Wednesday, August 25, 2010
Baseball’s secret starPosted by Steve Treder
What would you say about a fine-fielding, switch-hitting center fielder who put up the following stat line:
AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB CS BA OBP SLG OPS+ 566 103 160 46 13 19 78 68 145 29 8 .283 .363 .511 127If you'd be inclined to consider such a player a major star, I'd be inclined to agree.
Such a player exists, but his performance has come as such a late-blooming surprise that the mainstream media hasn't discovered him, and few fans outside of his home ballpark have even heard of him.
That stat line is what Andres Torres has produced in his almost-two seasons since joining the San Francisco Giants. It comprises 643 plate appearances through yesterday, or pretty close to what a regular player would garner in one full season.
Torres is no kid; he's 32 years old. And until 2009, he'd managed to scrape together just 89 major league games in parts of four years with the Tigers and Rangers, and truly struggled with the bat, to the tune of 210/258/276, for an OPS+ of 46. He'd never hit with much pop in the minors, either; it was only his blazing speed and defensive chops that were keeping his meager career alive.
But suddenly in 2007 Torres turned his entire game around, whacking 20 triples in a combined double-A-and-triple-A season. Last year he made the Giants' roster as a utility outfielder, and this year he's played his way into first-string center fielder status.
Torres is just 5'10", but his power is a function of his robustly muscled condition (and, yes, his is the sort of story that tends to create suspicion about steroids). Apparently the most intriguing backstory regarding Torres is that it wasn't until a few years ago that he was diagnosed with an attention-deficit disorder, and it was upon getting that affliction under control through medication that he's been able to channel his energy, and his career has taken off.
I don't recall seeing Torres play until he came to the Giants, so I can't offer first-hand observation on a changed plate approach. But apparently that's also part of the story; in the past he was a slap hitter, but with his newfound strength Torres now takes a very full rip. He also exercises first-rate strike zone judgment, nicely working the count. All in all he is one extremely tough out.
It's obviously unclear how long Torres can keep this up, as he's blossomed at an age that many players are beginning to decline. But for the time being, at any rate, the Giants are enjoying the performance of a remarkably potent secret weapon.
Steve Treder can often be found spending way too much time talking baseball at Baseball Primer. He welcomes your questions and comments via e-mail.