A Cougar Returns

Remember that show Cougar Town? Yeah, uh, me neither. I mean, I might have watched it once, and it was awful. Just awful. I mean, it was the Houston Astros of television programs. They canceled it, right? No? Great, what will the titans of the television industry think of next? A show starring Chelsea Handler’s mom and Laura “So In-Demand I Had To Stay On That 70s Show Until the Bitter End With Seth Meyers’ Even Less Talented Brother As My Love Interest” Prepon with her hair dyed blonde?

Okay, I apologize, that is just cruel… to the Astros. Don’t get me wrong — the Astros are in a bad place. But at least they have the prospect of getting out of it… eventually. But just when you thought things could not get worse for Houston, catcher Jason Castro, who missed the entire 2011 season with knee surgery, had to have surgery to repair damage done to his foot during the Arizona Fall League.

That is likely why the Astros have signed former Arizona and Pittsburgh catcher Chris Snyder to a one-year deal (with a mutual option — they must really admire the Kansas City model). Did you know that Snyder went to the University of Houston, whose mascot is a Cougar? What a coincidence, it fits right in with this clever introduction!

Snyder, who will turn 32 in February, has had his own injury problems lately, and missed most of 2011 with back problems. However, he is not a bad player. While his walk rate is likely inflated due to hitting eighth (in front of the pitcher) more than anywhere else during his career, he still has above-average plate patience. His strikeout rate is pretty high, and one should not expect a BABIP over .300 from him, but he does have a bit of pop (.164 career ISO).

Keep in mind that Snyder is a catcher, and the offensive expectations just are not that high. His .340 wOBA in 2011 was probably a small sample fluke (his .315 BABIP was the highest of his career, and the only time he has been over .300), but even his .304 and .303 wOBAs in 2009 and 2010 are not terrible for a catcher. Oliver is sees Snyder hitter better than that in 2012, projecting him for a .321 wOBA (.229/.333/.387). That is around league average overall, and very good for a catcher.

Snyder is also considered to be pretty good in the field. Catcher fielding is tough to measure, but the aggregate defensive ratings on his player page have him around average the last two seasons, which is confirmed elsewhere. Intriguingly, Snyder also rates very well in a recent study of pitch framing.

The biggest problem for with Snyder the last few seasons has been health — more specifically, his back. That is not good news for a catcher. He had surgery for it last season, and was on the disabled list with it in 2009, as well. That is probably a big reason why Snyder was on the shelf until this week, given that he hits and fields well enough (when healthy) for a catcher. So there is some risk here for the Astros.

Assuming the Astros are not paying Snyder more than the $5.75 million he made last season in Pittsburgh (details have not been released as of this writing, but I think that is a pretty safe assumption, until it isn’t), this is still a decent move for Houston. For one thing, no one wants to see Humberto Quintero as the first-string catcher. For another, even if Castro gets it together health-wise by the end of Spring Training, his record suggests having insurance in place is a good idea.

There is sometimes a case to be made against rebuilding teams signing a player like Snyder; sometimes teams working on a budget “nickel and dime” themselves on several mediocre role players rather than getting a player who might actually help them, or they might “block” and younger player with upside. But the Astros are not in a position to contend in the next few seasons, so there is not real benefit to signing bigger-money player (at whatever position) to a market-value deal. There is a non-zero value in not having horrible players on the field, and Snyder, while he comes with a risk, can help the team with at least average production overall when he is out there. If can stay healthy, might even have a little trade value. If Castro can get healthy, the Astros need to let him play, but it must also be said that Castro himself is no great shakes. Still, between him and Snyder, the Astros might get a full season of decent production at catcher.

And at worst, watching a Cougar alumnus catch can’t be worse than watching Cougar Town (zing!).

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Matt Klaassen reads and writes obituaries in the Greater Toronto Area. If you can't get enough of him, follow him on Twitter.

31 Responses to “A Cougar Returns”

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  1. Ryan says:

    You now C town is good right? Like critically acclaimed good? Like A tier below Parks?

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    • Well, if TV critics like it, I totally take my comments back.

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      • It was panned initially, then retooled and found it’s flow. Not a bad show at all. You probably saw it during the bad, initial phase.

        They went so far away from the initial version that the title, “Cougartown” is openly laughed at by the creators and stars.

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      • yuniform says:

        If Fangraphs strives for informed analysis, you might not want to blindly critique something else. Just as the Devil Rays stunk, so too did early Cougar Town. Both are great now. At least Tampa Bay had the good sense to change their weird name.

