The unsung Carlos Torres

Carlos TorresOn November 15th, 2012, The New York Mets signed Carlos Torres to a minor league free agent contract with an invite to spring training. The signing was met with no response. Fans didn’t comment when it was brought up on blogs and the internet itself was extremely quiet on the signing. Torres was simply described as a right hand pitcher with major league experience, followed by his career stat line. It was about as nondescript a signing as the Mets have had, especially when one thinks about how desperate the fan and blog world was for the Mets to make a splash in free agency over the past several years.

All of this lack of, well, any response was totally justified. When Torres signed with the Mets, he had just turned 30 and had a career ERA of nearly six in 95 career innings that included six starts. In 2012, Torres has been a reliever with the Colorado Rockies and amassed a 5.26 ERA and 1.415 WHIP in 53 innings over 31 appearances. He had an unappetizing 1.6:1 strikeout to walk ratio and no saves. Torres appeared to be one of thousands of players to make it to the major leagues after years of minor league service (760 innings worth over eight years in Torres case) and just not be good enough. Torres had even spent a year in the Japanese league. It’s no wonder the signing barely caused a ripple.

Torres didn’t make the team and started the year in Triple-A with Las Vegas, where he pitched solidly, making 12 starts, pitching to a 3.89 ERA over 71.2 innings with a solid 3.5:1 strikeout to walk ratio. The Mets called him up in June and put him in the bullpen as the long man.

Subsequently, Torres became the most flexible pitcher on the staff. Over the remainder of 2013, Torres made nine starts, 24 relief appearances and finished six games. He filled in admirably in the rotation when Matt Harvey had to have Tommy John surgery and filled in numerous times for multiple inning appearances. In all, Torres threw 86.1 innings with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP. He posted an excellent 4.4:1 strike out to walk ratio and was nearly forgotten by everyone, even, it appeared, the Mets.

The Mets and the fans all fell into the offseason with excitement. Who would the Mets sign? Would they trade for a shortstop? Who would remain, Ike Davis or Lucas Duda? The important, flexible performance made by Torres over 86.1 innings was swept away by the hype. Again, understandable as it was just nine starts and 86 innings, which never matches up against big name free agents, Sandy Alderson interviews and Harvey’s magazine covers.

As things progressed, Torres became less than an afterthought. With the signing of Bartolo Colon and the hype surrounding young relief arms like Jeurys Familia, Torres seemed to be in jeopardy of losing a spot on the team. A report was even made stating that Torres was “guaranteed a spot in the bullpen” as if that was something in need of clarifying.

So, Torres started the season with an unknown bullpen role as the Mets attempted to piece together a bullpen with the likes of Jose Valverde and Kyle Farnsworth, while figuring out what they had in Familia and whether Jenrry Mejia was a starter or not. What did Torres do? What he’s done for a year and a half now, pitch well in whatever role he’s given.

Currently Torres has pitched in 31 games, saving two and throwing to a 2.29 ERA over 35.1 innings. He’s averaging over a strike out an inning and one almost never hears a word about him.

Torres has been the closer, the eighth inning guy and the seventh inning guy. Last year he was a starter, long man and Las Vegas fill in. Basically, he’s been whatever the Mets need of him, without a complaint, peep, word or even a compliment from his own team.

The perfect illustration of this dichotomy occurred on Wednesday. In game of the series against the Cubs it was because of Torres that the Mets were even still in the game in the ninth inning. A game that was absurdly slow and long, bogged down by bad play on both sides and innumerable walks, was held in check by a 31 year old relief pitcher who struck out Mike Olt with the bases loaded and then proceeded to strike out two more hitters in the top of the Ninth to keep the Mets in it. No one talked about it. No one commented and even with that, it’s a good bet that Torres would be ready tonight if he was called upon.

The Mets have something very nice in Torres. It’s time he was appreciated.

11 comments for “The unsung Carlos Torres

  1. Name
    June 6, 2014 at 9:39 am

    Very nice synopsis. Though at the rate TC is using him, he might burn out. He’s 2nd in the league in appearances tied with “Everyday he sucks” Rice and Will Smith, the player and behind just Brad Zieglar, who started the season earlier. He’s also pitched the most innings, 35.1, among true relievers by a decent margin (#2 is 32.2).
    He’s pitched in a little over half the games so far, so he’s projected to have over 80 appearances at this rate.

