Andres Torres is 33 years old; he entered this season with only 1025 career major-league PAs to his name. It wasn’t until 2009, when he hit .270/.343/.533 in 170 PAs (75 games), that he burst onto the scene and really displayed a capacity to contribute in the majors. He followed that up with a strong 2010 season (.268/.343/.479, 126 wRC+), and had it not been for him, the Giants certainly would have missed out on the playoffs (and, consequently, their championship). His combination of excellent hitting and strong defense at a premium defensive position enabled him to post a remarkable 6.8 wins above replacement (fWAR) last year, the ninth best mark in the majors. So while his path to success was atypical — to say the least — he had set the bar rather high, and looked to be an important contributor for San Francisco this year as well.
Things didn’t work out so well in 2011, though. Over two DL stints, he missed a total of 40 games, and when he was playing, he struggled seeing a major drop-off in his AVG, OBP, and — in particular, his SLG.
After collecting 16 homers and eight triples last year, he managed just four and one respectively. To call this season anything but a disappointment would be, well, wrong. There were high expectations for him, and he failed to meet them. That said, he was anything but useless this year. Though he made a few notable baserunning gaffes this season, he was a strong baserunner (very adept at advancing on balls in play, and he did manage to steal 19 bases). His defense, too, remained an asset — one which would, at the least, make him an ideal fourth outfielder going forward.
This speaks moreso to the Giants’ collective struggles this season than it does of Torres’ value, but his fWAR (2.1) was second-highest on the team among position players.
As far as Giants players go, there might not be anyone more likable than Torres. He’s someone to admire: in the way he carries himself, his work ethic, his dedication, his character, and what he’s overcome to get to where he is. This little passage from one of Extra Baggs’ end-of-season posts perfectly exemplifies that:
Scene: Giants training room, 10 minutes after the final out of the 2011 season.
Action: Andres Torres, working out like a madman.
The Giants aren’t planning for Torres to be their starting center fielder again. How could they, after the way he struggled? But he’s still a very good defensive outfielder and a switch-hitter with pop. I’m not sure he could channel his energy into a bench role, or if he would agree to a contract before arbitration at a palatable salary for the club. But I do see a way he could contribute in 2012, if the team so desires. He certainly won’t let himself get fat between now and spring training.
I hope this team finds a way to retain Torres, whether or not that entails tendering him a contract. Maybe I’m being a bit optimistic here, but I think he’s capable of some form of resurgence next season. Even if 2011 is an accurate indicator of his current talent level, it’s very much in the Giants’ best interest to bring him back next season — as I’ve stated before, at the very least, his skill-set is ideal for a fourth outfielder. Furthermore, he’s still got some solid patience at the plate, and the power upside’s there as well.
A disappointing season indeed, but not one to scoff at. Torres was a solid performer when healthy.