Andres Torres: Where Did He Come From?

With the All-Star voting underway, the National League outfield would look a little interesting if we went solely by WAR going into yesterday’s action:

LF Josh Willingham
CF Andres Torres
RF Jason Heyward

While Willingham has had a solid major league career, and Jason Heyward is the Chosen One, seeing Andres Torres starting in center may be a shock for some people. The truth is that it should be. A fourth round draft pick in 1998, Torres was a known entity only in the minds of the most passionate fans before the 2009 season. By the end of the 2005 campaign, Torres had spent four fragmented seasons in the major leagues with Detroit and Texas. In his only consistent playing time in 2003, he hit .220/.263/.298, a wRC+ of a measly 45, nothing at all worthy of major league playing time. From 2002-2005, Andres contributed -1.0 WAR for his respective teams; needless to say, he was seen as a non-factor within baseball circles.

After the 2005 season, Torres went back to the minors and continued to struggle. In 2006, as a twenty-eight year old in Triple-A Rochester of the Twins organization, he hit .236/.333/.353 while striking out in 25% of his plate appearances. Torres returned to the Tigers organization in 2007, and since then has become a completely different player. After starting the ’07 season in Double-A Erie, Torres earned a promotion to Triple-A by putting up an .844 OPS. Although he posted a .366 wOBA in forty-two games for the Triple-A club, he was promptly released the following year, finding a home with the Cubs for the 2008 season.

At thirty years old in Triple-A, it seemed as though Torres’ peak was as a Quad-A player. However, Torres lit it up that year, hitting .306/.391/.501 while swiping 29 bases in 33 attempts. After playing just a handful of minor league games for the Giants in 2009, Torres got called up to the majors and slugged .533 with a .379 wOBA while playing solid defense, totaling 2.0 WAR in just 75 games. So far in 2010, Torres has had his best year in professional baseball at thirty-two years old, hitting .286/.375/.479, good for 2.0 WAR thanks to a UZR/150 of 42.7 in the outfield.

Although we know that late bloomers are a part of the game, Torres’ story makes his sudden arrival less surprising. From the San Jose Mercury News:

For much of his life, it looked as if Torres would one day be impressing on the track rather than the diamond. He was a high school sprint star in Puerto Rico, excelling in the 100- and 200-meter dashes and the 400 relay. Baseball was an afterthought until a scout handed him a business card during his senior year.

“It wasn’t like I was trying to be a pro,” Torres said. “I was a track guy. I’ve been made into a baseball player.”

Torres went to Miami-Dade Community College, where, by his own admission, he was “just a guy who could run and catch.” Those skills were sharp enough to get the attention of scouts, and he signed with Detroit after being drafted in the fourth round in 1998…

…There was just one problem: Torres still didn’t really know how to hit.

His speed got him to the big leagues with the Tigers in 2002, but it wasn’t until fellow Puerto Ricans Luis Alicea and Carlos Beltran pulled him aside that he realized how much he had left to learn.

“They told me I wasn’t loading with my hands at all, and I had no idea,” Torres said. “I didn’t care about hitting, but when I got called up, I realized there are a lot of things that I needed to do to stay (in the majors).”

A really incredible story, and the Giants have to be thrilled to have gotten the best out of Andres Torres. He probably won’t make the All-Star team, but his value for San Francisco has been above and beyond what anyone would have projected just two years ago.




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Pat Andriola is an Analyst at Bloomberg Sports who formerly worked in Major League Baseball's Labor Relations Department. You can contact him at Patrick.Andriola@tufts.edu or follow him on Twitter @tuftspat


23 Responses to “Andres Torres: Where Did He Come From?”

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  1. Matt says:

    He’s a fun guy to watch too, always ready to run through a wall or score from first on an infield single if you give him an opening to do so. It’s a shame he didn’t start playing before college; he might have been able to make an all-star game if he got an earlier start.

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  2. wily mo says:

    for those who know of chris o’leary, the rotational hitting/pitching dude with the website that helped turn a significant percentage of fantasy nerds into armchair pitching coaches a couple of years ago, torres is apparently his highest-level client.

    http://www.chrisoleary.com/projects/baseball/Hitting/RethinkingHitting/Essays/RotationalHittingLinearHitting.html

    (scroll to the bottom)

    i am in no way associated with o’leary and have no actual clue if his work has anything to do with torres’ late-career development or not. i just find the whole thing fascinating.

    meanwhile i’ve added torres to all my fake teams and have been preaching his gospel for a couple weeks now. it’s fun.

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    • CircleChange11 says:

      As soon as I saw the name Torres in the title of this thread, I wonderd if anyone would mention O’Leary.

      Not quite sure where O’Leary fits in the hierarchy of hitting instruction either in terms of on-field baseball or in internet guruland. Not quite a batting instructor, but more along the lines of high-speed video analyst.

      Still, his working with Torres signified a move from just simple video analysis to making corrections in an elite talent at the highest level. Since so much of coaching is based on a coach’s “stable”, and not necessarily how they help improve the player … this was a feather in the cap of Chris. COL is already sort of in the backseat since he was never a college+ player nor coach.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        That’s good Chris.

        I’m not sure how many are aware of how territorial the “internet hitting community” is, and how every discussion seemingly ends up as drawing lines in the sand, people ending associations of the smallest details of hiting/pitching mechanics, and the parading of the names within a coach’s stable, and on and on.

        I’m glad you’re getting some credit and pub for this type of thing. I have always found your site to be a valuable resource. I linked information to your article about Rich Harden in a Fangraphs post previously. I really appreciate you going through and finding the pictures/video, etc that illustrate the mechanical points of interest.

