Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pitching to Travis Snider

Travis Snider is a good hitter. His compulsive destruction of minor league pitching and jet-propelled path to the big leagues is ample proof. Travis Snider is really struggling to start the 2010. There are signs of Snider heading out of this slump; obviously if you read the box scores you see the moonshot he hit to right field Monday night against the Royals. Less obvious but equally important was the murderous line drive he screamed to right field in the ninth inning of that same game. Snider hit that liner with intentions so bad you wouldn't just hang laundry on it; you'd hang the drying flesh and bones of your many victims for use in a tough-but-tangy jerky.

Despite showing a few positive signs of late, Travis Snider sports some pretty ugly batting lines. Blame his criminally low BABIP if you will (or my evocation of that number in April! .312 xBABIP!) but he isn't "commanding the strike zone" as one would expect. How come? What's the deal? I may not have the answer but I endeavor to find out.

Before we get into the nitty gritty nerditry, we should look at the positives of Snider's start. He sees lots of pitches and even walks at a decent clip. His batted ball profile isn't too far out of wack, save a couple infield pop ups. The biggest shock for young Travis (or any of Clarence's disciples) is Snider's inability to handle the fastball.

My first assumption is Snider is overguessing or at least anticipating the fastball to a fault. I thought I'd look at the first pitches of his at bats this season, to see if he's digging himself into holes.

For your reference: this diagram is from the catcher's perspective. Snider — as a left-handed batter — stands screen right. I gave the strike zone rounded corners and extended the outside part of the plate to reflect the real strike zone lefties face.

Why not follow a strange collection of colors and shapes with a giant data dump?? Okay!
  • 33 of his 57 PAs start with fastballs. 15 for strikes. 1 whiff on a CJ Wilson 2 seamer, 1 missed bunt. 4 fastballs fouled off. 1 single on a first pitch fastball.
  • The remaining 24 offspeed pitches largely miss the zone (only 10 strikes.) 4 whiffs - all on change ups. Not one ball put into play.
  • Of the 33 fastballs first pitch fastballs thrown, 25 followed up with another fastball of some kind.
  • 15 times pitchers went soft-soft against Snider.
  • Counts! 2-0 counts = 15 (one home run, one double, six walks [two intentional]), 3-1 counts = 9 (one home run and 4 walks), 0-2 counts = 11 (7 Ks, 1 hit)
The vast majority of the pitches to Snider are thrown on the outside half. Anecdotally (read: without really counting) I noticed most teams pounding away with no break to bust back inside. As for the rest of it, I'm not 100% sure what to make.

Snider obviously sees a lot of pitches, that's what Three True Outcome guys do. It's hard to strike out without seeing at least 3 pitches. It's hard to say whether he's on his way out of a slump, he's so strong home runs aren't the best heat checks. One thing I haven't seen from Snider this year is the vaunted power the other way. That's always the thing I come back to when I need convincing of Travis Snider's eventual greatness.

Hopefully Snider will keep hitting the ball hard and resume hitting the ball to all fields. The word is clearly out on him - teams know his strength and respect his eye. I turn to you, my fellow basement dwelling molemen, for your opinion on Travis Snider during the young 2010 season. Encouraging signs? Frustrations? Holes in his game? It's too early to tell but I'd be interested to hear the direction others think he'll take.

Credit to Joe Leftowitz, Brooks Baseball, and Reuters via Daylife.


  1. Great post. It's the opposite field power I find myself reverting back to, as well, when it comes to Snider. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to watch as much Jays baseball this season so far, so I don't have much to offer. But Travis will be worth the wait. Of that I have no doubt.

  2. I think Snider's desire to be better in the field and his all-around game has got him slow on the uptake with his at-bat approaches. As I talk more out of my ass, Snider seems to have been really unlucky with his contact. Nice to see that his BABIP supports my untrained eye, but obviously, not ideal for Snider.

