Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What's wrong with Travis playing right?

Throughout the offseason, as futile conversations were held over potential acqusitions, folks were careful not to espouse anyone whose best position might be left field or batters box, lest that new body take away at bats from Adam Lind or Travis Snider. Because, it would seem, it is a fait accompli that Snider is going to have to play left field this season. End of discussion.

This leaves us asking: Why it is that people are so down on Snider as a right fielder? With only 28 career games in right, it's difficult to draw much of a conclusion from the metrics, such as they are. (He posts a career 1.7 UZR/150 in right, although that number barely means anything given the sample size.)

Qualitatively, Snider wasn't a graceful fielder in right last season, but we chalk that up to his following in the elegantly smooth strides of the Gazelle. Most teams don't have an high level defensive center fielder playing in right as the Jays did for the past few years, so maybe our sense of things is skewed. Snider runs hard, lays out, occasionally makes the wrong throw and takes some odd routes to the ball, but he seems athletic enough to play the position, at least in the short term. What sort of bulk gets added to that stocky frame, and how it will affect his mobility is an open question, but the Jays don't need to resolve tomorrow's problems before they become problems.

If the thing that is standing between the Jays making a run at Johnny Damon is the belief that Snider can't hang out in right, then that's not much of an argument. Let's not preemptively remove our own roster flexibility.

47 comments:

Steve Guttenberg said...

Snider is only going in to his age 22 season, so I wouldn't write him off as a defensive liability yet; defense, at least the fundamentals and common sense can be improved with a player still only that age. He moves well for a bigger guy and his arm seems to be less of a liability than a number of guys we've had out there over the years. I don't see him with any defensive trophies at the end of the year, but as he matures I think he can be a servicable Major League corner outfielder.

Also, will be re-making 'How the West Was Fun' with the Olsen twins this spring with a Christmas release. Look for it in theatres; could eclipse 'The Godfather Pt. II' on the top 100 movies of all time if my projections are correct.

Hilleraj said...

Especially considering that the Jays will (hopefully) be moving an aging Vernon Wells over to left in the coming years, getting Snider used to playing RF in the vast confines of the Skrogers Centrome would probably be a good idea. I mean, if Bobby Abreu can play RF at the major-league level, it can't really be THAT hard... Plus, isn't RF where we'd always stash the fat kid, anyway?

Tao of Stieb said...

Abreu is precisely the guy who comes to mind for me when I think about the slugs who ramble about in right field. Snider's gotta be as useful as Bobbyman out there.

Gil Fisher said...

I'm not opposed to Snider in RF at all.

But JBau has the skillset to play there too, while it remains to see whether his platoon partner does (Jeremy Reed, the real McCoy).

Anonymous said...

Sure, put Snidey in right. At the very least, you are going to get lots of Canseco-like highlight reels

mike in boston said...
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mike in boston said...

this is the year you devote to finding out just how bad both Lind and Snider are in the field. If they're even remotely average then you leave them there and fill the DH spot with the best hitting FA in '11 unless that person is a better fielder than Snider or Lind. If one of them can't hack it then you move him to DH in '11 and start looking for a CF in the FA market.

This team cannot hope to compete by the draft alone. They will have to sign high priced FAs to fill positions of need. Finding out what you have is the first step in that process, which is why giving Bautista RF is a huge waste of time and evidence of continued organizational dysfunction.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I am not convinced that all these OF's are going to be on the opening day roster. Not allowing Snider to play is a major mistake imho.

Ty said...

I've said it before, but I'll say it again because it bugs me so much: I'm almost 100% certain that Cito thinks Snider came up as a left fielder, and that's why he's going to be playing there next year.

Exhibit A:
"What's unfair to him is that he was playing left field the whole time he was in Triple-A, and once Rios got picked up on waivers, then they put him in right field," Gaston said. "So he's been used to playing left field, and to change is hard... He's been used to playing left field, and to change is hard. He might find it easier -- left field is tougher to play -- but unfairly to him, he had to go to right field. "
(from http://toronto.bluejays.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090826&content_id=6632364&vkey=news_tor&fext=.jsp&c_id=tor)

In the very same article, Snider tells us "I've played right field my whole amateur career."

