Do We Expect Too Much From Andres Torres Because of Carlos Beltran?

By Matt Musico

Much has been said about the production of Andres Torres throughout 2012. When he went down on Opening Day with a strained calf and Kirk Nieuwenhuis stepped in to give the Mets exactly what they needed, there were plenty of people (myself included) that didn’t want Torres to be back in the lineup. However, Terry Collins stood by his guns, saying Torres would become the starting center fielder upon his return because he could do things that Nieuwenhuis couldn’t, which was use his speed on the base paths.

After a short stretch of good fortune returning from his injury in the beginning of May, Torres’ production had been underwhelming until he hit .311/.400/.377 in July. Actually, when you look at what he did in 2011 for San Francisco and compare it to his statistics this year in New York, he’s having a much better season. With the Giants last year, he hit .221/.312/.330 with 19 RBI, 42 walks, and 95 strikeouts in 348 at-bats. So far with the Mets, he’s hitting .243/.355/.351 with 30 RBI, 41 walks, and 60 strikeouts, with just under a 100 less at-bats (251 ABs).

When you compare that to what Angel Pagan has been doing (.278/.330/.411 with 43 RBI and 34 walks in 414 ABs), I actually think the Mets received the better center fielder in this deal. Even with a change of scenery, Pagan is still producing within his 2011 numbers (.262/.322/.372 with 56 RBI and 44 walks in 478 ABs), whereas Torres has virtually surpassed most of his numbers from the year prior with significantly less playing time.

The biggest factor in comparing these two players almost a year since the trade is their defense. Although Pagan does have a significant edge on Torres in the number of runs they are worth (17 to 1), Rtot/yr is based on the number of plays a fielder makes, and Pagan has had almost 30 more chances. However, with those increased chances, Torres won’t cost the Mets as many runs (-4 Rdrs/yr) as Angel will cost the Giants (-11 Rdrs/yr). So, it is splitting hairs a bit, but it seems as if Andres Torres is more valuable to the Mets than Angel Pagan was, contrary to popular belief. So, with a mess of an outfield situation going into 2013, I expect Sandy Alderson to tender him a contract, if not solely based on his healthy OBP and solid defense.

So, why does it seem to Mets fans that center field has been a black hole after Nieuwenhuis’ strong start faded away? Despite it being a rocky relationship, we’ve been spoiled to have a talent like Carlos Beltran manning the outfield (mainly center) from 2005 to 2011. It’s hard to deny that when you look at what he’s doing this year, hitting .286/.356/.549 with 28 homers and a league-leading 82 RBI (could you imagine him hitting behind David Wright this season?). However, he wasn’t too shabby as a Met either, as he averaged a .280/.369/.500 line throughout his 6.5 year tenure with the team. That stat line also included an average of more than 20 homers and 80 RBI.

It’s fair to say that the fan expectation of the production coming out of the center field position at the plate has been tainted because we’ve been spoiled to have a five-tool player such as Carlos Beltran to pencil into the lineup nightly. Nieuwenhuis or Matt Den Dekker may very well be the future for the Mets in center field, but it will be a few years before we can expect 15-20 homer seasons from either one of those outfielders, which makes it a smart move to tender Torres a contract, especially since his speed makes him a versatile weapon.