    Snider just seems perpetually slow recognizing pitches, which to me indicates an internal struggle. I know the Manager wants every batter to have a plan, but it's hard not to stray from it when Snider feels like he's not getting any pitches he wants. I like to think his spot in the batting order has a lot to do with this psychological conundrum.

  3. Most encouraging signs I've seen from Snider is that in the last few games, he hasn't been swinging through every fastball up in the zone like he was earlier in the season. I also haven't seen him reaching for outside and offspeed pitches and grounding out softly to the right side like he was all of last year. That might just be a function of him never making contact, though.

  4. Snider obviously sees a lot of pitches, that's what Three True Outcome guys do. It's hard to strike out without seeing at least 3 pitches.

    That's makes way too much sense and yet I never thought to connect the dots on TTO guys like that. You learn something new here every day.

    Snider...I don't know what to think anymore. I'm still holding out hope for him as an all-field, all-dimension threat and not a TTO guy. Do we have batted ball data on him from the minors?

  5. I agree with Peter that he seems to be letting the fastballs at eye level go (not only in the last few games but almost completely this year in comparison to last season) which is extremely encouraging. At least for my sanity.

    And I agree with you that him "using the whole field" will be a good indicator that he's coming around. Yes that is a tired ass cliche but there is a reason it has reached cliche status. When a batter, who has the ability to go the other way with power, is pulling outside pitches it can be an example of their inner frustration. Perfect example is Lyle Overbay. He was Mr. Left-Centre Gap for a Double and now he's rolling over on those pitches and hitting ground balls to the 2nd baseman.

    The main thing I'm hoping from Travis is that he recognizes it's a long season and doesn't put too much pressure on himself. He has some very special natural ability and once a few more things click for him in the batters box he's going to shine.

    ps: hahaha fuuuuuuck you EB. "Oh, I haven't been able to watch much Jays games..." Yea because you've been running around on TBROAL! Enjoy Fenway you lucky bastard.

  6. Every time I see Snider pull his head off the ball as he fouls off a high fastball, my world gets a little bit darker.

    The Rosy-Cheeked Phenom was supposed to be the foundation of the next playoff team. But I worry sometimes that he'll scuffle about in Toronto, then hit 40 bombs for some random NL Central team.

  7. This is just me thinking out loud, but since Snider is seeing so many first pitch fastballs, why doesn't he take the 2009 Aaron Hill approach and hack away at the first (or second pitch)?

  8. I like Snider's swing this year more than last IMO, but he doesn't seem fully confident at the moment. He's also been somewhat unlucky this season, as the BABIP seems to show. It's as if he gets robbed everytime he hits the ball hard.

    Anyway, it takes time to adapt to the MLB, and remember that he's only 22. It took Lind a few years before he finally got it. Not everyone is a Jason Heyward, that is if Heyward continues his outstanding performance this season. Snider will eventually show us why he was such a highly regarded prospect in the Minor Leagues.

  9. Correct me if I'm wrong... Last year when Snider was doing fairly decent for the month of April, wasn't he crushing fastballs and getting fooled on off speed pitches?

  10. The first problem Snider faces is that he's usually got Molina, McCoy or McDonald behind him. He's getting intentionally walked, and often pitches are just pitching around him because they know who's on deck. When Snider's up it feels a lot like we're in the NL and he's batting before the pitcher.

    The other thing I've noticed is that everything Snider hits is a line drive on the right side (typically right at the 1B) or popped up weakly to 3B/RF. He's not elevating the ball enough on line drives to the pull side, and he's not driving the ball to opposite field. That's why the BABIP is so low, IMO.

    There's an easy solution to helping Snider - put a real hitter behind him, so he can't be intentionally walked (or the "unintentional intentional walk").

  11. Sorry that should say popped up weakly to 3B/LF and not 3B/RF.

  12. Re: Snider hacking at first pitch fastballs. Look at the pitches he whiffs: change ups. If he's geared up for the heat, they switch him up good.


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