The verdict: that's just fucking stupid.

Peter D said...

Snider has made 17 errors in 158 minor league games in RF and made 3 errors in 39 major league chances (20 games) in RF.

He probably can't play RF at the major league level, and will make a bunch of mistakes and look bad, however, really what does the team have to lose.

Ian H. said...

I heard Snider's interview on the Fan last night, and apparently he also played catcher and first base when he was younger. Flexibility!

Ty said...

Peter, errors can be a pretty misleading stat and I wouldn't write off a guy's abilities in RF based on how many of them he made there before his 22nd birthday.

Ari said...

Tao, I think the second last sentence should read "is the belief that Snider CAN'T hang out in right...".

Ian, every good baseball player growing up experiences every position across the diamond. My college team's starting C this past year saw time at every other position, including P.

The idea that Snider can't play RF and Lind can't play the OF is absurd, an idiotic Cito fabrication that is going to cost this team because Beeston remains loyal to the fucking idiot. There is absolutely no reason to not use 2010 to make sure that Snider can't play RF, Lind can't play LF, and Wallace can't play 3B. Moving people off their most valuable defensive position before you've established they can't handle it (when it costs you nothing to have a peek because you aren't competing anyway) is lunacy.

Tao of Stieb said...

The Manager is just full of negativity. "He can't" and "he doesn't" and "it's too hard"...it's all shite.

Not that I'm a big proponent of rah-rah cheerleading managers, but they've got to be better than having Eeyore filling out the lineup.

Ty said...

It's bizzarre though because Cito's reasoning behind that kind of thinking is that he's protecting his players' confidence by keeping them away from situations that he perceives as being too hard for them to handle... I just can't believe that nobody's ever explained to him how wrong he is.

Anonymous said...

Well Bautista's problems are with the bat -- he looks like a pretty decent outfielder when he's out there -- gun for an arm. So you play him in right against lefties and play Snider in right against righties as you say until he proves he's a liability. I mean he looks awkward, but it's not like he's Jack Cust or anything. Moving a sub-average fielder around is not going to hurt his development IMO. If anything it'll focus his mind on that side of the game. Lind, on the other hand, can't really play any position he's being asked to play now (he was a 1B in college I think) so you're stuck DHing him which of course is not an ideal spot for a young player if you want a competitive AL batting order. I'd trade him for a young outfielder with a similar skill level and upside. His trade value might never be higher. Even if you move Overbay and try Lind at first, you create a problem with Wallace, who no one thinks will be a good defensive 3B. And you block Ruiz, whose numbers I'd love to see after about 400 ABs, and maybe ultimately Snider, who looks like a first baseman to me.

We also have Encarnacion to think about, especially if he bounces back from his one poor year (during which he was injured). So it's EE, Wallace, Lind, Overbay, Ruiz, and maybe Snider down the road for two positions. Two of those guys have to be moved. Overbay is Casey Kotchman at twice the salary and is hard to trade (maybe at the deadline?). In the meantime, given Cito's history, I'm guessing we see platoons all over the diamond.

And I can't see how Wallace starts with the big club unless there's a trade.

KC

Peter D said...
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Peter D said...

Errors tend to be a misleading stat for infielders and OF's with significant range. However if your right fielder has just average range, and projects to make 20 errors in a full season, that is not good.

With that said, I am agreeing with Tao, there is no significant reason for not playing Snider in RF this reason. One of three things will happen:

a) He will be worse than expected and the team will know going forward that it's just not going to work for Snider in RF.
b) He will be as advertised and make about 20 errors, which is not good enough for a major league right fielder and he will move over to left field next year.
c)He will show improvement and the potential to be a capable right fielder. Jays fans rejoice.

dave57 said...

