HomeTeamsTigersWhat The TORKELSON!


Public Service Announcement: It is still early. Spencer Torkelson is still a talented baseball player. It is both time and fair to begin to worry about Torkelson in 2024.

At the end of 2023, it looked like Torkelson, the number one pick in the 2020 MLB draft, had turned the corner. He had 19 home runs along with a .238 batting average in the second half of the season, good for a OPS+ of 118. As a team in 2023, the Detroit Tigers were pretty terrible, but with Torkelson’s emergence, along with the hope that Riley Greene could stay healthy and a Kerry Carpenter breakout, the team was banking on internal improvement to help the offense in 2024.

Well, Riley Greene and Kerry Carpenter have held up their end of the bargain. Torkelson, not so much. So far across 132 plate appearances, Torkelson is still looking for his first home run, and is hitting a whopping .212, with an OPS+ of just 65. As the season has progressed manager AJ Hinch has been forced to move Torkelson farther and farther down the batting order and it begs the question, is a realignment stint in AAA in the near future? Right now, the Tigers don’t seem quite ready to go that far, but Torkelson needs to turn things around in a hurry if the Tigers plan on being in the AL Central race at the end of the year.

So, what is going on with Torkelson’s issues at the plate? A closer look at the statistics gives a couple of suggestions. Here comes the obvious one, he is not making good contact. In 2024 Torkelson is barreling up just 2.2% of the balls he has put in play compared with 14.1% in 2023, according to Fangraphs, 80% of his contact is either medium or soft. Additionally, his line drive percentage is down to 11.1% and his infield flyball rate is up to 18.8%.

The question then is Torkelson’s lack of quality contact the result of bad luck, an injury, mental, or timing/mechanical flaw?  Torkelson’s strike out numbers are actually on pace to be better than his career average and his BABIP is basically at his career norm, so luck can be ruled out. Neither the Tigers nor Torkelson have suggested he is battling any kind of injury, so we can probably rule out injury as the root cause as well. Which leaves us the harder to define mental/mechanical issue. The guess from this writer is it is a combination of these two issues.

To combat the mental fatigue of pressing at the plate, Hinch has given Torkelson days off as well as moving him down in the batting order. Unfortunately, that hasn’t seemed to work so far, additionally Torkelson’s defense has been suffering which seems to indicate that he is thinking about his offense while on the field. The real issue seems to be Torkelson is stuck in a place where he isn’t trusting his eyes at the plate. At his best Torkelson is aggressive, looking to attack early in counts. However, right now he seems caught in between. The soft contact and the high number of infield flyballs suggest a player is stuck in timing limbo. When a hitter doesn’t trust their eyes, they are stuck guessing which typically leads to soft contact and taking pitches that should otherwise be deposited in the outfield seats.

Let’s be clear, Spencer Torkelson is still an incredibly talented hitter, and he will most likely figure it out at the plate. However, he needs to rebuild his confidence and most likely to happen with a short stint at AAA. The Tigers and Torkelson don’t want to do that. However, the success of Wenceel Perez might allow the Tigers the flexibility to send Tork down and use Mark Canha and Gio Urshela (when he comes off the IL) at first. If the Tigers are going to be contenders, they need Tork to figure it out sooner rather than later.

Joe Underhill
Joe Underhillhttps://mlbreport.com/
Joe Underhill is a high school administrator and diehard baseball fan and fan of the city of Detroit. Joe currently writes for www.mlbreport.com and HTP Newsletter. You can follow Joe on Twitter @TransplantedDet and @transplanteddet.bsky.social


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