MT. LEBO – Travis Snider‘s eight-game hitting streak came to an end last night, but one night doesn’t diminish the fine start he’s had to the 2013 campaign. Snider brings a .326 average and a .415 on-base mark into tonight’s game.
Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said Snider looks more comfortable at the plate and believes he’s seeing the ball better.
“He’s trying to reacquire the most successful approach he had in the minor leagues. He was more of a gap-to-gap guy,” Hurdle said.
These observations are backed by the numbers. While it’s early, Snider’s showing significant gains in performance, in better handling the strike zone.
Fewer strikeouts and an elite walk rate. He’s swinging at fewer balls out of the strike zone (Out-of-zone swing rate has dropped from 32% in 2010 to 27% this season) and making more contact in the strike zone (Career-best 90% zone-contact rating… 84% last season). That’s a good combination. And Hurdle is smart to put him near the top of the order as he’s getting on base.
While his home run power has yet to manifest, he has been a doubles machine.
Snider is beginning to resemble the player he was in the Toronto Blue Jays minor league system: an on-base machine, who has some swing-and-miss, but also has some pop.
Last season Snider looked like he was in danger of becoming a Quadruple-A player: a player that can terrorize Triple-A pitchers but can’t make the adjustment to MLB pitching. Snider had spent parts of four seasons raking against Triple-A pitching only to struggle at the MLB level.
Even savvy organizations like the Blue Jays are not immune to frustration and impatience. And maybe they became impatient with Snider when they traded him for Brad Lincoln in July.
It reminds me of another case of a smart organization perhaps giving up too early on a left-handed slugger — who also spent four seasons shuttling between Triple-A and The Show — early in his career.
Consider these two stat lines:
Triple-A: 226 games, .337 batting average, .397 on-base, .609 slugging
MLB: 455 games, .263 batting average, .317 slugging, 480 slugging
Triple-A 189 games, 333 batting average, .412 on-base, .565 slugging
MLB: 310 games, .252 average, .314 on-base, .418 slugging
Player A is Chris Davis, traded from Texas to Baltimore for soon-to-be-free-agent-reliever Koji Uehara. Player B is Snider.
(Texas thought Chris Davis was helpless to escape the Quadruple-A tag. Davis since shed the label in Baltimore, leading MLB in WAR to date)
Chris Davis hit 33 home runs last season for Baltimore. This season he already has seven home runs. He has a 1.300 OPS.
Now, they are not the same exact players. Davis has better raw power. Snider has more patience. But they are both left-handed, 20-somethings who smashed Triple-A, struggled at the MLB level, and were eventually given up for pennies on the dollar by the organizations that drafted them.
I asked Snider what the biggest challenge was in going from Triple-A to the Majors.
“(In MLB) you are scouted a week in advance, teams trying to find tendencies, and I felt there were times early in my career where I was exposed by the scouting reports,” Snider said, “(and) I was trying to do too much. When you step in the box it has to be natural. It has to be comfortable. You have to compete.”
It takes longer for some players to make the proper adjustments. Player development rarely follows a linear path.
Everyone has a different development path but might Snider, still just 25, be on the Davis career trajectory? (Davis is two years older)
I asked Snider this. He doesn’t think they are quite the same player – Davis has rare power, 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale – but he notes their are some doppelganger qualities.
“I’m a huge Chris Davis fan. I did play against him when he was in Texas, and he was bouncing back and forth, and I saw the raw power he has to all fields. … Watching a guy who is that talented, who bounces back and fourth and go to a new place and figures it out, it’s exciting.
“We have similar stories.”
So the Pirates hope.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT …
Jameson Taillon has been mostly great since the middle of last season. Last night was not a stellar night. The Pirates’ No. 2 prospect allowed seven hits, six runs and two walks over six innings, striking out three.
Now remember Taillon is working on command of his four-seam fastball, meaning when some of those straight fastballs are elevated he can be hit. It means that he could probably be producing even better results if he was using his offspeed pitches more, etc.
Taillon has a chance to be very, very good. But Monday was a reminder that refinement is needed.
After being remarkably efficient in his last start, AJ Burnett offered a polar opposite performance on Monday. Burnett needed 92 pitches to get through four innings. It was a missed opportunity for Burnett and the Pirates as the Phillies’ Pettibone was making his Major League debut. The task doesn’t get any easy with Halladay, Hamels and Lee on tap next. It’s going to be tough for the Pirates to split this series.
CHANGEUPS DON’T ALWAYS FOOL PEDRO ALVAREZ …