Another Ian Snell flaw is revealed

Eric Seidman has a great article on Baseball Prospectus today, one I encourage everyone to read. Essentially, Eric looked at how a batter’s perception of a pitch’s velocity differs from the actual velocity due to the pitcher’s release point. The focal point of the article was the Padres’ Chris Young, who has had a pretty successful career despite a fastball that generally sits between 85 and 89 miles per hour. In the sample used by Eric, he found that Young’s release point, which is closer to the plate than an average pitcher’s, boosted his 84.1 MPH fastball to a perceived velocity of 91.1 MPH. That is a huge difference, and it likely explains why Young has had so much success with a below average heater.

You might be wondering what this has to do with the Pirates. Toward the end of his article, Eric posts the results of a small sample of pitchers that he examined. Here we find our old friend, Ian Snell. According to Eric’s results, Snell’s 91.7 MPH fastball appeared to travel at just 87.6 MPH.

Snell lacks a quality third pitch. He is either unable or unwilling to throw inside to hitters. His control is erratic. And now, it turns out that his release point makes his fastball easier to hit. Note: Fan Graphs confirms that Snell’s fastball has never been productive, not even during his solid 2007 season.) It really shouldn’t surprise anyone that he has struggled over the past few years. He simply isn’t that good.


Pujols PH HR Delivers 81st Loss

Poor Ross Ohlendorf. Let’s hope he can pitch like this in 2010 and get more favorable results. With Tony LaRussa resting many of his regulars (Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday among others didn’t start), Ohlendorf struck out 11, walked one and allowed just one unearned run in eight innings. On the other side Mitchell Boggs was also tough againstt he punchless Pirates. The Bucs lone tally was an RBI double from Lastings Milledge that scored Garrett Jones.

The Pirates loaded the bases in the 9th but came up empty.

In the 10th, Albert Pujols clobbered a pitch from Matt Capps for a dinger – about a month after Capps hit him with a pitch and was tossed.Ryan Franklin put two runners on in the bottom of the 10th, but the Pirates failed to tie it up.

The Good

Ohlendorf pushed his ERA under 4.00.

Jones and Milledge combined for five of the Pirates six hits. Jones had three hits and walked twice.

The Bad

Gah – 81 losses.

The offense.

The Rest

Ohlendorf whiffed the side on 9 pitches in the seventh (Khalil Greene, Julio Lugo and Jason LaRue). He became the 40th pitcher ever and the second Pirate ever to do it. Jeff Robinson got Leon Durham, Andre Dawson and Rafael Palmeiro in the 8th inning back on 9/9/87 pitching in relief.

Jones reached base five times in one game for the first time in his career.

Ohlendorf’s 11 whiffs area high water mark for Pirate hurlers in 2009. He and Paul Maholm each tallied 8, in a start. No Pirate starter reached 11 whiffs since Ian Snell on 4/3/07 – his first start of the year. Last time someon got 12 strike outs was Kip Wells (winner for the Reds last night) on 7/5/05.

This was the longest career outing for Mitchell Boggs. His previous high in innings of work was six. This was also a career best in innings for Ohlendorf.

Give Pujols the MVP now.


Pirates trade Wilson, Snell to Seattle; Sanchez next to go?

Via Dejan. Jeff Clement, Ronny Cedeno, Aaron Pribanic, Brett Lorin and Nathan Adcock coming back, with Cedeno joining the Pirates immediately. I am at work now; hope to have more reaction to the deal later tonight.

UPDATE (5:35 PM): This is a very nice haul for the Pirates.  Cedeno is just a temporary middle infield replacement.  He is unlikely to be a very valuable piece for the Pirates, and was probably just a throw-in on this deal.  Clement, on the other hand, has a legitimate bat that would be very valuable if he can stick behind the plate.  That bat is less impressive if he is forced to move to first.  Clement could prove to be a cheaper, younger clone of Ryan Doumit, allowing the Pirates to deal Doumit for more talent.  The three minor league pitchers are all decent prospects, further improving the pitching depth in the lower levels of the system.  This is an excellent return for two months (plus an option) of an aging, average shortstop and a live arm with makeup concerns.  I never expected the Pirates to get so much in return for these two players.

