Tag Archives: Travis Snider

Fight or flight: Impaling Lind’s spirit?

I know it’s en vogue to analyze teams and players strictly by the statistics available about them. There is definitely something to do be said for the value of statistics and basing organizational decisions on as much information as humanly possible. Math(!) is a good thing.

But, as much as I value math and people who are really, really good at it, I do think some people have a tendency to take the numbers too far. Baseball players are human beings and there’s a definite human element to their performance — unless the player in question is a Roy Halladay-like cyborg, of course.

Except for 2009 and a brief period of last season, Adam Lind has proven that he is not a good MLB hitter. Despite that, the team keeps running him out to first base everyday and, until very recently, he was batting cleanup on a daily basis.

Why does the team keep running Sleepy out there despite his obvious deficiencies? Well, he has shown that he has the potential to crush MLB pitching and he’s currently signed to a very team-friendly contract, so why not give him the chance to figure things out?

And, even if he didn’t have those things going for him, who would the team replace him with? David Cooper? Ha!

The only legitimate internal option is the trifecta of moves oft-mentioned by fans: Travis Snider promoted and installed in left field; Eric Thames moved to DH; and Edwin Encarnacion taking over first. In theory, I like those moves. In reality, it doesn’t seem likely as team management seems committed to finally giving Snider some stability and leaving him at one level (Triple-A) for an extended period.

Human beings, when threatened, generally go into fight or flight mode. Confront the problem head on or run away from it and hope for the best. Some, but not all, lapse into a sort of contentment when they’re not really threatened.

I won’t pretend to know what goes on in Lind’s head, but given his previous comments about how much he hates working out, I wouldn’t be surprised if he tends to feel content when he’s not pushed. Struggling at the plate? “Big whoop, what are they going to do? Call up Cooper?”

If that’s his attitude — and it may well not be, but hear me out — maybe he needs a push.

The team may have given him that push on Thursday.

At 37, Vladimir Guerrero is a shell of his former self. But the shell of a likely Hall of Famer is better than what Lind’s been doing lately. That Toronto signed the Impaler to a minor-league deal can only be viewed by Lind as a threat to his job security.

If Guerrero can prove in the minors that he’s got anything left in the tank, the team could easily improve its offence by moving Encarnacion to first and letting Vladdy DH while Lind rides the pine. Not only would it be a good move in terms of improving the offence, it’d have to be a PR score, too. Employing the services of a Montreal Expos legend isn’t exactly going to hurt.

Of course, there is always the possibility that Lind, sensing that he’s threatened, fights for his job and does whatever it takes to get as close to his 2009 form as he possibly can. If he does, the team wins on this deal with Vladdy.

If Lind doesn’t improve and Guerrero ends up making the Jays a better team, the team wins on this deal with Vladdy.

If Lind doesn’t improve and Guerrero doesn’t have anything left to contribute, well, Vladdy’s deal is for peanuts, relatively speaking, so the team doesn’t lose on this deal with Vladdy.

It’s a win-win-draw deal if I’ve ever seen one!

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No such thing as too many options

The news broke late last night: The Toronto Blue Jays have optioned Travis Snider to Triple A Las Vegas. My initial reaction was one of frustration. Snider has the highest upside! Snider’s been jerked around so much, he deserves a real shot! If Snider was on any other team, Alex Anthopoulos would trade three relievers and a bag of popcorn for him and then let him play every day! TRAVIS SNIDER HAS LIGHT-TOWER POWER, DAMN IT.

I’m sure most of you have seen it already, but if not, check the 40-second mark in the above video. That was 2008. Snider was 20. He’s still only 24 (math!) and anybody ready to write him off is, well… foolish is probably the nicest word to describe those people.

So yes, I’m frustrated that Snider’s not going to get his much-deserved shot at the start of this season, but maybe it’s not such a bad thing.

Eric Thames is not a bad player. Not even close. If you can against root against Eric Thames, I don’t know that we can be friends. He works hard, he plays hard, he always looks like he’s having fun AND he can hit. He’s not Snider, but he doesn’t have to be.

Thames put a .262/.313/.456 (batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage) slash line last year and he did that over nearly 400 at-bats. He could learn to take a few more walks, but the power certainly seems real. If he can improve at getting on without sacrificing the power, he could be something special — or at least above average.

But where does that leave Snider? If he goes down to Vegas and mashes the minor-league pitching as he usually does, he’ll certainly be deserving of another shot in the bigs, but what position will he play?

I have a lot of hope for the 2012 Blue Jays, but there are a lot of question marks surrounding them. Particularly at first base. If Adam Lind and/or Edwin Encarnacion struggle at the plate again, the team can’t afford to give them endless opportunities.

It pains me to say it, but Lind’s been one of the worst hitters in MLB over the past two seasons. Sure, maybe he can regain something of his 2009 form but, without some form of improvement, he no longer deserves an everyday spot in the lineup.

