Gleyber Torres was the best player in the Yankees lineup in the first two weeks of the season. His swing, stroking the ball all over the field in both average and power, is reminiscent of the swing he flashed as an All-Star in 2018 and his 19th, his first two years in the league. .
In the Yankees’ first 12 games, he led the team in batting average (.357), on-base and slugging percentage (1.179), walks (11), and stolen bases (5).
The Yankees then homered on April 13 and Torres was in a 28-2 skid. This is a frustrating stretch for a player who has been streaking throughout his career. But this time, neither he nor his team were concerned.
“I don’t think he’s depressed right now,” manager Aaron Boone said last week. “I think his approach is where it needs to be. As a hitter, it’s hard to keep up with a week’s worth of results. Nothing shows up even after installing it a few times.”
Torres and the Yankees recognized that his accomplishments in the first two weeks did not come out of nowhere. It was the result of changes he began to introduce after the 2021 season. At the time, he was going through an underwhelming year in which his growth was hampered by a failed move from second base to shortstop.
Simply put, Torres was not good at playing shortstop and struggled to adapt to the more demanding position, so he pressured him to make up for it at bat. I can’t. However, the bigger impact of switching was physical. He said Torres lost a lot of weight to play shortstop.
“I got really skinny because I was focused on expanding my range,” Torres said. “When I lost weight, I lost a little strength.”
Trading bulk for speed isn’t necessarily a bad thing for a middle fielder. The problem with Torres, though, was that he didn’t see trimming as a trade-off. Torres, a right-handed hitter, was trying to generate the same amount of power at the plate with significantly less force behind the plate, throwing away his mechanics in the process. After letting go, he made just 12 combined in the next two seasons, three in the shortened 2020 season, and nine in 127 games the following year.
Torres entered the weight room knowing he would return to second base after the 2021 season, but it was unclear when the 2022 season would begin. With the league’s collective bargaining agreement with the players’ union set to expire in early December, a work stoppage seemed inevitable before Major League Baseball locked out his players on Dec. 2. , hitting coaches Dillon Lawson and Torres put together a plan to correct his swing.
“The big thing for Graber is to get into a position where he can feel athletic and feel strong,” Lawson said. We need a combination of
That “big move” was Torres’ load, the move he makes before swinging. He uses his high leg kick to build momentum that is transmitted at the point of contact in baseball, but trying to squeeze all the power out of his slim physique caused the momentum to become too much to control. . This upset his balance and compromised his timing, affecting pitch awareness, swing decision, bat passing and hip rotation.
“People talk about trying to get in the back of the hip. They’re loading the hip,” Lawson said. “This way you can create more force. and tend to unload.”
“In 2020 and 2021, he didn’t load his hips because he didn’t load his hips. about ball flight. You can influence the bat pass. So we see a loading mechanism similar to 2018 and his 2019, with more experience added. “
So was Torres’ power when MLB revived. 257 with 24 home runs and a .451 slugging percentage. His .194 His Isolate His power (a metric that measures a player’s raw power, slugging percentage minus batting average) ranks him second among second basemen in the league, behind Houston’s Jose his Altuve. was ranked inTorres’ average exit speed jumped 3.3 mph from last season, the biggest year-over-year improvement in MLB
Last year would have been even better for Torres if it weren’t for a career-low walk percentage (6.8%) and a career-worst 30-game slump. From July 30 to September 5, Torres’s OPS was . The start of this period coincided with rumors that he could be traded before the Aug. 2, 2022 deadline. Shortly after the deadline passed, it was reported that the Yankees had nearly turned him over to the Miami Marlins for right-handed starter Pablo Lopez.
This past offseason, Torres returned to Caracas, the Venezuelan capital where he grew up, to play in the country’s Winter League. In his homecoming he had two purposes. He got to play in front of his family and friends and wanted to improve his perception of his braking and off-speeding his pitch. Most of the league’s pitchers are getting older and relying on junk and baffling hitters because they can no longer beat them with speed. His goal, he said, is to “not strike out too many.”
So far, so good. His tracking percentage for braking and off-speed pitches was 22.9% before he entered Monday’s game, down from his 26.3% last season. according to statcast.
In Venezuela, Torres also rediscovered what it meant to play baseball without the external stressors of being a big leaguer. This effect is much more difficult to quantify, but Torres seemed much more relaxed during his recent run than he used to.
“Pressure is part of the game,” he said. “I’m more mature in those situations.”
Boone is quick to point out that Torres, 26, is a young player about to enter the prime of his career. His ceiling remains incredibly high.
“When Graber is at his best, he has a very balanced game, a good batting average, good power, good walks and strikeouts, and as a result, I’d say he’s great.”
On Saturday, Torres went hitless in his first two at-bats, extending his slump to 2-30. Toronto’s starting pitcher, Alec Manoa, allowed only one hit when Torres stepped in with one out in his seventh inning of his game scoreless. He quickly fell behind on counts of 0 and 2. Manoa threw a nasty slider low, a pitch that Torres had worked to better recognize throughout the offseason.
Torres saw the pitch through Manoa’s hands and waited for the break. His hips opened a little early, but his hands stayed far enough back.
It wasn’t a pretty swing, but it didn’t have to be. In the ninth, his next time up, he reached an infield hit. And with Minnesota’s single Sunday and two infield hits Monday, he was building a three-game hitting streak. The process is working.