By R.J. Anderson //
It’s only reasonable that whenever a player goes from one of the best hitting environments in baseball to one of the worst, the expectations for his offensive performance should move down. Evidently, Yorvit Torrealba disagrees with the premise. The 31-year-old backstop spent the last four seasons playing in the Colorado Rockies’ hitter-friendly haven Coors Field, before signing on to play in the San Diego Padres’ pitcher paradise, Petco Park. Yet Torrealba is in the midst of a career year.
Torrealba’s career line with the Rockies, an aweless .258 AVG/.316 OBP/.394 SLG, falls into line with the five-year total he produced with the San Francisco Giants (.251/.318/.393). This year, he’s at .317/.381/.400. Before hounding on how unlikely this development is on so many levels (age, position, park, etc.) take a look at how players who spent time in San Diego and Colorado fared offensively (minimum: 150 AB with each team).
This is an imperfect set of comparisons because age isn’t taken into consideration whatsoever. It does a decent job, though, in illustrating that no matter the year, moving from Colorado to San Diego is less conductive to batting average increases. Of those 11 players, only four saw their batting average go up transitioning to San Diego, and the highest gain stands at a seven-point increase. Torrealba’s average is up more than 60 points.
Beyond the ballpark, look at Torrealba’s age and position again. Only Ivan Rodriguez, Javy Lopez, and Mike Piazza have topped Torrealba’s average since 2000 while being between 30 and 32 years of age. It’s incredibly rare for an older catcher to have his career best season. They generally age poorly at the plate, hence why most of the good offensive catchers, like Piazza and Johnny Bench, move away from backstopping as they age.
A few root causes to note: career-high .373 batting average on balls in play (mostly luck – his career line is .304), and a drop in K rate to 16.6% (career mark is 19.2%). Still, most of Torrealba’s unexpected production is probably just the usual noise associated with a small sample of just 226 plate appearances. In an NL-only league, especially one that rosters two catchers per team, Torrealba’s fine to hold. Otherwise, no need to give him a second look.
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