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My Experience With Andres Torres

I am frequently asked about my experience working with higher-level hitters and, more recently, my experience with Andres Torres. As a result, I put this essay together to explain our history.

The History

I have known and worked with Andres Torres since the Spring of 2008.[1] My relationship with Andres Torres was discussed in a si.com piece in 2010. We last talked in person in January 2012 when I flew out to Arizona to work with Andres on his swing and help him get ready for the 2012 season.

Getting to Know Andres

Andres first called me in late May of 2008, a few weeks into his AAA season with the Cubs. I'm not sure exactly when or why the lightbulb went off, but at some point prior to then he realized that what he was doing at the plate -- which was trying to be another Ichiro and slapping the ball into the ground and trying to beat out the throw -- wasn't working at the major league level.

He had to try something different.

In four seasons, Andres struggled to hit better than .210 and he knew that he was going to be out of baseball if he didn't improve his hitting. As a result, he started to learn everything he could about hitting and began studying the swings of the best players in the game.

Andres decided that one thing he needed to understand was what Albert Pujols did and why. That was logical, since Pujols is one of the best all-around hitters in baseball. While doing that research, Andres came across my photos of Albert Pujols and, in particular, one of my flipbook analyses of the swing of Albert Pujols.[2]

After studying my Pujols flipbook in depth, Andres called me to discuss some of the things I said in it. He was a bit confused because while he could see that, while my observations about what Pujols was doing seemed to be correct, they contradicted pretty much everything he had been taught about hitting up to that point.[3]

We started talking about how Albert Pujols actually swings the bat -- and how that is different than what most people teach -- and, more importantly, what Pujols does when, why, and how. Andres then started working to incorporate those rotational hitting concepts -- and especially the concept of connection -- into his swing during his 2008 season with the Cubs' AAA affiliate.[4]

By the time Andres got into winter ball in late 2008, he had largely transformed both his approach and his swing. He wasn't trying to slap or throw his hands at the ball any more. Instead, he was trying to stay connected and drive the ball. That is because the harder you hit the ball, the harder it is to make a play on it and the farther it will go if it happens to find a hole.

Andres was then able to burn that swing into his muscle memory during his winter ball season in Puerto Rico.

Andres Torres - January 2009

Andres Torres
January 2009

I happened to be passing through Puerto Rico in January 2009 and took a day out of my vacation to meet up with Andres at the municipal stadium in his home town of Aguada. I spent the day videotaping him and then discussing in person a few concepts, like loading, that can be hard to explain over the phone.

After getting back to St. Louis and reviewing the video I had shot, I suggested a few minor tweaks. I also sent Andres a copy of my Rotational Hitting 101 DVD and gave him access to my client-only web site and flipbooks.

Rotational Hitting 101 DVD

My Rotational Hitting 101 DVD explains the concepts that I taught to Andres Torres that help him revamp his swing and turn his career around.

Andres the Giant

By the end of January 2009, Andres was probably 90 percent of the way toward having The High-Level Swing. He figured the rest out during spring training. In particular, he stopped doing the big, Alfonso Soriano style leg kick that you see in the video clip above and instead changed to a simpler, quieter double tap like Chipper Jones or Carlos Beltran. As a result, Andres hit better than .400 in Spring Training and made the Giants' 2009 squad as a Non-Roster Invite.

During the 2009 season, Andres and I talked a few times and even met in person when the Giants were in St. Louis. However, based on the video I had seen of his swing earlier on during the season, I saw that his swing was where it needed to be. What's worse, I found that he only got himself thinking if he spent too much time thinking about his mechanics. As a result, my only mechanical suggestion to him was that he try to quiet down his hands a bit at set-up. In fact, and much to to my surprise, I found myself reverting to adages -- that I used to think were worthless -- like, "See the ball. Hit the ball," in an effort to help Andres keep from thinking too much at the plate.[5]

Get a Good Pitch to Hit

Andres and I talked just before Christmas 2009 when he was in between the winter ball seasons on Venezuela and Puerto Rico. I knew that Andres' swing and hitting mechanics were solid. As a result, my main message for him had to do with bat speed and selectivity.[6]

While some people preach bat speed as an end in and of itself, I don't think it's a coincidence that Albert Pujols' bat speed is only 87MPH (versus to 100+ MPH batspeed numbers that some major leaguers put up and that some people say you should strive for). Instead, I think Albert Pujols' only average bat speed is part of his secret to being able to hit for both power and average.

