The name Alex Torres sounded vaguely familiar when I saw that he'd be headed to San Diego in the Logan Forsythe trade, but I didn't really know anything about him because I don't pay attention to the Arena League. When I looked up his numbers I realized why I'd heard of him: He was brilliant last season.
A converted starter, the left-handed Torres was nearly untouchable out of the bullpen for the Rays in 2013. The rookie, whose only prior major league experience was four games in 2011, posted a ridiculous 1.71 ERA with a WHIP of just 0.897 (almost safe to drive!) while striking out 62 batters in 58 innings over 39 games.
While his results were slow-clap-worthy, what caught my eye was that ratio of innings to games. This is no LOOGY we're dealing with here. A look at his game logs revealed that in his 39 games, Torres pitched less than an inning only five times. Eleven of his appearances lasted two full innings or longer, with a high of four innings which he reached twice. It's clear that anyone getting those sorts of assignments wasn't just keeping his numbers pretty by ganging up on lefties and being sheltered from right-handers.
Torres's platoon splits bear this out, as righties hit .149/ .246/ .223 against him in 138 plate-appearances, and lefties put up a slash line of .175/ .241/ .225 in 88 trips to the plate. Left-handers were more prone to strike out, while right-handed hitters were a bit more apt to take a walk. Lest you jump to attribute this to small sample size, it's a pattern that he exhibited throughout his minor league career. Last summer, as Torres was presumably taking the American League by storm, David Wiers of Fangraphs explained Torres's seeming indifference to handedness thusly:
His 0.39 ERA is the best in baseball (minimum 20 innings pitched) and has been dominate [sic] against both left and right-handed batters. Helping to split the difference in his platoon numbers is the fact that rather than being a traditional fastball/slider reliever, Torres’ best secondary pitch is his changeup. When he isn’t punching hitters out he is getting them to put the ball on the ground at a 56.8% rate.
While Torres's ERA ended up more human at year's end, Wiers's point stands. Though Padres fans would be wise not to expect Torres to duplicate last year's numbers because, come on - BABIP! Regression! - he's unlikely to surrender an edge favoring right-handed batters and that makes Bud Black's life a lot easier. Opposing managers can call right-handed batters up to the plate until their hearts are content without that dictating Black's next move.
As for the other guys coming this way in the trade (now reported to involve at least five players!), we'll let you know their particulars whenever their names trickle out.