When you watch the same player every night, you start to notice things about them. Their routines, habits, stance, and other little aspects of their play.
What I’ve noticed about Abraham Toro is his eyes.
After coming in hot from the Astros last year and performing well at Spring Training in 2022 where he rocked a .417 OBP and only struck out 4 times in 36 PAs, Toro has struggled a fair bit in the first couple weeks of the season. So far this year, he just hasn’t looked like himself. He’s been getting getting under balls, popping out and weakly flying out. Thankfully he’s maintained his ability to not strike out, and has his natural talent of fouling off anything that smells like it might it might come near the strike zone. It just hasn’t resulted in too many hits yet.
But that’s okay. There’s something better than hits: a good story.
The thing to remember about Abraham Toro is that as much as he is a baseball player, he is also a storyteller. Toro gets hits that would be called “unrealistic” if they happened in a movie. Last year, he homered in his first plate appearance as a Mariner, and later hit a go-ahead grand slam against the pitcher he was traded for. It’s storybook stuff, and part of what makes him such a great fit for a storybook team.
So, of course, he had to have a storybook opening to this year. He got his first hit of the year off of who else but Kendall Graveman back in Chicago, and his first RBI of the year against the Astros on Sunday. So with those firsts out of the way in the most magical way, look for Toro to be on a charge the rest of this season.
But there’s another reason to believe that it’s Toro o’clock. His eyes.
The road trip to start the season wasn’t great. The M’s were of course hampered by the fact that the midwest has yet to invent the roof, but the team also just didn’t look locked in. This team feeds off vibes, and it’s hard to get get the vibes going when you start your season playing seven games on the road. Now, I’m not saying the team was giving up ABs, but it’s also pretty clear that they weren’t playing their best baseball. And Toro was no exception, getting back to Seattle with just one hit in 16 PAs.
As for why? Well we can talk about batted ball profiles on Baseball Savant all we want, but that just tells us what happened, not why. The real reason why is his eyes. He hasn’t had his locked-in, almost cross-eyed face hardly at all this season. If you don’t have an endless loop of Toro base hits on your second monitor the way I do, you might not understand what I mean, so allow me to demonstrate. This is what Toro’s face looked like just before he hit that grand slam off Graveman:
And here he is back on the 11th in the M’s 4-0 loss to the Twins, right before hitting a weak groundout:
Ok, I know the bottom one seems normal, and the top picture is kind of grainy, but seriously take a close look at his eyes and posture. In the salami image he’s more hunched over, his eyebrows are in attack mode, and he’s watching the ball so intently, he’s going a little cross-eyed. In the groundout image he’s standing upright, holding his bat higher, his eyebrows are up a little bit more, and he isn’t tracking the ball as seriously.
I’ve watched a lot of clips of Toro ABs and one thing I’ve noticed he does on every swing is follow the ball in. He watches it all the way out of the pitcher’s hand to his bat. He tracks the ball so intently, I’m pretty sure he can see the individual stitches as it comes hurtling towards him. It’s probably the reason why he has one of the best whiff rates in baseball, even while swinging at pretty much everything.
It’s also probably why he crushes breaking balls, slugging .494 on them last year. I’ve talked before about how Toro works productive ABs by fouling off a ton of pitches and forcing the pitcher to throw him one he can handle. It’s his MO, and while he hasn’t been successful so far this season, that is surely bound to change.
And you can tell by his eyes.
Stepping up to the plate last night with Julio at third and only one out, everyone predicted that Toro would hit a sac fly to drive him in. That's what Brad Adam and Mike Blowers were predicting in the booth, and its what my coLLeagues in the LL slack were hoping for. Toro had other plans.
I knew he’d get a hit that AB. His eyes were right. We don’t have a close up of his eyes while he was standing in the box, but we do have some when he stepped out. Here’s what he looked like as he was getting ready to hit:
In the interview that last picture is pulled from, Toro talked about how he felt like he was overswinging at pitches, and tried to be more “short to the ball” in his third AB. If he keeps that approach, it’s likely that he’ll resume his 2021 form of slapping sharp line drives.
I think playing at home has energized Toro. His slow start is over. It is officially Toro Time. You can see it in his eyes.