitches) and has whiffed on 12 of 27 swings (44.4 percent). This is an extremely small sample size, but it is worth pointing out that in response, pitchers are leaning into a breaking ball heavy approach against Torres this year. 34.3 percent of pitches against Torres were breaking balls last year, roughly three percent lower than what he’s seen this season. Further, the ratio of breaking balls to fastballs has trended up since mid-2019:
So, Torres will need to adjust. He’s already proven that he can handle this pitch category without much issue last year, so I’m not particularly concerned. Again, his swing must be off right now. If he’s bouncing into double plays on fastballs over the heart of the plate, he’s surely struggling to square up curveballs and sliders too.
All of this is a long way of saying that Torres is slumping. Slumps like this are far more noticeable at the start of the year too, since the numbers not only encompass the swoon but also the full-season stat line. He’ll snap out of this as he adjusts during the season. Remember, he hit .278/.337/.535 (125 wRC+) with 38 dingers as a 22 year-old last year. Gleyber’s way too good at hitting for him not to snap out of this funk.