Keep an eye on the PBC Blog (if it doesn’t explode) and the Twitter feed for the rest of the evening.  It looks like we could be close to a Freddy Sanchez trade to the Giants, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see other deals go down before the end of the day.

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Time for Snell’s return?

About a month ago, I took a stab at exploring the mind of Ian Snell. I saw some parallels between his actions and my own personality, and tried to use those parallels to dissect the situation. Here is the final paragraph from that post:

More importantly, what does this mean for Snell’s future on the field? I think that if Snell can regain his confidence, we might see the same Ian that we saw in 2007. The Ian that welcomes all criticism and tries to defeat it between the lines. This may or may not make him a good pitcher again, but it can only help his mental state on the mound. Triple-A just might be the place for him to recapture that confidence.

We are at the point where Snell has regained his confidence. Heck, we may have been there after Snell’s first start at Triple-A, when he struck out 17 Mud Hens. He has thoroughly dominated the Triple-A level, striking out 43 while walking 12 and allowing only two earned runs in 32.1 innings. Clearly, he has major league ability that is simply too good for the International League. It is time for his return to Pittsburgh.

Obviously, it is impossible for me as a fan to properly gauge the relationship between Snell and Pirate management. Judging by the public bickering, it is very possible that the bond is broken beyond repair. Or maybe management simply needs to sit down with Snell and clear the air. Maybe Snell’s teammates in Pittsburgh should be involved in these discussions. Whatever it takes, it is time to work out any differences in a professional manner and get Snell back in Pittsburgh.

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Vasquez Sharp in Bucs Debut

Exit Ian Snell, enter Virgil Vasquez. The Pirates waiver wire acquisition who hadn’t tossed in the Show since 2007 picked up his first career win with six solid innings. He allowed four hits and two runs, while whiffing seven. He took the roster spot of the struggling Ian Snell who was sent to Indianapolis to get straightened out.

The Pirates trailed 2-0 early but came back on the shoulders of three unlikely power sources. Jack Wilson, Nyjer Morgan and Jason Jaramillo each homered to hand the loss to Gil Meche.

Matt Capps finished up by allowing a home run in the 9th and putting the tying run on base.

The Good

Welcome Virgil Vasquez! More, please!

Andrew McCutchen had his hitting streak stopped but reached base on an HBP and BB and scored both times.

The Bad

The offense continues to just get by with enough runs in putting together a three game winning streak.

The Rest

Vasquez joins Steven Jackson as Pirates who notched their first career win in 2009.

Vasquez’ seven K performance is second best on the team in June. He topped seven whiffs at AAA Indy this season just once.

Jack Wilson has raised his BA 20 points in the last 10 games by hitting safely in 9 of 10 contests and piling up four multi-hit games.

What is inside Ian Snell’s head?

Dejan Kovacevic’s article on Ian Snell this morning got me thinking a bit. As Snell’s forgettable season has unfolded, culminating in yesterday’s demotion, most fans have grown increasingly frustrated with him. Here is an attempt to paraphrase the most common complaints: “Snell is cocky and selfish, blaming everyone and everything but himself for his struggles, despite the fact that he is the one pitching poorly. He needs to be put in his place. He needs to ride a minor league bus for a while, instead of lounging around, enjoying his multi-million dollar contract.” I admit, those thoughts have gone through my head at times this year. But I think there is a larger, underlying issue here. This is a classic case of small man’s disease. We have all seen instances of this complex. An undersized male tries to compensate for his small stature by picking unnecessary fights with his larger peers. But I would argue that there are other forms of this issue.

For those that don’t know me, I am a 25-year-old adult male that is 5’7″ soaking wet. I am not a big guy. I am shorter than half the women that I know. I know how it feels to be the smallest person on a baseball diamond. I have felt the rush of blocking an attempted lay-up from a man a foot taller than I am. I have chased that feeling, yearned for it. If you visualize that feeling, you will see Ian Snell in 2007. Snell is not very small by normal human standards, but he has been doubted his entire life by the baseball community because of his size. In 2007, he thrived on those doubts. He used it as motivation and he experienced success. Baseball was fun for this underdog.

