Friday, April 29, 2011

Another Detour Through Vegas

The news that Travis Snider had been sent down to Las Vegas following yesterday's game was not exactly a surprise, but it was still unexpected. Coming into the season, there was some notion that the back and forth to the minors and back was over, and that a new regime wouldn't be quite so quick to sit the youngster down or make him pay even more dues.

Well, maybe...not so much.

If you wanted to look at the boxscores, you could note that he expanded on a five-game hitting streak yesterday, but even the positives for Snider have looked ugly and accidental in recent weeks. His four hits in the Texas series were all singles, and not the "screaming-liner-hit-too-hard-to-take-two" sort of single. More of the "I-just-wanna-get-my-bat-on-this" variety.

As much as we love Snider, and root for him to emerge into the 30-homer mid-lineup star that we think he can be, he has looked like a man battling himself in the batters' box all season. He lunges at offspeed pitches, opens up on anything soft or with movement, and perhaps worst of all, he's a fastball hitter who is having fastballs thrown through his bat. He hasn't hit a homer since game five of the season, and in the intervening 20 games, has managed three doubles, one multi-hit game, and 19 strikeouts versus eight walks.

We've said before that a trip to Vegas in all likelihood would serve as batting practice for Snider, who has shown that he can tear up minor league hitting. Still, an extended streak of good hitting, regardless of the opposition, couldn't hurt.

We're not sure if Snider needs this. Whenever he comes back up, we'll still be holding our collective breath to see if he can eventually show a more regular ability to hit major league pitching. So there's an element to this which makes us feel as though the team is merely perpetuating the cycle.

But Snider needs something to change, and in the absence of a better idea to shake him out of his funk, this will do. For now.

The End of the Line? Hardly.
Because this is the fourth season in which Snider has pulled on the Blue Jays' colours at the big league level, some aspects of the fan base have begun to get impatient with his progress. We've had a number of people comment to us on how Travis is "a disappointment", or even that "he's done". And with the demotion, that point of view only gains more traction.

But given the fact that Snider is still only 23 (a reasonable age for a player's first year in the Bigs instead of his fourth), such pronouncements are premature to say the least.

Further to that point: The comp that is coming up (including from the general manager himself, as noted in Parkes' nice rundown of the AA conference call) is Alex Gordon, the one-time untouchable, super-awesome, can't-miss prospect who has scuffled over the past four seasons with Kansas City. After another demotion last season, Gordon has come back and had a decent start to the season for the Royals, striking out less and making better contact.

But here's the salient point on that comp: Alex Gordon's rookie season in Major League Baseball was in 2007, as a 23 year-old.

There's still plenty of time for Travis Snider to right himself, and he's shown in the past that he has the capability to be an above average hitter for stretches. He's displayed enough raw talent with the bat to lead us to believe that with some additional seasoning, he'll provide plus-power for the Jays, sooner rather than later.


William Tasker - Caribou, ME said...

I am disappointed he was sent down. Like you said, he has nothing left to prove in Triple A. His leash should have been a lot longer.

The Ack said...

In the clear light of daybreak, I was a little calmer about the demotion than last eve (obviously). But then AA said some things at the explanatory presser that set me off - the bit about how Snider was hurting the team offensively and they had an obligation to win as many games as possible.

I'm sorry - I still love Anthopoulos as GM, but that's just disingenuous and I can't not call him out on it.

Letting Jo-Jo Reyes work his shit out in the big-league rotation is not giving the Jays the best chance to win.

Having Rivera play in left field everyday is not giving the team the best chance to win.

Running Molina out there three days per week is not giving the team the best chance to win, nor is it doing anything for JPA's (or, dare I say it, the rotation's) development.

Having Chris Woodward as an emergency replacement is not giving the team the best chance to win.

So I remain confused. Is this a building year or not? And if it is, does the definition of "building" include penciling in a patchwork lineup of placeholders in the big leagues? Because I didn't sign up for a season where the Pattersons and McCoys on the roster are good for a big chunk of at-bats. Theoretically speaking, of course.

I just don't know.

(and there goes my weekend post....)

MudvilleNine said...

Fantastic piece.

@theAck I caught that "snider hurting the team" out, too. When I re-read it, it sounded more like a writer's opinion than a direct quote from the front clearly after your rant, I must go back for a third read of Lott. That is unless I should be reading your source if it wasn't that?

Mark said...

I don't see why Snider isn't given 500+ AB to work through it. Yeah, he looks awful right now, but you need to give him a full seasons worth of AB's in the majors to see what you have in him. He has to be able to work through his failures. Even last year he sucked in April, before killing the ball in May.

Sending him down to AAA just leaves us with the same question we had this year - Is Travis Snider good enough to play at the major league level?

We'll never know until we actually let him play.

Tao of Stieb said...

Good points all.

One point that I neglected to make was to contrast the guy getting called up with Snider.

In the preseason, AA made mention of the fact that the team tracks "hard hit balls", and that Cooper actually had the most HHB in their system last year. His numbers didn't show as much, but he was the victim of some bad luck (at least according to the front office.)

Snider, through the small sample of 99 ABs has not suffered through bad luck. If anything, I'd argue that he's been luck that his numbers don't look worse.

Snider's problem is right now is that he is just not hitting the ball with any amount of authority because of how bad his swing has become, and how much he's flying open and getting fooled on pitches.

Snider has the athleticism to get his bat on some of those balls, but he's been lucky to land a few soft base hits here and there. Otherwise, we're talking about a guy hitting close to .100 through 15-20% of the season.

I hate that they sent Snider down, but let's not kid ourselves into thinking he looked as though he was on his way to working things out. He was getting worse, and he was worse than his numbers suggest.

Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more with this post. Something had to give. The kid has lost his confidence and something had to be done before losing him completely. At this point i don't think there was any benefit to sending him out against major league pitching for another 2-3 months. Sending him down to AAA to regain his mojo is a wise move in my opinion. And if an overhaul of his swing mechanics is in order, it will be much more easily implemented in AAA than against major league pitching.

As always,
Go Jays!

Patrick said...

Great post as usual, Tao. I hope it doesn't take more than a few weeks for Snider to sort this out.

We posted today on this an other recent Blue Jays topics: (Includes some reassurance that the Summer of Jo-Jo may still be alive!) said...

Here, I don't actually consider it is likely to have effect.