        Keep up the good work.

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      • Please start working with Bowker, Schierholtz, Ishikawa, Crawford, Noonan, Kieschnick, and Adrianza!

        That’s an interesting story, how Andres found you and contacted you.

        I’m looking through your site, lots of interesting stuff. I will be sure to buy your book on the elevator pitch.

        I totally believe in Ted Williams methods too, bought his book for my son to use in Pony League. He didn’t share my love of baseball (but he chose to play, I never pushed him) and didn’t practice much outside of the practices for Pony League in spring, but he always worked himself up to batting 5th (basically behind all the players who play year round and ahead of all the others).

        What do you think of the Dorfman books?

        Also, another question: Mark DeRosa is having problems hitting with his wrist problem, and you noted on your site that wrists don’t provide force, but rather funnel, direct, and manage the force, so then would the conclusion be that his wrist problem interferes with this function?

        Thanks.

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  3. eldingo says:

    I’ve been waiting for this article… you did not disappoint. Thank you

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  4. Kenny says:

    F’in Andre Torres, How does he work?

    For some reason that’s the first thing that I thought of. Miracles!

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  5. TexasRanger says:

    He’s rapidly becoming one of my favorite players on the giants, and like previously said a great player to watch field and hit. He packs a lot of pop in his small frame for doubles and the occasional dinger

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  6. don says:

    This article quotes Torres’s high school 100m dash as 10.37. That’s damn fast.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100524&content_id=10397300&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

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  7. d says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty solid. The fastest 100 meter time in my state (medium sized one) for high school sprinters was 10.5.

    This article quotes Torres’s high school 100m dash as 10.37. That’s damn fast.

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100524&content_id=10397300&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb

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  8. There should be a sample size alert here, though. He’s only played 330 defensive innings this year.

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    • Pat Andriola says:

      Of course. There’s an implied sample size alert when looking at anything from 2010 thus far, but in 1248.1 major league innings he’s at 22 UZR/150. I think it’s safe to say he’s pretty good defensively (caveats included as always).

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      • Totally agreed — he’s clearly a good defensive outfielder, and the Giants are a team built on players who can pick it. And this is a great profile of a fine player who’s flown totally under the radar till now. I just doubt that he’s THIS good.

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      • quincy0191 says:

        You may be eating those words soon.

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  9. Fergie348 says:

    Amazingly, Torres is not the Giants starting center fielder. That honor is reserved for Aaron Rowand, whose triple slash line sits today at .230/.260/.398. Those aren’t just bad numbers, they’re horrible numbers. But Rowand is Bochy’s guy. Loyalty is clearly a Giants attribute. Sense seems not to be.

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  10. SharksRog says:

    According to Wikipedia, Jahvid Best won the California High School 100 meter championship in 10.39 seconds as a junior with an injured and possibly broken foot. As a senior he won the event in a wind-aided time of 10.31 seconds.

    Jahvid is my favorite football player to watch run, as he looks so amazingly smooth and appears even faster with a ball in his hand than on a track.

    Likewise, Andres is my favorite baseball player to run, since his form seems made to carry a baton.

    I covered the football game at which Jahvid injured his foot as a junior. Jahvid injured it on the sidelines, no more than 10 yards from me. The game was stopped for about 15 minutes until Jahvid could be moved away from the field. ‘

    He missed the remainder of that game and at least the one thereafter but still finished the season with over 1500 yards (in which he was timed in three minutes 32 seconds). Just kidding about the time. It was actually 3 minutes and 53 seconds.

    As a senior he gained a remarkable 3325 yards and scored 48 touchdowns.

    The head coach of the Detroit Lions, the team that drafted Best #30 overall, said that while others watch porn to get off, he watches Jahvid Best highlight tapes.

    Watch his 2008 highlights and you’ll see why. That was the season Jahvid gained 698 years in his last three games, averaging 12.0 yards per carry. The final game of the three was the Emerald Bowl, played at AT&T Park. Despite his season-shortening injury last season, his 2009 highlight film is just about as exciting.

    And if you want to watch him win the 100 meter dash in high school, the race is at the beginning of his 2007 (freshman) highlight tape. He was the backup running back that season, so many of the highlights come from returns he made or from tackles he made as a gunner on the punt coverage team. Jahvid made the All-Pac 10 team as a special teams player.

    I hope Jahvid can stay healthy with the Lions and get enough blocking so he can find a hole and make his blazing cut-back move. I have never seen anyone cut back so quickly at such a high speed.

    If you want to get excited without resorting to porn, take a look at those highlight tapes. Whenever I’m down and need to be pepped up, that’s what I do. Always works, too. I do have to pick my jaw up off the floor, however.

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  11. Walter Guest says:

    So much of hitting is mental. I read Ted Williams’ book and didn’t get much out of it that I didn’t already know. I read Bob Skinner’s book and a single phrase stuck with me: “Fling the bat at the ball.”

    The first time I tried it the ball went over the center fielder’s head for a triple. After that it was fun to see the outfielders back up every time I came to bat. The slap hitter had become a power hitter. Unfortunately I was past 40 and the heroics were confined to softball but, what the hell, it was a lot of fun.

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  12. David R says:

    Andres Torres is a fun guy to watch. He has a quick bat and he’s got some serious wheels on him! This guy can motor!

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  13. joe says:

    Cliff Branch – 10.1

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  14. Do you plan on attending a pro baseball tryout this year? If so, you should realize that the odds of getting signed out of a tryout camp are relatively low; and many times the reasons are factors beyond your control.

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