Spencer Torkelson and Riley Greene of the Detroit Tigers are getting close to the prize at the end of the rope.
On Thursday, Detroit’s Opening Day featured a plethora of events to process. The debut of the repositioned fences in right-center and center field occurred, and Miguel Cabrera celebrated his final Opening Day before he retires at the end of the season. In a twist of fate that no one saw coming, Cabrera joined three other Detroit legends in throwing out the first pitch.
Torkelson and Greene observed the events closely. Greene experienced his first Opening Day in Detroit, having missed the previous year’s event due to a broken foot. Since their time together at Double-A Erie, the two players have maintained a close relationship, even sharing adjacent lockers in the Tigers’ clubhouse. Though it may seem evident that they are the next faces of Detroit baseball, this realization hasn’t come easily for Tigers fans.
Detroit Tigers: The data favors Spencer Torkelson
In the early stages of spring training, Torkelson faced difficulties. However, he started hitting the ball harder in recent weeks. Although the hits didn’t immediately materialize, one aspect became apparent: Torkelson is much more relaxed at the plate.
The first month of April 2022, Torkelson’s average exit velocity was 95.9 on fastballs put in play. He went 8-for-29 on that pitch, good for a .276 average. However, as the season went on, Torkelson’s average against fastballs dropped sharply. In May, he hit .175 with no home runs, and the decline continued until September, where his average picked up towards the end of the season.
Why does exit velocity matter so much? According to FanGraphs, the data surrounding it shows a higher slugging percentage.
Over a brief sample size, Torkelson’s slugging has dipped slightly compared to his 2022 numbers through an equal number of plate appearances. However, the indicators suggest that once the balls start landing in play, Torkelson should consistently contribute to the Tigers’ offense.
Greene has less ground work
A notable difference in Riley Greene’s plate approach is his performance against breaking balls. In the final months of the season, Greene batted below .200 against breaking balls and, as per Statcast, recorded only six extra-base hits in 2022. Similar to Torkelson, Greene’s flyball rate in a limited sample size, which may indicate future trends given the relocated fences, has shown improvement. He has reduced his groundball rate from 56% to 41% and increased his flyball rate from 19.3% to 29.4%.
These statistics hint the duo could breathe new life into an offense that, just last season, was one of the worst in team history. Talk about perfect timing, as the Tigers’ identity seeks a fresh face to lead the charge.
Follow me on Twitter @rogcastbaseball