Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How Real Is Andres Torres' 2010 Season?

If there is one player on this Giants roster that is hard to project for the rest of the season, it has to be Andres Torres.

Based on statistical data, Torres' 2010 is simply unbelievable considering his history.

Here is Torres' line before he came to San Francisco in 2009:

.210 batting average, .258 OBP, .276 slugging, .534 OPS, .219 wOBA in 89 games between Detroit and Texas from 2002-2005.

Here is what he has done since coming to the Bay Area:

.281 average, .363 OBP, .513 slugging, .877 OPS, .385 wOBA in 118 games with the Giants from 2009-2010.

That's an incredible jump, especially in the categories of OBP (where he jumped 105 points), wOBA (166 points) and slugging (237 points). Basically, Torres turned himself from free hacking, slap hitter (think a poor man's Juan Pierre) to a patient, speedy leadoff hitter with serious pop (think Brady Anderson).

Now, who is the real Torres? Is Torres going to keep up this hitting prowess for the remainder of the 2010 season? Or is he going to fall back to his career numbers prior to his arrival in San Francisco?

Well, Giants fans should believe in the latter and I'll point to you a reason why:

Torres is a different player from his Tiger and Ranger days, and his minor league numbers in 2007 and 2008 and improvement from 2009 to 2010 show that.

Since 2005, Torres pretty much bounced around in Triple-A. He played for four Triple-A clubs from 2005-2009: Oklahoma (Texas), Rochester (Minnesota), Iowa (Chicago), Toledo (Detroit), and Fresno (San Francisco). (He also played for a Double-A club, the Erie Seawolves, in 2007.)

In 2005 and 2006, Torres seemed to be the same player he was in Detroit and Texas (e.g. a slap hitter without much plate patience). He posted a a .743 OPS in 15 games with Oklahoma in 2005 and a .687 OPS (and .317 wOBA) in 118 games with Rochester the following the season.

However, starting in 2007, Torres' numbers took a huge a good way.

Starting in Double-A Erie, the Tigers' Double-A club, Torres posted solid numbers in 85 games. His OPS improved to .844 in Double-A, his OBP jumped to .372, and he hit 11 triples and six home runs (he had only 11 triples and home runs combined the previous season in Rochester).

Later in the year, Torres was promoted to Toledo, the Tigers' Triple-A club. He continued to show the power he showed in Double-A in the International League. While his OBP went down (to .348), his slugging went up (from .472 in Double-A to .506 in Triple-A) as did his OPS (from .844 to .854). What was the reason for the average jumps? In 42 games, Torres hit nine triples and four home runs.

Now, the OBP drop in Toledo was to be expected. After making progress in drawing walks (Torres has a 0.56 and 0.58 BB/K ratios in 2006 in Rochester and 2007 in Toledo, which included walk rates over 10 percent), he took a step back in Toledo. His BB/K ratio hovered around 0.28, and his walk percentage dropped to 5.8 percent in Triple-A (almost a five point drop from Double-A).

However, the following season in Iowa, Torres brought back his BB/K numbers up to the numbers he put up in Rochester and Erie. In 2008, he finished the year with a 0.53 BB/K ratio (which included an 11.5 percent BB/9). The better part though about his 2008 season? His power didn't drop from Toledo despite the better plate discipline.

With the Cubs, Torres posted a .892 OPS and a .397 wOBA. His wRC (runs created based on wOBA) was 86.7, 28 points higher than his previous high in Double-A in 2007, and in addition to hitting 10 triples, 11 home runs and scoring 91 runs, he also stole 29 bases on 33 attempts.

Granted, Torres put up these numbers as a 30 year old in Triple-A. As evidenced by Joe Borchard this year in Fresno, that doesn't necessarily translate into big league success.

Despite those odds being against him, Torres has succeeded at the Major League level with the Giants. Furthermore, he has shown progression from 2009 as well.

One of the reasons I was skeptical of Torres going into the 2010 season was because of his low BB/K ratio (0.36 in 2009), high O-Swing percentage (29.1 percent), low contact rate (72.3), and low GB/FB percentage (0.69) considering his speed (eight triples and six stolen bases in 170 plate appearances in 2009).