  2. Chris F
    June 6, 2014 at 9:40 am

    Great article. I completely agree. He’s been the rudder in the water for a bull pen that is otherwise floating aimlessly.

  3. Metsense
    June 6, 2014 at 9:56 am

    He is the unsung hero and another nail in the coffin in how TC uses his bullpen. The back end of the bullpen should be Torres – Mejia -Familia. Torres in every category has better stats than Mejia or Familia. http://www.fangraphs.com/leaders.aspx?pos=all&stats=rel&lg=all&qual=0&type=8&season=2014&month=0&season1=2014&ind=0&team=25&rost=0&age=0&filter=&players=0
    A strong argument could be made for Torres to be the closer. Instead he is being burned out at a rapid pace. TC’s use of a LOOGY, inabiliity to recognize bullpen roles, and apparent mismanagement of the talent in the bullpen has become an impediment to the Mets winning.

  4. June 6, 2014 at 10:23 am

    Whether it’s Torres, Mejia or some pitcher currently working as a SP but who winds up in the pen – I’d like to see the Mets develop someone who consistently pitches two innings per game.

    Use him twice a week, around 55-60 appearances over a season and get around 110-120 IP.

    I think that has a better chance of being a sustainable model than pitching a guy 4-5 times a week for an inning or less.

    • Chris F
      June 6, 2014 at 10:44 am

      I completely agree Brian, unfortunately “Two Pitch” Terry sees it very differently. He clearly wants to see every arm warm up every night and then put them in situationally batter by batter. Hell I think he would bring in relievers pitch by pitch if he could…we don’t need a LOOGY, we need an “outside guy” and a 3-2 “wipe out slider” guy, and a 4-seam fastball guy.

      Collins’ time has passed being relevant to major league play. He seems to get players to play hard (but play smart, I’m not so sure), but he is not a creative Xs and Os skipper. Play the perceived odds every time…stand at 16 on black jack table…lefty lefty, righty righty no matter what…Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!

    • Chris F
      June 6, 2014 at 11:13 am

      On Wright being double switched out last night:

      “I only had one guy left on the bench,” Collins explained. “I wanted to try to keep Duda in the game. So I just told David, ‘Look, I’ve got to put the pitcher in your spot.’ He understands. He’s a pro.”

      Glad we need to shelf one of our only few genuine players to keep Duda in and find a dump for the pitcher. Yikes.

    • Name
      June 6, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      I believe we finally have someone close to what you’re asking for.
      Craig Stammen.

      16 games, 30 innings- on pace for ~45 games 90IP
      In May he pitched to less than 7 batters,1.2 IP, and 25 pitches just once.
      2+ innings in 9/16 games.
      No appearance of less than 1 inning.
      Throws as many as 50ish pitches in a game.

    • Metsense
      June 6, 2014 at 2:25 pm

      Brian, I think any starting pitcher who is better than a current relief pitcher, but just can’t crack the rotation, should be on the major league roster. When he is called upon he should pitch 2-3 innings, even to the point of finishing the game. One, two or even three pitchers like this in the bullpen would keep the bullpen fresh. The Mets have an abundance of starting pitching so this innovative idea (or is it a recycled idea from the 60′s or 70′s?) seems perfectly suited for this team. Unfortunately, I don’t think TC would apply this idea.

      • June 6, 2014 at 2:36 pm

        It’s definitely not a new idea.

        1979 Neil Allen – 50 G, 99 IP — those were all in relief, too.

        The year he appeared in 106 games, Mike Marshall threw 208.1 innings.

        Can we really call Collins “old school” if he refuses to do something that used to be accepted practice back in the 1970s? Or is the 1980s old enough for that designation?

  5. Jim OMalley
    June 6, 2014 at 6:49 pm

    Torres is our steady Rollin’ Man.

  6. Patrick Albanesius
    June 9, 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Great article about a great asset in Torres. I’ve tried to give Collins the benefit of the doubt for a while now, but you all keep putting cracks in that defense. TC Is really starting to test my patience. Keeping Duda in the game over Wright? I don’t care if he’s slumping or not, you keep in your Captain.

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