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What’s behind Gleyber Torres’ early season resurgence?  – Denver Post

Gleyber Torres, just 25, has already lived several pinstriped lives.

He was the anointed, heir apparent to Alfonso Soriano, two-time All-Star and a playoff hero, all before his 23rd birthday.

Then the pitfalls that many people face in their early to mid-twenties began to appear. The pandemic certainly didn’t help, but even in 2021, when things were back to normal, Torres was abysmal at his job. The former top prospect who looked like a mainstay on the Yankees’ next big team instead lost his starting shortstop gig. When he was in the starting lineup, he was often buried in seventh place.

When Torres was officially removed from shortstop at the end of last season, his manager said of his defensive issues at the high pressure position: “I feel like it’s been a burden for him.” Trade talks swirled, as the combination of poor play and impending free agency from Carlos Correa, Corey Seager and others made Torres a strange man.

Instead, the Yankees held off free agent shortstops, kept Torres and traded for a defensive maestro in Isiah Kiner-Falefa. With the stability of knowing he would always be a Yankee, and not having to worry about playing shortstop, Torres started 2022 with a bang.

As of Wednesday morning, Torres had a 117 wRC+ and .741 OPS, both his highest since 2019, the last time he systematically punished baseball. After five straight no-hitter games in mid-April, Torres turned things around with a hit single in Detroit. Although his eighth-inning hit ended up being mostly meaningless — he was stuck on base and the Yankees lost 3-0 — that plate appearance did something to get him back on track.

From that game, Torres has reduced .301/.342/.521. Seven of his 22 hits in that span went for extra bases, including four homers. As a result, his young season numbers show a completely different player to one who shunned two consecutive crumbling campaigns.

“Last year was very [hard] fight for me,” Torres said after driving in five runs in a May 11 win over Toronto. . I mean I can still learn the game.”

Looking at his numbers, the things Torres seemed to learn this year are pretty simple, and also a very common school of thought in Major League Baseball right now. He smashes fastballs, gets the ball in the air more often, and as a result, he makes much harder contact.

In 2021, with Torres’ overall slugging percentage dropping to a career low .366, fastballs were a major culprit. He hit an ideal .352 pitch on the radiators, and with two strikes, fastballs resulted in strikeouts 19.6 percent of the time. This year, though things could still change as he gets more hits, Torres is hitting .536 on fastballs. They only put him out 12.9% of the time he ends up in a two-shot hole.

Chasing fastballs is an effective strategy for most hitters, but on an even more simplistic level, so are pitches that are meant to be hit. Freshman hitting coach Dillon Lawson showed up at his new job with the slogan “Hit strikes hard.” Torres seems to have taken that to heart. According to Baseball-Savant, in three key areas of the strike zone — middle up, middle down, and high and low — Torres is hitting the ball hard at a significantly higher rate than last year.

Hard contact is especially damaging when in the air. Each stadium can contain a well-hit ground, very few will contain an airborne missile. In the past two seasons — the ones Torres would love to forget — he ran a rushing ball rate north of 40%. This year it has fallen to 35.2% so far, with flying balls topping 40% for the first time since 2019. As salty Rangers manager Chris Woodward can attest, sometimes getting the ball in the air at Yankee Stadium leads to “Little League home runs. Whether they go 320 or 420 feet, a home run is a home run, and Torres is already more than halfway to his home run total for the year last.

The other adjustment Torres made in the first month of the season is more frequent. His swing percentage soared to 76.2%, almost identical to the 76.3% he had when smashing 38 homers in 2019. That could be a sign that Torres isn’t thinking too much about the plate, a welcome sign for someone who has spoken openly about the mental turmoil he has endured.

“First of all, I feel really good,” Torres told reporters last week. “I mean, my swing just got better and better. And I work hard every day to be who I want to be. But so far so good. I think the confidence is back and that’s the most important thing for me.

That renewed confidence could also become one of the most important things for the Yankees, a team that, at 27-9, has absolutely been the way it wanted to be.

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