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  • Writer's pictureAndy Singer

The Gleyber Torres Fallacy

By Andy Singer

February 11th, 2024


Photo Credit: AP

Gleyber Torres is a good baseball player. Even those among us that have issues with his mental lapses and occasional issues with focus would grudgingly agree that Gleyber Torres is a good baseball player. In 2023, he was the only regular player behind Aaron Judge that was an above-average hitter for the year. That speaks to the dumpster fire that was 2023, but it also highlights the fact that Gleyber Torres was pretty good!


In light of that fact, there has been significant discussion this off-season about the possibility of a contract extension for Gleyber Torres on the eve of his first bid for free agency. EJ Fagan wrote a detailed account of Torres' relative merits as a second baseman, and his chances to get an extension just last week. I strongly suggest you check it out. EJ's post makes it fairly clear that Torres is one of the best hitting second basemen in baseball, and with the changes he's made at the plate, I'd bet on that being the case for awhile longer. More to the point, the bat is good enough to play even at other positions.


One point about which EJ and I agree is that Torres' defense is playable, but nothing more at second base. Statcast's OAA measured Torres as an average defender in 2022 (0 OAA) and as a pretty poor defender in 2023 (-3 OAA). This closely matches what my eyes told me in both seasons, though I would simply say that Torres is only slightly below-average defensively in the aggregate. Honestly, it is a storyline that is flying somewhat under the radar coming into 2024. If Gleyber produces another below-average or worse season defensively at second base, I wonder if the Yankees will look for an upgrade at that spot.


That doesn't necessarily mean that Gleyber is an absolute gonner, even in the worst case. EJ makes passing mention about Gleyber's arm strength in his post, and though EJ's overall article is excellent, he fell victim to the same fallacy that many people fall into when evaluating Torres' defense. EJ, like many others who have written about Torres' relative merits this off-season, noted that Torres has at least below-average arm strength and possibly one of the worst arms in the Majors.


The problem? This argument doesn't hold water. Most of you will immediately pull up his average throwing velocity numbers from Statcast in 2022 and 2023 to prove me wrong. For sure, Gleyber is in the bottom-third of second basemen in baseball in average throwing velocity since returning to the position full time two years ago. However, digging a bit deeper shows that this cursory number is flawed.


Gleyber Torres was a terrible shortstop in 2020 and 2021. Few people will make an argument to the contrary. However, that doesn't mean that Gleyber didn't have certain skillsets that could make you squint and say that maybe he could fake it there. Here are Statcast's arm strength rankings on throws just from shortstop as a shortstop in 2020 (the last column shows averages for that player at the shortstop position):



Here they are again in 2021:



For all Gleyber Torres did wrong at shortstop, one thing he had was one of the better arms in baseball. Do we think that in 2 seasons, Torres suddenly forgot how to throw a baseball? I think it is far more likely that Torres is unsure of his footwork on that side of the diamond, and often lays back on his throws to ensure that he's accurate. More often that not, throws from second base are over a short distance and routine anyway, so it is also likely that he is rarely throwing it close to max effort, which also brings his average velocity numbers down. Statcast is a very powerful tool, but making general assessments about skills based off of the Statcast averages is often flawed without digging into the numbers a bit deeper.


The idea that Gleyber Torres has a weak arm is a fallacy; in fact, his arm is quite good, and likely plays at other arm-dependent positions like 3B, where the Yankees also have question marks in current and future seasons. I have no idea whether Torres has the reaction timing or the footwork to make 3B work, but he at least has the hands and arm for the position. Torres certainly will want to stay at 2B this season in order to maximize his next contract (second basemen are worth more on the open market than third basemen), but the idea that Torres shouldn't be extended because he doesn't have a positional home in the next couple of years is likely a premature thought. Gleyber's arm should play anywhere on the diamond. I have no idea if Torres will get a contract extension, but his arm shouldn't be a deterring factor.

18 Comments


jeff
Feb 11

The Yankees have to keep and re-sign Torres. There is nobody better out there right now to replace him. Offense at 2B and SS, instead of a defensive specialist at those two positions is a rare commodity. So when you have one, you keep him. Ultimately, one day, I can see Roderick Arias taking over for Torres, but Arias is about 2 or 3 years away from being ready. So I say, keep Torres, despite the flaws referenced in this article and the comments.

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jjw49
Feb 11

Torres will have a good year for the Yankees with the bat and his infield play will be the same as it's always been, frustrating at times but more than acceptable for the Yankees.

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fantasyfb3313
Feb 11

you call it internal clock and i guess that sounds reasonable. does the same internal clock offer some explanation about his baserunning adventures? otherwise i have some temptation to put the throwing blunders and running blunders under the heading of mental lapses / lack of focus


i understand that you were focusing on the misconception about his arm strength, so i am already drifting a bit off topic with the baserunning, but i am going to drift a bit further.


I am not sure what players were actually available for discussion in the Chapman trade in 2016? i am sure Baez was off the table and i feel like i have heard that Schwarber was also off the table. …


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fantasyfb3313
Feb 11
Replying to

well it seems they would have never really considered Contreras with Sanchez around at that time.

i have to admit that i do and i believe always will feel at least a little disappointed with Gleyber, but when you put it in context, YES the Yankees did pick the right guy. OBVIOUSLY we would have taken Bryant. i think we would have also easily taken Baez. I feel like Schwarber was part of the discussion, but if you say MLB ready guys were off the table then i guess he was also. PLEASE, i know Bryant was not available. i am just pointing out that i feel disappointed with Gleyber, but in reality, I believe he is going t…


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Melfman1
Melfman1
Feb 11

My issue with Gleyber defensively has always been the accuracy of his throws, not his velocity. He obviously takes off a bit on his throws from second, since he was moved there full time in 2022. Back when he was at Short, his numbers were even worse. Though I think that was partially due to some of the poor defensive first basemen in that time period (Voit, Austin, Ford), before Rizzo arrived midway through 2021.


By the eye test, I think he will be passable at 2nd for another few years. However, as a 28 year old entering free agency, he’s likely going to be looking for a much longer contract than that. For that reason, unless the Yankees can…

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Feb 11
Replying to

At SS, the issue (beyond range) was is his lack of an internal clock and footwork. That has always hindered his throwing accuracy, and I also agree that poor first base defense absolutely hurt Torres.


As for his future, I think he'll be able to play 2B for a bit longer, and I think he'd be a good 3B as well into his decline years. I think the case for keeping him around is pretty strong if the cost is around $25 million per year.

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Robert Malchman
Robert Malchman
Feb 11

I have no idea if these stats are available, but I'd love to know catch-to-release time and velocity for second basemen pivoting on a double play. That strike me as a truer test throwing ability than a whole bunch of 4-3's.

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Andy Singer
Andy Singer
Feb 11
Replying to

I so wish numbers like that were publicly available. I'm 100% positive teams track stats like that internally, but there isn't a service available that I know of to obtain numbers like that.

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