But life as the underdog is not always fun. Sometimes you leap for a rebound, and you are only able to brush the shoulders of the guy who grabbed the ball without jumping. For those with some form of small man’s disease, it can be difficult to fail. I am a pretty laid-back guy, so I am generally able to handle this issue fairly well. But I can get unnecessarily defensive when I am told that I cannot do something or that I do not do it well. Make a joke insinuating that I am a poor parallel parker, and I might react as if you just insulted my intelligence. It is silly and childish. It is my version of small man’s syndrome.  It is similar to what we are seeing from Ian Snell. He is struggling and has lost confidence in his pitching. Thus, he is excessively defensive about any criticism regarding his performance. I am laid-back, so my defensive actions seem minor (at least, I think they are minor). Ian is a fiery guy, so his defense mechanism is amplified.

I think this excerpt from Dejan’s article says it best:

Davila’s influence on Snell includes passing along to him many of the articles, from newspapers and blogs, with negative references about him. For a time, they seemed to help fuel Snell’s success, especially 2007, his best season with a 3.76 ERA. Jeff Andrews, the Pirates’ previous pitching coach, often would exchange playful insults with Snell as a way of motivating him.

In the past year, though, it appeared to swing the other direction.

When things are going well, Ian loves the criticism. He feeds off it. Remember the Ian Snell insult game from WHYGAVS a couple years ago? Pat acknowledged that Snell pitched better when he was angry about something, so he proceeded to post an insult every time Ian made a start. Now that Snell no longer believes in himself, he is caving under the pressure and attempting to deflect blame to others at all opportunities.

So what does it mean? Two things, I think. First, Snell is probably not the jerk that fans seem to think he is. By most accounts, he is often described as “a good guy with some maturity issues.” Continuing the parallel between Ian and my own personality, I think most people would describe me as “a good guy who can get pretty childish if someone insults his ability to properly make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.” I know it is not a perfect analogy, but think of it this way. If the only quotes that the general public ever heard from me came immediately after I ruined a PB&J and someone called me out on it, I would probably come off as a major jerk. The only time we hear from Snell is after he pitches and a reporter asks him what went wrong. We just might not have enough information to fairly judge his character based on those situations alone.

More importantly, what does this mean for Snell’s future on the field? I think that if Snell can regain his confidence, we might see the same Ian that we saw in 2007. The Ian that welcomes all criticism and tries to defeat it between the lines. This may or may not make him a good pitcher again, but it can only help his mental state on the mound. Triple-A just might be the place for him to recapture that confidence.


For the record, I make a fantastic PB&J.

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McCutchen Rallies Bucs Past Tribe

Anyone here not impressed by Andrew McCutchen. The Bucs rookie CF was involved in all three Pirate runs – scoring once and driving in two – as the Pirates erased a two run deficit against Cliff Lee.

Lee and Ross Ohlendorf each allowed two runs in seven innings of work. Neither got the decision. That would be left to the bullpens. Both relief corps walked the bases loaded in the 8th. For the Pirates John Grabow walked three but escaped when he whiffed Ryan Garko. Earlier in the inning Nyjer Morgan tracked down a long fly off the bat of Victor Martinez. Joe Smith walked two in 1/3 IP and Rafael Perez walked one, but got Jason Jaramillo to ground into an inning ending DP.

Matt Herges was on in the 9th but gave up three straight singles – to Jack Wilson, Eric Hinske and Cutch – for a walk off win for the Pirates. Matt Capps tossed the 9th for his first win of the year.

The Good

Have to be happy taking 2 of 3.

Ohlendorf was fine, allowing five hits and three walks in seven.

McCutchen has a 13 game hitting streak.

The Bad

The offense continues to gimp along. There was clutchness when it counted most tonight.

The Rest

This was the fourth time this year Ohlendorf pitched seven or more innings. Ian Snell has gone that far just three times. Jeff Karstens pitched seven or more just once in his 10 starts before being pulled from the rotation.

A scary thought hit me that Cutch’s start is too reminiscent of Chris Duffy’s hot start back in 2005.

Jack Wilson had his fifth game this year with three or more hits. He had just five such games in all of 2008.