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Travis Snider in Pittsburgh

Posted By Eno Sarris On July 31, 2012 @ 1:15 pm In Outfielders,Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Travis Snider is now a Buc, and in the deepest of leagues, he’s probably gone from your waiver wire already. And in the shallowest of leagues, even the biggest fan would have to admit that he’s no sure thing, and that the strikeouts could keep the batting average too low to take advantage of his nascent power. But in the leagues in between, we are stuck wondering how excited to get.

The strikeouts are a problem. Among people his age and younger with his many plate appearances in the big leagues, Snider’s power so far ranks poorly too, though. Among the eight guys with a sub-.200 isolated slugging percentage and all those strikeouts, the only positive signs are Michael Saunders, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Pedro Alvarez.

Snider is coming off one of his better combinations of power and strikeout rate right now, though (17.1% K% and .263 ISO in Triple-A Las Vegas in the PCL). What will the change in leagues do for his strikeout rate? From a game perspective, he gets a new shot at a fresh start — opposing teams won’t have the same book on him, and that might help him make contact more often. Also, he’s moving from one of the best divisions in baseball to one that’s not as good. Except that the average FIP of the teams in the AL East is 4.315 this year, and in the NL Central it’s 4.234. The AL East number is skewed by Baltimore’s 4.77 FIP, though — and the NL East number is skewed by the Cardinals (4.04 FIP). When he’s not facing the Cardinals (and not remembering the Orioles), Snider will generally be facing worse pitching staffs, and that should help. One last thing to note — there are park factors for strikeouts, and Toronto’s (103) is third-worst, and the Pirates (99) is the most hitter-friendly.

Those same park factors tell a different story on the power front though. The Rogers Centre has the seventh-friendliest home run park factor in baseball (105), while PNC Park (94) is the eighth-stingiest. That doesn’t bode well for Snider, who had a .196 ISO in his minor league career (much higher in recent Triple-A stops), but only a .181 ISO so far. Then again, Snider is a lefty and PNC suppresses righty home run power (91) much more than lefty (98).

So the park should hurt his home run power a bit, but help his strikeouts. His division will be about the same when he’s not facing the Cardinals. So, it’s really just about how much you believe in Snider’s development.

He’s talked about making mechanical changes to his batting stance. You can see that he dropped his hands before his swing in the second video below, which is from this year in Las Vegas. The first is from the Futures Game in 2011.

In any case, though he’s been around long enough to accrue 1000 PAs, he’s still not 25. Snider is young and pre-peak. Even the most pessimistic look at power aging curves (provided by Jeff Zimmerman and myself) say that power peaks around 25 years old. With a little nudge in both strikeouts and power, it would be easy to take the ‘over’ on the ZiPs rest-of-season projection (.250/.307/.406). That number suggests a 25.7% strikeout rate and a .156 ISO. He could even walk a little more, looking at those same aging curves and his minor league work. Keep the strikeouts, but up the power to about a .200 ISO, and the walk rate a tad, and you probably have something that looks like .260/.325/.460.

Now we’re talking… tweener. He’s not quite a mixed leaguer with that batting average even if he’s definitely useful in deep leagues because of the power. It might make sense to wait and see in your standard mixed league, unless you are desperate for power.

Thanks to Twitter user Nick Barbour for pointing out Snider’s hands.


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