So far, he has improved on those numbers. While his contact rate (81.3 percent in 2010) and GB/FB ratio (0.93; but he's helped by a 26.2 percent line drive percentage) aren't anything special, they certainly are improvements from 2009. However, his main improvement has been in his O-Swing percentage (pitches swung outside the strike zone) and BB/K ratio. He cut down his O-Swing percentage to 23.2 percent and his BB/K ratio sits at 0.76.

Torres has the credentials of a true leadoff hitter in 2010, something you couldn't necessarily say out of him last year based on his stats.

Overall, Torres has been a surprise, and it will be predictable to see his stats regress over time. His BABIP is high at .343, and considering his GB/FB ratio, it is likely that it won't sustain at that level for the remainder of the season.

However, if you look at his overall statistics, Torres has made incredible progress as a Giant, and he should continue to make an impact in the leadoff spot. Now, I know Giants fans worry that he might fall back into the numbers of his Tiger days, but I think Giants fans shouldn't fret. Torres isn't the same player, and his minor league numbers from 2007 and 2008, and his improvement in plate discipline from 2009 to 2010 is proof that that this "San Francisco" Torres is different from the "Detroit" Torres.


  1. I've been wondering about this. Good analysis.

    Why do you think his BABIP is high? He was able to maintain a higher BABIP in the minors (albeit the minors) and the theory is that speedsters can maintain a higher BABIP. You mention his GB/FB ratio, which is 0.55, so extreme flyball hitter, so is that what you mean, that because he's hitting so many flyballs, his BABIP should be lower because there are less GB to use his speed on?

  2. Thanks OGC. I think you make my point with you last statement. I made this comparison with Fred Lewis and Rajai Davis. I found Lewis was able to have high BABIPs but still put up good stats because he had high GB/FB rates, while Davis was more lucky in 2009 because he had very high FB rates. I find the same thing interesting with Torres, just because you think with his speed, he would be more apt to hit the ball on the ground to maximize speed. With the GB/FB rates Torres had last year, you would think he was a home run hitter, not a leadoff hitter.

    The big difference I think this year has been Torres' LD rate, which is in the mid 20's (thus, this could explain the high BABIP). Thus, this has evened out his GB/FB ratio from last year. He still isn't hitting as many groundballs as you would think, but he's not hitting as many flyballs (I think he's down about 10 percent from 2009).

    By the way, big fan of your blog man.

  3. Thanks Kevin, I like your blog too, I've put it on my list of Giants blogs. Have fun!

    Yeah, your analysis makes clearer what has been said about Torres in the press lately, that he's learning to do things differently with the bat. Of course, he'll have to keep up that LD% but if he can, boy, he'll be saving the Giants collective butts because of DeRosa's probable DL and Bowker's and Schierholtz's ups and downs growing pains.

  4. Hey, is it possible for me to RSS your site? I've been looking around and just don't see a RSS link. I see links to subscribe to the comments, but nothing about RSSing your site.

  5. I'm not sure if this is what you're talking about, but isn't it in the right side of the web address bar where the orange icon is (this is for Firefox...I don't know about other browsers)? If that's not what you're talking about let me know so I can address what you're asking.

    Thanks for the add on the blogroll. Appreciate it man!

  6. OGC,

    Just added a subscription link on the blog. Hopefully this helps. Sorry for the confusion.

  7. Thanks, no big deal, just wanted to see when you have a new post up.

    Keep up the good work!

  8. Interesting piece.

    I have done some work with Torres on his mechanics and his approach...

    ...and until I read your piece I didn't realize that it seems to be paying off in his selectivity numbers.

    I also think that decreased selectivity, and selectivity that wasn't great to begin with, is part of Sandoval's problem. He feels like a bad ball hitter who this year is seeing and swinging at even more bad balls.

  9. Liked the piece on Torres. I'll definitely be putting you on the recommended blogroll here at R51.

    Also, liked what you said about Sandoval. I think the emphasized "selectivity" has messed with Sandoval and he's ending up swinging at less pitches, but the same amount of bad balls as last year. Sandoval has a great propensity to make contact outside the strike zone, so I don't know why Giants management seems to be messing with his approach so much. As of now, Pablo's line drive rates are down dramatically from last year, but as his BABIP, which currently sits at .305 (it has never been lower than .350 in the majors). I think that BABIP is bound to go up, as are his LD percentages, just because he makes contact so well.