Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Pains of Being Murph at Heart

Remember back in the halcyon days of the 2009 when Travis Snider was a can't miss 21 year old prospect with exciting power to all fields? I sure do.

A few things have changed since then. Snider is obviously a few years older (yet still very young) and while not quite a prospect, he is still a player with tremendous potential. One thing is conspicuous in its absence from the Travis Snider circa 2011's profile: the opposite field pop.

The image you see above is Travis Snider's season-by-season spray chart (courtesy of the good people at Texas Leaguers) giffed up for comparative goodness. Notice anything different? I know I do: the opposite field tater tots from 2009 are all but missing.

Snider hit 5 home runs to left field in 2009 then none last year. Why might that be? A lack of fastballs to drive the other way or a pull happy team influencing a struggling young hitter?

I miss opposite field home runs. They're great fun, they really are. Both Lind and Snider used to hit them with regularity but now...gone. Not only are they pleasing to the eye, they're a great way to keep pitchers honest.

With Snider struggling and seeing a steady diet of off-speed junk, maybe a policy of staying back on the soft stuff and riding the hard stuff to the opposite field could help him solve his early season woes at the plate. Not that I advocate straying from The Plan at the plate. Heaven forbid.


  1. I think Murphy deserves all sorts of accolades in respect to his work with John Buck, Alex Gonzalez, John McDonald, and above all, Jose Bautista. But the ineffective shift to the pull field by Lind, Snider and Hill is indeed somewhat concerning. I really get the sense that Murphy knows what he's doing, and I hope we see Lind and Snider rediscover the opposite field this year.

  2. The past few games notwithstanding, Lind has looked a lot better in that regard so far this year. Some hits up the middle and into the gap in left-centre are at least a nice start for him. But Snider looks like he's trying so hard to pull everything, it's hard to believe that Murphy (or anybody) could see that obvious failure and still encourage him to do it. He had a nice single up the middle today after his half-game benching; hopefully we'll see more of that in the future. He needs a different approach at the plate, that's for sure.

  3. I get the sense that Murphy is a one-trick pony. Maybe the Jays need a second hitting coach. Guys like Bautista can keep listening to Murphy and guys like Lind, Snider and Hill can work with the second dude.

  4. I don't know about that, though. While Tenace was officially the hitting coach in 2009, everybody said at the time that they basically had three hitting coaches: Tenace, Gaston, and Murphy, who all worked with them pretty much equally. And I remember at the time that Lind specifically said he really liked working with Murphy because he had already worked with him extensively as a minor league hitting instructor. So it's not like Murph came in and told Lind to change everything - on the contrary, he was probably a big part of helping Lind become the great hitter he was in 2009.

    Also completely relevant to the Murphy discussion is this amazing tidbit I found on his Wikipedia page:
    Murphy is an avid bass guitar player.
    Was notable for helping fund and produce MC Hammer's first album.

  5. Seems to me the Murphy has been able to move the 6 guys mentioned closer to the mean. Bautista, MacDonald and Buck were all lousy hitters and have been better (Bautista out of this world better) under Murphy. Lind, Hill and Snider were all very good hitters who seemed to regress the longer they've been influenced by Murphy's philosophy. Is it possible that Murphy simply can't adjust his coaching methods for each individual? Sounds a lot like the guy who hired him and retired this year.

  6. Buck Martinez's WigApril 14, 2011 at 12:51 PM

    Would love to see one of these charts for Hill. Seems like back in '09 and earlier he hit lots of line drives up the middle and doubles to the gaps. Now he's a dead pull hitter with the occasional pop foul out to 1st base.

  7. Thanks Buck! I have something in mind for Hill. Probably next week.

  8. Chill: I think there's a real misconception that Murphy was "one of Cito's guys". Murphy was in the organization since 2005, and had never worked with Cito prior to 2008.

    BTW, with regards to Murphy messing up Lind's approach, here's an old quote from the Star a few years back:

    "Dwayne Murphy, I've been with him since 2006," Lind said of the Jays' first-base coach and former major-league outfielder. "He's always out there poking me with a fungo making sure I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing."

    So I really disagree with that sentiment.

  9. @Ty: I've no doubt that Murph played a role in what Lind did in 2009, but isn't it possible that Tenace was able to push him over the top?

    If that's the case, isn't it also possible that when Lind ran into trouble again, Murph wasn't able to help him in the way Tenace was?

  10. And the MC Hammer stuff? That's gold. Murph's a hero no matter what Lind does.

  11. Looked this post up upon the news of Snider's demotion. I hope the brain trust had this in mind when the decided to have him toil in AAA; changing your approach or major mechanical changes are harder to manage in the majors for at least some, due to the pressure to perform.


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