Gleyber Torres’ hard-hit numbers better than his 2019 Yankees peak
By Adam Weinrib
In much the same way the narrative can change quickly, so can the underlying metrics, so take everything you read about the Yankees in early May with a grain of salt.
That said … how ’bout that Gleyber Torres, huh?!
“Clutch” is difficult to bottle and quantify (some would say “fake”), but Torres certainly has embodied the notion thus far in 2022, taking a simple approach and finding success with it in massive moments. He walked off the Cleveland Guardians with a line-drive single after the Myles Straw incident, and broke a scoreless tie with the Blue Jays on Monday evening before looping a two-out, game-winning hit in the ninth to cap the narrative swing.
Is Torres’ early success (at second base too, mind you!) a mirage? Or is there something indicating he’s finally finding a middle ground between young superstardom and fourth-year washout? According to the underlying metrics, Torres is only just beginning his ascent. In fact, the numbers believe he’s making better contact now than he did in 2019, when Yankees fans agree he peaked.
Back in ’19, Torres was a 22-year-old wunderkind All-Star who jacked 38 home runs and finished 17th in the MVP race. That season, taken in tandem with his prospect pedigree, is what made his 2020-21 descent so frustrating.
The juiced ball and Torres’ discomfort at short have been widely cited as reasons for his regression, but what if we told you the ball — and perhaps the existence of the 2019 Baltimore Orioles — were even more responsible for his inflated numbers than you thought? Because, thus far in 2022, all signs point to Torres making far more consistent hard contact than he ever did during that breakout.
Yankees’ Gleyber Torres is hitting the ball harder than ever — and saying the right things.
Pretty stunning, right? Torres hasn’t approached his “maximum” number from 2019, and he’s also dealing with a weakened offense league-wide, making his “percentiles” look better relative to the masses.
Still, he’s now ranking among the very tops in average exit velocity and hard-hit percentage, instead of sinking to the league’s bottom. His expected batting average has followed that trend line, too.
The negatives? He’s not barreling the ball nearly as often in 2022, and he’s still chasing balls far too often. But Torres, anecdotally, is at his best when he’s able to shorten his swing and go with the ball into right-center field to change his approach when necessary.
He spoke about that after Monday’s heroics, which shows he’s currently in the proper headspace.
Torres may not have reached his peak exit velocity number from 2019, but he’s far likelier to make solid contact this season, and the worm is beginning to turn.
Perhaps you prefer counting stats, though. According to one astute Yankees analyst who’s mastered sample size, Torres has now hit six home runs in his last 160 plate appearances for a 120 wRC+, following a truly depressing nine home runs in the 590 plate appearances before them.
Any way you slice it, that rate is improving.