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      • Llewdor says:

        The critics liked it as soon as it stopped being about cougars.

        Coincidentally, that’s also when the show completely lost its audience. It was a much more successful show when it was awful.

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    • Baltar says:

      I saw part of the first episode and nearly retched at how awful it was. My best friend loves it, so I have to believe it does improve, which is not saying much.

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    • Cougar says:

      My wife liked that show, but I also caught her watching Eat Pray Love one time, so it still might be awful.

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    • MCR says:

      If Abed likes it, it’s good enough for me. Cougartown was actually awesome.

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  2. Reuben says:

    Cougar Town is not about what its name is and hasn’t been since about 6 episodes in. It’s the same creative team as Scrubs and stars the best ensemble comedic cast on TV right now on this side of the pond (Peep Show has the edge worldwide imo). I started watching the show as a joke (during a somewhat depressed time) myself and ended up falling for it, hard. It easily tops Community and 30 Rock and is in the same class as Parks and Recreation and Peep Show as my top current running comedies.

    Now I look forward to being ridiculed for this being the first comment. I have nothing to say about Chris Snyder or the Astros. Yes, I read this site every day. No, I’m not trolling the internet for Cougar Town remarks to respond to…

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  3. KCDaveInLA says:

    Cougar Town never left us…it’s just been renamed “Happy Endings”.

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  4. Mac says:

    More comment on the title:

    Clicked on article to find out what the oddly-named article was about. Then Houston came up in the first paragraph. Houston…A Cougar returns.

    I then suddenly thought Lance Berkman had somehow been traded and was back in with his hometown club and that cougar was some misguided joke about Big Puma’s age.

    Anyway, good to see Snyder getting a job again. Great ballplayer.

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  5. drewcorb says:

    In the second-to-last full paragraph, you mean this is a decent move for Houston right? Not Arizona?

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  6. Baltar says:

    Congrats on the hilarious intro and ending. This is like a funnier version of the excellent science documentary “Connections.”

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    • Courtney Cox says:

      I completely agree with Baltar’s post. Except for the ‘hilarious’ part though – did he/she read the same article? This was dreck.

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  7. reillocity says:

    The gulf between Snyder and Quintero is much narrower than your write-up suggests, Matt.

    Sure, Snyder has a far superior walk rate and more HR power. Defensively, they both score similarly in the framing study with Quintero being stingier with passed balls and better against the stolen base. What Quintero really has going for him over Snyder is the 13 pickoffs he has recorded playing half-time over the last two years – how do we quantify the impact of those stolen outs and the carryover effect that those pickoffs may have on on-base lead aggressiveness?

    They’re pretty much the same guy to me, just with their respective two best skills skewed in two different directions.

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  8. Super Shredder says:

    Sometimes it sucks being an Astros fan. Cust and Snyder? Sigh…so this is what it feels like to live in Pittsburgh.

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  9. Bryz says:

    I gotta say, I like red-haired Laura Prepon WAY more than I like blonde Laura Prepon.

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    • McConaughey says:

      Well, duh, that goes with out saying. Red heads are like left handed pitchers with extreme talent – there is no comparison when all is right.

      On a somewhat related note, has there ever been a worseactor/actress on a program that reached syndication than Prepon? In all seriousness, who is even close?

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  10. Lauren says:

    If you’ve only seen one episode of Cougar Town and you’re calling it awful, then you obviously don’t know what you are talking about.

    Cougar Town is one of the greatest and funniest comedies on TV right now. Watch it again on February 14th and you’ll see what I’m talking about. (I saw an advanced screening of 3 new episodes tonight so I know its good.)

    The show has changed a great deal since it began. Just give something a chance before you go spouting off judgment on the internet. To those of us who actually watch the show and know how good it is, your comments make you sound incredibly ignorant.

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  11. DLoth says:

    Six seasons and a movie.

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  12. jakesprecher says:

    This link: http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?articleid=15093 that is referenced in the article re: catchers framing pitches is informative and interesting. Worth a read!

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  13. Matty Brown says:

    a surprising amount of Cougartown fans amongst us

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  14. Men everywhere says:

    This is what happens when you take baseball away.

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    • The Jean Genie says:

      Amen. This site should actually do that more often & this piece, in spite of its considerable warts, demonstrates that.

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  15. TheBunk says:

    I’ll join in on the praise for Couger Town. It’s a very funny show and a very different one from it’s original incarnation. Give it another try, Matt.

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