Wow Peter did you even read the post about the trouble with projecting errors? It seems strange to me that that you would move a couple 20 somethings out of the field when as butterfield has showed us over the years defense can be taught.
I also think that its interesting to see that Lind is actually a more effective hitter when playing LF vs DHing. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/split.cgi?n1=lindad01&year=2009&t=b
I really hope to see both of them in the outfield on a daily basis and see if they can be serviceable fielders, its not like you have anything to lose. I don't trust that Cito will let that happen but then again I don't trust that Cito will remember the name of the reliever hs putting in the game either.
FREE RANDY RUIZ

Tao of Stieb said...

You know, I have seen some fat slow stupid bastards playing right field in my time, and Snider looks to at least be a step up over those dudes.

Faint praise!!!1

Mylegacy said...

Clearly Snider is going to be a big part of the future and this year is a "lets see what they can do year" - SO - play Lind in LF and Snider in RF. Defense can be taught if the guy has any athletic ability - Snider has a LOT of athletic ability. IF we can get Dopriak or Ruiz bat into the lineup at DH I think that would make us a better team now - and going forward - than we'd have by not letting the kids play the field. IF they can't cut it - so be it - but - give the guys the chance.

Mark said...

The way I see it, Lind shouldn't be an OF. He takes brutal routes, his arm is pretty weak, and in limited time he's produced a very poor UZR. I figure long term he's either a 1B/DH type.

It probably wouldn't hurt Snider to play in RF this year just to see if he can handle it. Long-term I still see him as a LF though, and that's probably because he throws left handed. Anything that's hit down the left field line is an easier play for him than a guy who throws right handed.

For what it's worth I remember Tabler said something similar about Snider being a long term LF. I don't know if that helps or hurts my argument though...

Peter D said...

Dave57, where in my comment did I say that I would move Snider out of RF (or Lind out of LF for that matter?)

dave57 said...

where did I say you did? I just said that projecting errors is not an exact science. Which I think is fair. It seems to me that everyone but Cito would actually like to see what the kid can do out there.

Peter D said...

"It seems strange to me that that you would move a couple 20 somethings out of the field "

Maybe the you, was intended to be the universal 'you' and not directed at me?

My intention was not to project errors, but to comment on Snider's historical errors, which I think is two very different things. We know that Snider has averaged about 20 errors over a full season in RF in the past, if he does this again, I don't think his future is in RF, that is unless he somehow develops incredible range, which we can pretty much rule out.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I know a lot of people are down on Bautista, but he hit the ball pretty well at the end of last year when he got to play everyday. We could do worse for what he makes(insert your favorite Wells salary punchline here). Not saying he's better then Snider, because there's no way that's true, but give Bautista a chance. I never expected him to hit 25 homers, but it isn't impossible. I just doubt he can do it from the lead-off spot. Nonetheless, this is a Snider thread, and I wanted to throw in my two cents about Bautista because he came up. I am, however, in agreement that Snider should be able to handle RF, and if not, move him to left. NO big deal. I just dont think people should sleep on Bautista.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

***Slaps himself***

dave57 said...

It really was a universal you and not a direct you sorry for the confusion.
Again I don't think its fair to project errors. He may well end up with 20 errors in a full season, I just don't think you can reliably predict that based on his minor league performance. That was my only point on your post.

Hilleraj said...

I don't really see any problem, line-up wise, giving Lind and Snider full-time duties in the corner OF spots. Overbay and Bautista are the perfect platoon partners, and JoBau has even played some (very limited) time at first base... and error-free time, I might add (wooo sample size!). In all seriousness (isn't it a little ironic that "seriousness" actually sounds kind of made-up?), 1B should be the last resort for ANY player the Jays plan on keeping around for 2011 and beyond... so we might as well let the guys who we don't see as being long-term solutions earn their vast paycheques lazily picking all those perfect throws from Johnny Mac, and watching in disgust as E5 airmails balls into the stands behind them. Ruiz and Dopriak can slug it out for the DH role this year, knowing that, in all likelihood, they won't be there for long.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

"1B should be the last resort for ANY player the Jays plan on keeping around for 2011 and beyond"

I TOTALLY AGREE Hilleraj! We aren't going to be a competitive team regardless of when if we have 5 1B's on the roster. AA has already stated he sees Lind as DH, which is perfectly fine, but that leaves Overbay, Ruiz, Cooper, Dopirak and Wallace all looking for playing time (I assume that Overbay will be gone next season). If we cant get some players to play the corner OF spots, we're going to have a problem...

