Travis Snider: A Work in Progress

by Eno Sarris //

We’ve talked a little in this space about approaching early stats with some skepticism. Eriq Gardner had a great piece reminding us about the Emilio Bonifacios of the world – not all fast-starters turn out great. Tommy Rancel also pointed out some slow starters who would make great waiver wire or trade targets. So, we know not to take too much stock in the first 50 plate appearances of a season.

But there must be something we can figure out from smaller sample sizes. Thankfully, Steve Slowinski from DRaysBay provides an answer. Here are the following levels at which these stats become significant:

Offense Statistics:

  • 50 PA: Swing%
  • 100 PA: Contact Rate
  • 150 PA: Strikeout Rate, Line Drive Rate, Pitches/PA
  • 200 PA: Walk Rate, Ground Ball Rate, GB/FB
  • 250 PA: Fly Ball Rate
  • 300 PA: Home Run Rate, HR/FB
  • 500 PA: OBP, SLG, OPS, 1B Rate, Popup Rate
  • 550 PA: ISO

It follows that statistics based on pitches would become significant earlier: a batter sees anywhere from three to four pitches per plate appearance, so you’re really looking at a sample of 200+ pitches early in the year. Swing percentages and, to a lesser extent, contact rates, don’t leave us with too many tools in the early going. Let’s take a look at Travis Snider with these statistics in mind.

Snider is striking out in almost a third of his at-bats (32.4%), and sports a terrible .118/.286/.265 batting line (through Sunday) that is being held down by his strikeouts as well as his microscopic .136 BABIP. If a few more balls fell into play, his numbers would look a lot better. But these stats are misleading two weeks into the season. Let’s focus on the other tools in our bag right now.

The swing rates favor improvement for Snider. One of Snider’s major weaknesses is his tendency to strike out. And the only statistic that is currently significant, swing percentage, suggests that he may be making progress in that part of his game. Snider’s swing percentage this year is 42.3%, which is down from 48.2% last year. The even better news is that he’s swinging less at pitches outside the zone (21.7% this year, 27.1% last year). So Snider is making progress at discerning bad pitches, which might bode well for his strikeouts.

He’s swinging less, and making about the same contact (69.7% this year, 71.3% last year), but he has another 50 or so plate appearances before that trend starts to become significant. If he can boost the contact rate while keeping the newfound swing rate, his sense of the strike zone will benefit greatly – and so should his batting average.

Another piece of news that we can take away is that his reduced power this year (.147 ISO this year, .178 ISO last year, .229 ISO in minors) is not significant. It won’t be for another 400 plate appearances.  In fact, Snider’s career ISO (.172) was amassed in just 398 plate appearances. That could improve.

SniderGrab.jpgThough it, too, comes in a few plate appearances, perhaps Snider’s spring training slugging percentage can provide a pattern for his future growth. Taken from the Bloomberg Fantasy Tools, the grab on the right shows Snider’s slugging percentage in spring training.

 

Of course the best indicator of Snider’s upside is his terrific minor league performance. He hit a lofty .304/.382/.533 in four minor league seasons, with much of that performance coming in pitcher-friendly leagues and ballparks. He’s also just 22, so there’s plenty of room for improvement.

Snider’s plate discipline is getting better. We’ll have to rely on hope and those minor league statistics when it comes to his power. There’s still a chance he meets his Bloomberg Sports projections (.267, 18 home runs) for the year, or even betters them. Most of the season remains.

For more on struggling young players like Travis Snider, check out Bloomberg Sports Fantasy Tools.

 

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