I mentioned to Andres that, in all my clips of Albert Pujols, I have very few clips of him swinging at bad pitches.[7] I also reminded Andres that getting a good pitch to hit (e.g. a mistake and/or a strike) was one of Ted Williams' key messages in his book The Science of Hitting.[8]

Looking for More Power

Andres and I talked in person a number of times in August 2010 when the Giants were in St. Louis.

At the time he was obviously hitting quite well, but wanted to get even better. In particular, he wanted to hit with more power. While he was happy to be at the top of the NL leader board for doubles, he wanted to see if he could convert some of those doubles into home runs and get to 30 home runs.

Not wanting to get him thinking, I limited our discussion to The Move and the importance of the back foot to the swing. I decided to leave other topics like Loading and the Running Start, which I think could benefit him, to the off-season because I knew that he could very well break his swing if he tried to do too much too soon.

As with everything in life, you have to strike a balance between constantly trying to get better and not breaking things that aren't broken (or at least working on them at the right time, which is the off-season).

2010 Postseason

Andres had a poor start to the 2010 postseason, getting only 2 hits in the NLDS against Atlanta.

Part of the problem was that he was still recovering from an appendectomy and had lost the feel for his swing during his time off. However, a bigger part of the problem was that he was pressing and had gotten too focused on trying to hit home runs. That in turn led him to get pull crazy and become less disciplined than normal. In particular, he started trying to pull outside pitches. That is a big no-no because it is virtually impossible to do consistently.

Things only got worse during the start of the NLCS.

The Phillies saw what was going on and pitched Andres almost exclusively away, away, away. As a result, he looked terrible during the first two games of the NLCS. After Game 2 of the NLCS, it was obvious what the Phillies' strategy was, and what Andres' problem was, so I sent him a text message telling him that he had to figure out a better way of dealing with the outside pitch. I'm sure I wasn't the only person to see this or mention this, and Andres made the adjustment that he needed to make; he stopped chasing outside pitches.

The result was that Andres started drawing walks again. That in turn forced the Phillies to start throwing him strikes and he was able to get some good pitches to hit, which he did. As a result, he started to get hot in Game 4 of the NLCS and finished the NLCS tied for the team lead in batting average.

Andres Torres 2010 World Series Home Run

Andres Torres
Home Run to Right Field
Game 3
2010 World Series

Andres continued his resurgence during the 2010 World Series, hitting four doubles and a home run and putting up an AVG of .318 and an OPS of .984.

2011 Struggles

Andres struggled during the 2011 season.

There are many reasons for Andres' struggles, including the off-season distractions that come with winning the World Series and that got him out of his routine. However, he also struggled due to a mechanical problem that he developed as a result of his trying to hit more home runs.

Instead of just letting home runs happen, and in an effort to earn a bigger contract, Andres changed his leg lift. He stopped doing the small double tap that worked so well for him in the past and that he used in this clip to absolutely destroy a ball...

Andres Torres - October 2009

Andres Torres
Home Run to Right Field
October 2009

...or the small leg lift that helped him hit a home run to right field during the 2010 World Series...

Andres Torres 2010 World Series Home Run

Andres Torres
Home Run to Right Field
Game 3
2010 World Series

...and went back to the Alfonso Soriano style, big leg kick that he has played with off and on over the years.

While this big leg kick did work to a degree, it created a problem with the stability of his back leg and his back foot. In the clip below, notice how, as Andres reaches the top of his leg lift, his weight shifts onto the heel of his back foot.

Andres Torres Grand Slam Home Run to Right Field

Andres Torres
Grand Slam Home Run to Right Field
June 2011

As a result, when his hips fire his back foot squirms around much more than you see in a good swing. That reduced the efficiency of his swing -- the home run above just squeaked over the wall in right field -- and forced him to swing harder. That in turn reduced his consistency and killed his batting average.

Hopes for 2012

Andres called me in late December 2012 and flew me out to Arizona so that we could work on his swing. Coming out of those hitting sessions, I was hopeful that Andres would have at least a bounce-back year, if not an extremely good year.

Andres Torres Swing

Andres Torres
January 27, 2012

Andres' swing was back to his 2010 form. His back foot was much more stable, he was back to striding and loading like he did in 2010, and he made an adjustment to his posture that promised to help him draw more walks and improve his ability to hit balls down and away.

