Gleyber Torres is off to a nightmarish start. He’s not the culprit for the Yankees’ sluggish play, but he’s been one of the main contributors to the team’s 5-10 record. It’s not just his defense that’s hurt this team, either. The 24 year-old shortstop isn’t hitting like the middle-of-the-order threat he’s expected to be.
Through 60 plate appearances, Torres owns a .196/.317/.235 (70 wRC+) in 2021. He has just two extra base hits and has struck out 25 percent of the time, which is an uptick from 17.5 percent last year and 21.4 percent in 2019. This isn’t necessarily a continuation of last year’s middling performance (106 wRC+), because if you recall, Torres finished strong. He hit .259/.377/.466 (134 wRC+) in September after a dreadful start. All that said, I’m not too concerned about Torres offensively. Although he’s had poor results, his approach hasn’t been all that bad, believe it or not.
The good: He’s making excellent swing decisions.
Torres has maintained a respectable on-base percentage (.317) thanks to a terrific 15.0 percent walk rate. This comes after posting a 13.8 percent mark last year, which was a huge jump from BB-rates that hovered around league average at the start of his career. Aaron Boone always talks about controlling the strike zone, and Torres is doing just that.
Before we go further, I know that his -4 runs on pitches in the heart of the zone is alarming. Don’t worry, I’ll get to that. For now, I want to emphasize how this chart illustrates a good approach thus far. He’s been aggressive against pitches in the heart of the zone while spitting on chase and waste pitches. He’s way above league average in those regards, which is what you want to see.
In simpler terms, Torres is not expanding the zone. Even though he’s struggling to put up the top line numbers we adored in 2018 and 2019, he doesn’t appear to be pressing to get out of this funk. His inputs are fine. He’s passing the baton when necessary and not trying to do too much.
It’s worth noting that Torres is seeing way more pitches in the strike zone too. After never seeing more than 47 percent of pitches in the zone in prior seasons, opponents have a 56.1 percent zone rate against the shortstop thus far. My first thought when seeing this: maybe Torres needs to be more aggressive. But then again, it’s evident that he’s attacking hittable pitches. Sure, he’s swung at slightly fewer pitches on the edges than average, but those aren’t the areas he needs to be aggressive in anyway.
So, it’s pretty clear that Gleyber’s problems really just boil down to results. He’s not expanding the zone and he’s not taking meatballs. This is encouraging. As long as he maintains a consistent approach, he should snap out of this slump.
The bad: He’s not doing damage in favorable counts or against pitches over the heart of the zone.
As noted, Torres is putting a good foot forward at the plate. Unfortunately, it’s just not amounting to anything positive aside from taking free passes. There are a few areas to highlight. First, how he’s done in hitter’s counts.
|Comparison||BA / xBA||SLG / xSLG||wOBA / xwOBA||EV (MPH)||LA|
|Torres||.333 / .325||.333 / .448||.297 / .330||91.1||16|
|MLB||.330 / .352||.590 / .657||.389 / .420||90.5||13|
Torres has a couple of singles in these favorable counts, but just about no power to show for it. Something I’ve noticed in looking back at video: he’s getting beat on fastballs over the middle or up in the zone in these spots. Throwing a fastball in a hitter’s count is not always a given nowadays, but it’s still frustrating to see Torres do next to nothing against pitches like this:
Those instances bring me back to the -4 runs against pitches in the heart of the zone. Again, good on Torres for being aggressive against pitches in that location, but he’s clearly having a hard time getting around some of these fastballs over the plate in favorable counts. If it happened once or twice, maybe it’s because he was sitting on a different pitch. I don’t think that’s the case, though. Pitchers are going after him with fastballs, as I’ll touch on more in a second. Ultimately, judging from the numbers and those videos, it’s no wonder he’s been a negative against pitches in the heart of the zone.
You may have noticed that those two videos I cherry picked were against fastballs — low velocity fastballs, to boot. Torres was late on both of these, and has consistently struggled to time opponents all season. Here are the balls he’s put in play in hitter’s counts counts:
Two grounders to the left side, a couple of line drive singles to right, and a couple of easy fly outs down the right field line. Torres should be doing damage in these situations, not this.
As a whole, Torres is going to the opposite field more than ever before. 47.2 percent of batted balls have gone to right field, versus a previous high water mark of 26.9 percent in 2020. It’s not necessarily a bad thing to go the other way as a right-handed hitter at Yankee Stadium, but this doesn’t feel intentional to me. It feels like he’s getting beat to the punch more often than not. So maybe it’s also no wonder that pitchers are throwing more fastballs against Gleyber.
And it’s no wonder why he’s seen more heaters. He’s whiffing a ton against them, and even when he does make contact, he’s getting under them. Those are tell-tale signs of being late against fastballs.
Before I started writing this post, I have to admit that I was really down on Torres. My eyes told me that he was regressing and that his approach to his at-bats were poor. I felt like he was taking his defense with him into the batter’s box. Instead, after digging into the data, I feel a lot better about Gleyber’s outlook. Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to judge a 24 year-old with two stellar MLB seasons in his pocket already. Not after 60 plate appearances.
I’m confident that the shortstop will turn things around at the plate soon soon. His plan at the plate looks good, at least by the numbers. He’s just not getting the results we expect. Torres just needs to get his timing back. Whether that’s more repetitions or some sort of mechanical tweak, he’ll get there.