Monday, July 04, 2011

Remaking Travis Snider

When Travis Snider was sent to the minors by the Toronto Blue Jays after just twenty-five games, it was a shock. For a player many consider to be the "Franchise," it was an ignoble way to exile the still 23 year old outfielder. Many of this writer's blogging buddies from up Toronto way were less shocked. According to those astute observers, Snider seemed lost at the plate and had lost any idea of what he was doing. This writer simply thought it was an early season slump that could have been waited out. Time will tell which side of the coin was correct. What does seem evident judging from the minor league numbers is that Snider is ready to come back to the majors and was recalled today. The Jays DFed Juan Rivera, so Blue Jays fans won't have him to kick around anymore.

It's hard not to be impressed by what Travis Snider did in Las Vegas in the Triple A. His slash line there was .333/.403/.488. But if you look deeper at the numbers he put up there, a question is raised as to what the Blue Jays hoped to accomplish there. There seemed to be a lessening of emphasis on Snider's prodigious power and more of an emphasis on contact.

As any Blue Jays' fan can tell you, Snider has unbelievable power. He's hit some amazing shots in his early career. But with a new manager in town, one that spent the last few seasons of his career in the Boston organization, Snider's 26 percent strikeout rate combined with a six percent walk rate didn't cut it with the new regime. The Red Sox meme has been to wear out pitchers with high pitch counts and extra base runners. That philosophy has flown in the face of the Blue Jay way, which is to be aggressive and drive the ball. Snider's early career resembled the latter and not the former.

But in the minors this year, that all seemed to change. The homers were way down. Snider only hit two while in Las Vegas in 226 plate appearances. But his strikeout rate plummeted from his normal 26 to 29 percent to 16.4 percent. Is that a short sample fluke or a concentrated effort to change Snider's approach? This observer believes it's the latter. Lower strikeouts, a higher walk rate, lower home run rate and higher doubles rate seem to indicate a shift in Snider's approach and a concerted effort to give Snider better tools to succeed at the major league level.

And this approach makes sense to this writer. Kevin Youkilis was first a walk/contact machine before he started hitting for power too. Ben Zobrist is another example where you make contact first and get on base and the power will come organically. Before them, George Brett was the perfect example. The first order of business is to make sure Travis Snider can consistently produce at the major league level and then worry about how many of his balls travel out of the park. With Snider's power, those numbers will come as he gets comfortable and gets to produce on a regular basis.

Blue Jay fans have waited a long time for Travis Snider to become the kind of player they have been salivating about. He's been a hero for a long time and his Twitter handle of @lunchboxhero45 shows  the kind of kid Snider is. He works hard and wants to succeed. That makes him a player to root for with hope that he makes it and succeeds. It is hoped the Blue Jays are patient with him if he doesn't produce right away. Snider has all the makings of a great major league hitter. He just needs to find his groove. Perhaps the Blue Jays have now given him the tools to do just that.

No comments: