Thursday, January 14, 2010

Travis Snider's Promising Plate Coverage

The good men at Mop Up Duty took time away from heroically combing baseball's archives to fly a few warning flags with regard to Travis Snider's inability to hit left handed pitching. Fair points, Snider struggles to put the bat on the ball against quality lefties, as is well documented. The Manager should make it his business to get Snider some reps against good lefties then leave him the fuck alone.

All is not lost for young Travis. As you've likely read here many times, I'm enamored with Snider's ability to take pitches the other way. That is, in my mind, the mark of both a powerful and skilled hitter. The example of Ryan Howard supplied by the MUD guys is an excellent one. Carlos Delgado is another. The ability of these hitters to stroke the ball to all fields with power is a rare one. While hitting a big league home run remains unfathomable accomplishment for a mortal like me, "anybody" can yank an inside fastball into the seats; especially if that's the only pitch you're looking for. Hitters like Snider and Lind are rare and valuable.

A post in the late fall on Baseball Analysts and later Fangraphs by the great Dave Allen showed the relationship between where a pitch is thrown and where it's hit. I loved Allen's graphic and wanted desperately to create one myself. While no R wizard, I scraped, scrapped, Excelled and Painted my way to something, I think. Behold Travis Snider's plate coverage and homer spray. (Click to enlarge, explainey notes below.)

So, what do we have here? We're looking from above and behind, the press box more or less. The plate at the bottom shows the position of the pitches in terms of inside or outside. Each point on the plate connects to the angle at which Snider sent his 9 homers of 2009 into the night sky. Home runs generally don't fly in arrow-straight lines. Pulled pitches tend to hook towards the right field corner in Travis's case, pitches driven away tend to slice towards the left field pole here.

I've positioned the burly Snider on the right side of the graphic to help reinforce the inside/outside and right field/left field aspect. The outfield wall is not to scale but I hope you get the point. The red pitches are fastballs, the blue are offspeed.

This diagram isn't without its flaws. The outside-most pitch looks as though it was pulled because of the angle of the line, but rest assured it ended up in the left field bullpen. If you follow the Baseball Analysts link above you'll see Carlos Pena's similar graph. A dead pull hitter, Pena hits pitches off the plate outside to right field. A feared slugger indeed, but maybe a little easier than Snider (after some more seasoning) to pitch to.

A few other notes on Snider's 9 bombs in 2009: He jumped on the first pitch 4 times and two 2-0 meatballs. Snider also (impressively, in my mind) hit homers in 1-2, 2-2, and 3-2 counts. Perhaps this is indicative of a poor approach by Snider, trying to hit home runs in tight counts. Maybe, but look at him. That is not the look of a man who should look to "spoil" pitches. That is a man more interested in soiling the pants of opposing pitchers and comely lasses in the bleachers alike.

So what do we think? Does this make sense at all? Does this excite you or does Snider's high strikeout total still give you reason to pause? Is there anything to the notion of "tough to pitch" to when you strike out more than 25% of the time? Should we discount 3 or his home runs because they came against legendary shitballers Jeremy Guthrie and Sergio Mitre? I appreciate your feedback.

Pitch FX data courtesy of Brooks Baseball. Home Run data courtesy of Hit Tracker Online. Images courtesy of here, here, and new Score buddies Food Court Lunch.


  1. I'm a fan of those HR charts too, but I don't think 9 HR is enough of a sample to judge Snider just yet. I just want The Manager to get him more reps against lefties first. I'm a firm believer in his all-field ICBM power, to the point of delusion.

    By the way, please keep up this ridiculously high rate of quality blogging.

  2. I've read quite a bit by rank amateur ball fans that Snider can't handle a ML fastball. I always assumed that by "can't handle" they must mean he "hits them over the left field wall instead of the right field wall."

    I think Snider's and Lind's approach at the plate is to sit fastball away to take to the opposite field. They then afford some timing luxury to adjust to a breaking pitch and pull it. Things get ugly for both of them when they get fastball in. But I think Lind improved a lot this year on those.

  3. Cool stuff Drew. I haven't read what Gil has read, but his assessment was my initial reaction - what's happening on the inside fastball? Still, it's a small number of cases and a very young player. What can be taken from it seems pretty good. The fact that he can take the outside pitch out of the park now means that he can probably have his way with a lot of pitchers down the road - hopefully that'll include lefties before long.


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