Thursday, July 22, 2010

Andres Torres: The Most Valuable Player in Baseball

Okay, Andres Torres isn't the MVP of both leagues, but isn't he the MVP of the NL at least? Okay, probably not, but before you declare that a ridiculous overstatement, consider for a moment that no player other than Joey Votto gives his team as much production in contrast to his salary. Torres is tied for 7th in WAR (wins above replacement), with 3.4. This year, he is making $426,000. The other 9 players in the WAR top ten make an average of $8.8 million this year. These players include Pujols, Dunn, Votto, and teammate Aubrey Huff. It could be argued that Torres is more important to the Giants this year than Huff, Posey, or any of the pitchers. As the lead off hitter Torres is vital, because he is one of only a handful of Giants' players that is patient at the plate. Torres, while certainly possessing great speed, has only stolen 17 bases this year. But he's also been caught only 4 times, a very good rate of 81%. Speaking of SB rate, would you like to know Matt Kemp's? 57%. That guy is killing the Dodgers with his baserunning. I knew I wasn't crazy when I said there was something weird about how he runs.

Anyway, back to Torres. A big part of Andres' WAR stat is his defense. He plays well in any of the outfield spots, with more than enough range to play center field (he's better than Rowand) and an arm that you can put in right. But the most amazing thing about Torres' season so far is the power he's shown. He may be ripped, but I still don't know how a guy who's kinda small is able to make the ball jump off his bat the way he does. Torres' .211 isolated slugging percentage should shame 6'4" Oakland A Ryan Sweeney (.89 iso slg) into retirement.

Torres has been a great player for the Giants for almost a year now. In September of 2009, when he started to get more regular playing time, Torres hit .302/.353/.619, with 4 HR's. He never stopped this year, improving his obp and showing the same pop in his bat. Torres stands, as of this moment, with a .274/.370/.483 line. That's an .853 OPS. And leadoff hitters always get a little burned on OPS because speed isn't factored in. Don't believe me? Carl Crawford's OPS this year is only .884. So Andres Torres is one of the best leadoff hitters in baseball. But how? Even after his September last year, who could have expected this? I bet there are some of you who don't even know that this guy is 32 years old. For awhile I just assumed he was some 24 year old prospect who had surprised everyone. What's fascinating about Torres' success this year is that in the rest of his career as a ballplayer the guy has been completely unspectacular.

Torres was drafted by Detroit in the '98 draft, and came up in the Tigers' system. While he showed the patience at the plate that we see now, the power was completely absent. When he got called up to the Tigers in 2002, he did nothing, and when he went back down his OBP disappeared. He went from farm team to farm team, performing well some years, being patient at the plate again, but barely getting at bats in the majors and failing to produce. Then, in 2009, Torres was called up to the Giants, mainly because of his speed, and since he started getting at bats last September, the dude has RAKED. Don't ask me.

50 years from now, these will be the 2 most sought-after baseball cards on the market.

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