Excellent statement.

andy mc said...

Lind's defensive metrics for 2009 were bad, yes, but they were much better for 2007-2008, when he played there more regularly. Check it out. He actually improved greatly with the experience.

Snider actually has a plus arm, the only thing you need to play RF over LF. What makes a LF'r is a rubber arm, not range. Snider has the arm to play RF.

I would argue that:

vs LHP JoBau should be playing RF, with Snider in LF, Lind at DH, and Ruiz at 1B.

vs. RHP, Overbay 1B, Lind LF, Snider RF and Ruiz DH.

Problem solved.

Hilleraj said...

At first, I was thinking something along the same lines as Andy... a massive switcheroo depending on the pitching match-up. I shied away from this for two reasons, though:

1) We aren't trying to field the most competitive team that we can. We're looking to give young players a chance to prove that they can play every day at the Major League level. Switching players back and forth every 2-3 games will stop them from getting the consistent , in-game experience which I think is crucial at this stage in development. I'd much rather inconvenience JoBau slightly by making him play 1B, than mess with Snider by shuffling him around all season.

2) The plan requires a competent manager, who has the foresight to actually, you know, consider which side the opposing pitcher will be throwing from, when he fills out the line-up. Chances are, Cito will be so impressed by JoBau's first game playing in RF that he'll hand him the starting job some time in early May, and proceed to comment that he wants to try stretching Snider out into a starting pitcher, or something to that effect. Young talent and time to test it we have - a sensible manager, we do not.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

Hilleraj - amen.

Brian Tallet's Moustache said...

That's a good point - let's just stretch Snider out as a starter. Frees up some of the positional logjam, and maybe he could even pinch hit occasionally when he's not pitching. He'd be a decent bat off the bench, eh?

Anonymous said...

Keep in mind that the ball comes off the bat differently for a right handed hitter and tails away when it's hit to right. Just because you can play LF well doesn't necessarily mean you can play RF well without a bit of practice/experience. So it doesn't surprise me that Snider would make more errors in RF than LF at an early age.

Dustin McGowan's Sideburns said...

I certainly cannot put into words my dumbfounded confusion over the spring training invite list... we have SO MANY PITCHERS! We have too many first basemen (or at least projected ones). And some scrubby OF's.

I just cannot imagine how this team is going to look come opening day. It's going to be a hot mess!

How much would it screw things up if Wallace makes the team in spring training? LOL - granted, he could probably hit 20hr in the spring, hit 500 and still not make the team. He is destined for the minors regardless of what he does I think.

Maybe the Jays are trying to set a MLB record for pitchers invited to Spring Training. It's hard to imagine more then 12 or 13 making the roster, and some of them (Like Zinicola, Hill, McGowan) have to stay on the 40-man unless we want to risk losing them (though Dusty will be on the DL most likely).

It's going to be an interesting few months...

P.S. - GO TRAVIS!

Aaron Hill said...

anybody hear that clown tom dakers on that "hot stove TV" interview? what a fucking idiot. sounds as dumb as his writing is bad.

the guy from hot stove says "hows it going up there in toronto?"

stupid tom dakers (not even from toronto, actually lives in bum fuck alberta) "its winter, should warm up in about three months"

HAHAHAA! good one tom. make the ignorant americans more ignorant of canada and toronto especially, where there is hardly any snow on the ground now and will be 15C in a few weeks, unlike bum-fuck northern alberta, where the stereotype holds true. no wonder they laugh on US TV when the possibility of the Jays doing anything or chris bosh staying, with winners like tom dakers taking questions and misrepresenting a place and people he knows nothing about (toronto)

great job. the rest of the interview is embarrassing as a jays fan as well. and this tool really thinks he is a professional baseball analyst/writer of some kind.

right on tomo, keep up that great work, dipshit!

Anonymous said...

