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Minor League Analysis: Travis Snider

Yesterday saw our Minor Leaguers win two games and lose the other two, not counting our Dominican Summer teenagers, who are so far off from meaningful pro ball that I don't have them in my minor league recaps. The last few days have been highlighted by good pitching performances from Brett Cecil, Drew Hutchison, Deck McGuire, and yesterday Sean Nolin added to that list with a 6 inning scoreless outing, striking out seven while walking one. He retired the last 13 batters he faced and didn't even allow anyone to reach second base. Henderson Alvarez pitched and got lots of groundballs for 7 innings of 2-run ball, but he didn't strike anyone out. Brad Mills struck out six in seven innings, but gave up four runs. Our best hitting prospects had a tough day at the plate for the most part. But not Travis Snider, aka Moonraker, aka Trevor.

Travis Snider, ladies and gentlemen, might not be in Vegas for too much longer if he keeps hitting the ball hard like he has lately. Proof: in 13 June games, Trevor has hit .412/.474/.686. Further proof: he has struck out just five times in June, which is 8.8% of his plate appearances. Behold the history of Moonraker's strikeout tendencies (per PA, not per AB):

Team (year) Strikeout%
Lansing (2007) 25.0%
New Hampshire (2008) 27.4%
Las Vegas (2009) 23.0%
Toronto (2009) 28.3%
Toronto (2010) 24.8%
Toronto (2011) 23.2%
Las Vegas (2011) 15.2%

(more after the jump)

Travis has always had a bit of a problem with strikeouts, although he did always play at a level unusually high for someone his age, and the K-rate did seem to be trending downwards a bit. But now in Vegas he has started to avoid the strikeout like he never has before. True, it did seem to result in more weak contact (he's also setting a career high in groundball percentage) rather than in an actual improvement of his hitting ability early on, but recently it looks like he has turned a corner. But I do need to say this: small. sample. size. The Jays are monitoring Snider's ability to make hard contact more than they're looking at the actual results, so we don't know how pleased they are. But whether you're looking at stats or at balls flying off Moonraker's bat, one has to acknowledge that it's easy for a hitter in the Pacific Coast League to have a stretch where you face several lesser pitches in hitter friendly environments. So I don't expect the Jays to call up Snider very quickly even if he's had great success over a span of 13 games.

Fastball problem?

There's been discussion about Snider's problems for a long time, especially back when he was still with the big club. It focused especially on which pitches Snider couldn't hit, with some arguing he couldn't hit the high fastball, and some arguing he couldn't hit curveballs. So I went to the Pitch F/x data on Texas Leaguers to find out if there's a pitch that can get Snider out very easily.

Pitch (year) Whiff% InPlay% LD% (vsR)
FF (2011) 4.4 16.8 7.1
CB (2011) 25.9 8.2 20.0
SL (2011) 16.7 14.3 20.0
CH (2011) 18.4 24.5 11.1
FF (2010) 13.1 14.9 23.6
CB (2010) 15.7 13.0 22.2
SL (2010) 15.1 17.8 26.3
CH (2010) 16.3 22.1 28.2


Unfortunately the sample is small, but what the data does seem to indicate is that Travis actually might have had the most trouble squaring up the fastball and changeup during his brief 2011 major league season. He did also whiff a lot on curveballs, but considering the sample size and his performance against them in 2010 it's possible he simply fell victim to a few good curveball pitchers who made nice pitches. But I will argue that the curveball is the pitch that Travis struggles most with: he hit about 65% of the curveballs he hit in 2010 on the ground, and did not homer a single time on a curveball. It's also the pitch he put into play the least in both 2011 and 2010. But he's not Pedro Cerrano I think.