Andres Torres Swing

Andres Torres
March 6, 2012

As it turned out, 2012 was a better, but still mixed, year for Andres. While he had his moments early on in the year, he also struggled with some injury problems. That made it hard for him to get into a rhythm. He was also affected by his ADHD and, in particular, a tendency to continually tinker with his swing instead of just sticking with his swing. As a result, he had a problem tinkering his way out of his good mechanics.

Andres did finish 2012 strong, due in large part to his dumping the mechanical adjustments that had been suggested to him and gong back to the 2010 swing that he was so successful with.

Rotational Hitting 101 DVD

My Rotational Hitting 101 DVD explains the concepts that I taught to Andres Torres that help him revamp his swing and turn his career around.

Andres Torres' Hitting Mechanics

I discuss the exact mechanical improvements that Andres made to his swing in my piece on Andres Torres' Swing.

Other Players

Andres Torres isn't the only professional baseball player that I have worked with.

At last count, I have one other client in the major leagues, three clients at AAA, two clients at AA, several more clients in the lower levels of the affiliated minor leagues, and three clients playing for independent minor league teams and trying to get back on the road to the major leagues. I have also worked with a number of D-1 college baseball and fast pitch softball players.

I don't give out the names of these players because I don't want to get them in trouble with their coaches. While they, and I, believe in what I teach, most of the time it contradicts what their coaches are saying, so they have to keep it to themselves and we have to work on the down low.

If you are a minor leaguer and are looking for help, e-mail me and we can talk about how you can get access to my client-only web site.

For More Information

Register NowAdditional free information about Rotational Hitting and the High-Level Swing is available through my private client site. To access this additional free information, and to see how much, and what kinds, of information is available to my clients, all you have to do is register.

Notes

[1] It's kind of pathetic, but one of my would-be competitors is trying to damage my relationship with Andres by telling him and others that I am trying to take complete credit for his success ("So Chris O'Leary is going around telling people that he taught you everything you know. What do you think about that?"). That is both wrong and ridiculous. What I did was help Andres understand...

  • What a good swing actually looks like.
  • How and why what he was taught was wrong.
  • How his swing differed from Albert Pujols' swing.

Andres then made it happen.

[2] Andres recently talked about this in a piece on nj.com.

[3] Based on how Andres was able to turn his career around after (finally) learning what good hitters actually do, you have to wonder if poor hitting instruction has something to do with the phenomenon of the AAAA player. 

[4] I knew that Andres actually was moving his swing in the right direction with the Cubs when he went down with an injury to one of his obliques. That was a conditioning and fitness problem that indicated that he was starting to get more power from his core, but that his core wasn't properly conditioned. It made me aware of the need to make sure that people conditioned their cores as they moved to a rotational hitting based swing.

[5] I wasn't at all surprised when I heard that Hensley Meulens and Bruce Bochy of the Giants had banned Andres and a few other Giants from taking extra BP before games because they were concerned that they were getting obsessive about it. I also wasn't surprised when Andres' batting average experienced a significant upward surge (I believe as a result).

[6] You can see some good evidence that he took this lesson to heart on Andres Torres' Fangraphs page. His O-Swing%, which is the percent of the time that he swings at pitches outside of the strike zone, is 24.1%. That is down 5 points, or 20 percent, from the 29.0% number he posted in 2009. Similarly, Andres' Z-Swing% is up and his Swing% is down, two more things that suggest greater selectivity. Andres does indeed seem to be doing a better job of getting a good pitch to hit.

[7] I also mentioned to Andres that, in all of my clips of Pablo Sandoval, I don't have a single clip of Sandoval where he's hitting a strike. Sandoval's willingness to chase pitches out of the strike zone may have something to do with his fall off this year. In fact, if you look at Pablo Sandoval's Fangraphs page, you can see a deterioration in his selectivity numbers. His O-Swing% is up and his Z-Swing% is down significantly.

[8] On one of the days when the Giants were in town, Andres and I were talking hitting when he called Pablo Sandoval over. The three of us then started talking about Albert Pujols' swing and how it's consistent with what Ted Williams talks about in his book The Science of Hitting. What was funny about the conversation was that Sandoval doesn't speak much English and I speak about 10 words of Spanish, but all of us had read Ted Williams' book multiple times and knew all the diagrams in it by heart. With lots of hand-waving and some translating by Andres, the three of us had a half hour conversation about the book and how much good stuff there is in it.

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