The ball tails off the same way into LF off of lefties. Also, way more balls are hit to LF, making the left fielder that much more busy, which equals more chances and more opportunities to screw up.

I played a lot of LF, but could never hack RF, only because of my inability to hold runners at second base. The position and the way it plays is almost identical to LF.

Gil Fisher said...

Not to mention Snider's been exclusively a right fielder since high school.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:07

I agree, but didn't make it clear in my rambling comment above. Any competent RF can play left competently, and it doesn't hurt Snider to try him at both positions. But both Snider and Lind look like they'll end up at 1B based on what they showed so far.

Lind WAS getting better with playing time in left two years ago, as someone above suggested. Maybe you just leave him there for three months and see how ugly it is. He has a decent arm.

KC

Bitey said...

I think the last time Snider played right last season, he had that ball go through his legs. He'll probably never get another chance with Cito as the manager.

Anonymous said...

where's that guy who said Snider & Lind in the outfield is a bad idea because the young pitching staff needs support from the field? Wasn't that an accepted line of reasoning around here last week?

Tao of Stieb said...

Last week was last week. Daddy's home, and there's new rules around here.

Hilleraj said...

For some reason, up until about 2 minutes ago, I couldn't put my finger on why I didn't think that above-average outfield defense was particularly important for a developing pitching staff... it's amazing what kind of clarity a boring, snowy day at the office can bring. So here it is:

I think it's safe to assume that the goal of an average defender - be they in- or outfielder - is to not commit errors. Errors prolong innings, and frustrate pitchers (and fans, but we don't count). Young pitchers, when faced with a defense that is error-prone, tend to try to do too much themselves. They want to strike everyone out, because the thought of giving up ground balls (which should be every pitcher's goal) is no longer, in their minds, a good thing. This gets them away from their game-plans, and limits their growth as professionals. I think we can all agree that errors are bad... but very VERY rarely are errors made on routine fly balls (unless your last name rhymes with "Banseco" - not a real word). Without bothering with fancy argument tools, such as statistical proof, I think it should still be pretty obvious that errors are much more likely to occur on a typical infield play than an outfield one, as there are at least three separate actions on which an error can occur (field, throw, catch), as opposed to the one catch made by an outfielder to record an out. So having a good defensive infield should be a priority if you're looking to reduce the number of errors your team commits.

Well then, you might ask (or you might not... that's why I ask it for you!) what is an outfield defense good for? The simple answer is: Run Prevention. Great outfielders get to those balls hit deep into gaps, and turn well-hit line drives into highlight-reel outs. This is awesome if you're looking to win close ball games... but if a young pitcher makes a mistake, and leaves a pitch where he shouldn't, just to be bailed out by an amazing outfield snag, the lesson isn't necessarily learned. I'd love to spend another paragraph or two elaborating, and beating the point home... but this is Tao's blog, and I think my point is pretty clear. I'll finish with this, though: I would much rather get my pitchers used to having a sub-par outfield defense, then upgrade a year or two down the line, rather than handicap the growth (and roster flexibility) of my team, just to win a couple ball games in a meaningless season.

nellybud said...

i prefer snider in LF with wells moving to RF ASAP.

i don't think anyone who is paying attention thinks wells should be playing CF (AA has to move him out of CF soon, right?)... so the question boils down to which allignment provides better defence wells in RF and snider in LF... or vice versa?

IMO, the obvious answer is that wells will be playing RF soon... so i'd be inclined to give snider LF now and tell he's there for the long term and let him concentrate on raking.

Anonymous said...

Only both AA and Cito have said they like Wells in CF. So forget it, even if it makes a lot of sense. Only problem is Wells' arm is average, while Bautista piled up the assists in limited playing time there last year.

Signing Chavez, provided he's not diminished by the operation, makes more and more sense, even if they stubbornly keep VW in centre.

John said...

This coming from an organization that had the likes of John McDonald, Frank Menechino (?), and even Shitske playing in RF. Seriously what's the harm in seeing if these kids can hang it in the OF. It's not like you have a vastly superior defender being bumped.