MetsToday Mailbag: Where Does Carlos Torres Fit?

Opening the MetsToday mailbag, here is an email from reader “Mike W.”:

There’s not been a lot of chatter about the bullpen this off season. We hear more about the rotation and in particular the 5th starter spot. One name left out of the conversation has been Carlos Torres who was a nice surprise for us last year. I personally think he is more
valuable out of the pen as a long man to give us 2-3 innings when a starter gives us less than 6 innings. I would want to limit his exposure to keep him effective. What do you expect from him next season?

Mike, thanks for the email.

Agreed that Carlos Torres was a nice surprise for the Mets last season. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure how he accomplished what he did — to my eye, he had truly “pedestrian” stuff, throwing one speed across two pitches (fastball and cutter). Maybe his success was due to mystery — in other words, batters weren’t familiar with him, and he didn’t pitch frequently enough for scouting reports to catch up to him. I’m not really sure, but he was doing something right.

One area of his game improved dramatically in 2013: his ability to throw strikes. Throughout his pro career, and prior to 2013, Torres averaged 3.8 BB/9 IP in the minors, and a whopping 4.9 BB/9 IP in the Majors. Then, all of a sudden, in a Mets uniform, Torres became a strike-throwing machine, tossing twice as many strikes as balls, and averaging only 1.8 BB/9 IP. I imagine that had something to do with a change in approach and philosophy. If he continues with that strike-throwing frequency, will he succeed? Or will hitters eventually tee off on his offerings, as they did on occasion in 2013?

There are two other glaring issues that contributed to his success. First is that the BABIP against him was .266. If for some reason that “luck” regresses to the .300 mean, his numbers may not look as good as they did last year. More concerning were his home/away splits:

Hopefully the above code works in your browser and you can see the numbers; if not, click here to see it on Baseball-Reference.

It’s clear that Torres was helped, for whatever reason, by The Field At Shea Bridge. Can he maintain that dominance at home? Is there any way he can be nearly as good away from Flushing?

Based on what my eyes told me, I don’t see Torres performing well as a Major League fifth starter, making 28-32 starts a year. I’m with Mike W.’s idea of using him primarily as a long man out of the bullpen, occasionally giving him a spot start, and limiting his exposure.
Carlos Torres is 31 years old, so I don’t expect him to vastly improve his skill set in the near future — last year may have been his ceiling.

What’s your thought? Post in the comments.

Joe Janish began MetsToday in 2005 to provide the unique perspective of a high-level player and coach -- he earned NCAA D-1 All-American honors as a catcher and coached several players who went on to play pro ball. As a result his posts often include mechanical evaluations, scout-like analysis, and opinions that go beyond the numbers. Follow Joe's baseball tips on Twitter at @onbaseball and at the On Baseball Google Plus page.
  1. izzy December 27, 2013 at 10:44 am
    It is very nice to have a rubber arm guy on the roster so you don’t have to be jerking the roster around when guys just need to miss one start. Its also nice to have a long man. unfortunately, with the robotic lefty/righty approach most managers are now using in their never ending attempts to outsmart the other guy and burn out as many arms as possible the long man seems to be following the path of the dinosaur. Still, i have no problem with him making the team. Afterall, the Mets showed no interest at all in him as a major leaguer until the SF Giants forced their hand by offering. His buyout clause gave the Mets 3 days to call him up or release him if another team offered him a major league deal. Sinc ethe Giants, unlike the Mets have shown the ability to produce a winning team and wanted him, he must have some talent worthy of Queens.
  2. Jujo December 27, 2013 at 1:27 pm
    He is good as the long man in the bullpen with a spot start when needed. We need to know his limitations. I wish Alderson had signed Hawkins – the bullpen is very young and while it is promising, a veteran who can lead by example would help the pitchers.
  3. david December 28, 2013 at 5:31 am
    Sounds like the perfect guy to include in a trade, but Mets brass has shown very little, well brass, when it comes to pulling the trigger on a deal (as opposed to free agency) this offseason. Lots of talk for talk back radio, though.
  4. argonbunnies December 29, 2013 at 9:39 pm
    Torres’ numbers as a reliever were spectacular. .203 / .232 / .316, 1.47 ERA.

    Throwing a ton of strikes works well once through a lineup. A hitter has two choices: “get a look” and wind up behind in the count, or swing early, and make mediocre contact, not having gauged the pitcher’s movement.

    I expect Torres will continue to excel in short relief if given the chance. He wasn’t just chucking it down the middle, he was locating, and his cutter seems well above average. I do expect he’ll give up some HRs, so he’s probably not the best choice for certain situations, but I’d be happy to see him in a lot of 7th and 8th innings.

    Please no more starting, though.

  5. Joe December 30, 2013 at 2:52 pm
    He is a useful long guy/spot starter type that many a team would find useful. Such people can be variable year to year, so who knows how he will pitch in ’14.
  6. Herb January 2, 2014 at 6:01 pm
    Joe, Torres underwent a transformation in mid May of last year in Las Vegas. He clearly changed something. In the succeeding 6 games as a starter, (the last 2 of which were complete games) he went 5-0 with a 1.64 ERA. When he was brought up, his time was split between starting and relieving, but he was lights out in relief.

    I believe the change in Torres is real, enabling him to pinpoint his location and throw far more strikes. I seem to remember another relief itcher who had a very limited repertoire, but still managed to be successful. His name was . . . er . . Mariano Something?

    • Joe Janish January 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm
      Can you be more elaborate on what he changed? I’m assuming, and hoping, you saw him and can share. All I knew about Torres prior to his joining the Mets were the stats, his overall numbers at Las Vegas were in line with what he’d done previously in the minor leagues.

      Comparing him to Mo Rivera is a bit of a stretch, since a major part of Rivera’s transformation was increasing his velocity overnight from 88-90 to 95-96 MPH. (How he did it is a mystery — was it moving from starter to reliever? PEDs? Act of God?) Torres also doesn’t have one outstanding pitch — his stuff is borderline average. Which is why, regardless of whether the change is “real” or not — I don’t see him being anything more than a long man or middle reliever. Which is fine, because the Mets will need someone to fill such a role.