Encarnacion, when he’s on his game, he’s one of the best hitters going. But when he’s off? It’s ugly. Maybe the DH/1B role will lift the weight of 3B and the E5 moniker and allow him to focus on hitting well. Or maybe he’s just another streaky player who’s a better fit for a bench role.

Both Lind and Encarnacion are going to get a shot to prove themselves worthy, but if either struggles and the team does something about it (as it should) that will open up the DH spot. Snider’s a better fielder than Thames, so it’d be a natural fit for Thames to DH while Snider patrols left.

And if everyone comes out swinging and no spots open up for Snider? That’s not a bad problem to have, especially for a GM who seems interested in adding pitching.

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Because Matt Stairs said so

If you follow me (or almost any other Jays fan) on Twitter, you likely know how I feel about the team’s roster moves yesterday, as my feelings are far from unique.

“Brett Lawrie, yay!” quickly turned into, and @s_findlay put it best, “ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME JAYS. Travis Snider! What the fucking fuck! Fuck this. #incoherentrage”

But on this day when the Jays begin the career most-highly touted Canadian prospect in probably ever, I think it’s important to talk a little bit about the guy who is, for my money, the most-entertaining Canadian player ever: Matt Stairs.

The retired-from-baseball-just-the-other-day Fredericton native holds MLB records for the most-teams played for and most pinch-hit home runs. He mashed an awe-inspiring playoff tater when he played for the Phillies — a homer which lead to probably the only good quote about getting one’s “ass hammered” (SFW, unless you can’t say “ass” in your office) and also inspired a great T-shirt:

Stairs has even earned love from the stats geeks, with Bill James going so far as to say that, given better circumstances, Stairs could be a Hall of Famer:

“Look at it. Somebody decided he was a second baseman, he tears through the minor leagues, gets to Montreal, the Expos take one look at him and say, ‘He’s no second baseman, get real.’ He bounces around, goes to Japan, doesn’t really get to play until he’s almost 30, then hits 38 homers, slips into a part-time role and hits 15-20 homers every year for 10 years in about 250 at-bats a season. … You put him in the right park, right position early in his career … he’s going to hit a LOT of bombs.”

As if everything above wasn’t enough, Stairs, by all accounts, is a great guy.

And great guys, they don’t forget where they came from. Which makes it too bad that Baseball Canada has ruled Stairs ineligible for the upcoming Canadian Senior Baseball Championship.

It’d just be too good, I guess, to let Stairs finish off the year with the team where it all started for him — the Fredericton Royals. Too good, especially since, of course, the championship is being played in his home province.

Stairs being Stairs, though, he hasn’t ruled out any involvement in the tournament, saying he’s considering a coaching role. That’d be nice for all involved, but it’s too bad that the good people of Miramichi, N.B., won’t get to hear his excellent walk-up music.

UPDATE: Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Time just alerted me to his own post on Matt Stairs. Jaffe takes a look back at the most memorable games in which Stairs has played and the list is, unsurprisingly, pretty long. Worth a read for sure.

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Duelling prospects

Eric Thames seems like a great guy. If you’ve heard him talk, you know how contagious his enthusiasm is. He’s a hard worker, dedicated to succeeding in the game — he’d have to be to come back from the injury he suffered in college — and succeed he has, posting great numbers throughout the minor leagues.

He did so well in the minors that, when Adam Lind got hurt, the Jays designated Jimmy Robert Ray for assignment to get Thames on the 40-man roster and call him up to the bigs. Alex Anthopoulos did this despite having potential replacements for Lind on the 40-man already.

Yes, Thames has a lot of talent, potential and a great personality to boot. This is a guy you basically have to root for.

The only thing about Thames’s call to The Show that irks me doesn’t actually have anything to do with the fact that Thames got the call, it’s got more to do with the reaction of some fans. Instead of enjoying the great story that Thames is, they’re using his promotion to dump on another Jays prospect. Here’s a fact that I really, really hope those fans read:

TRAVIS SNIDER IS ONLY 23 YEARS OLD.

Snider is not yet a bust or, as he was called yesterday on the Fan, a “reclamation project.”

What Snider is, is a young player who earned himself his first shot in the majors when he was only 20, then was mishandled when he got there. Hitting low in the order and being hidden from left-handed pitchers is not how a guy’s going to develop his talent. What should Toronto have done with Snider is what Florida did with Mike Stanton.

But it’s too late for all of that now. What happened with Snider happened and now he’s in Las Vegas and, hopefully, will get the developmental path he should have gotten earlier in his career.

I realize those last couple of paragraphs may go against the notion that Snider is a reclamation project, but if you’re thinking that’s what he is, please remember what I said above:

TRAVIS SNIDER IS ONLY 23 YEARS OLD.

So, yes, root for Thames to succeed, be happy for him. I am. But please, please don’t use Thames as proof that Snider is finished.

Eric Thames pic courtesy John Lott. Travis Snider pic courtesy MILB.

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Lunchbox Hero and the Safety Squeezers

One game can make all the difference, can’t it? Coming into tonight’s game against the Yankees, it seemed like people were fixated on the losses to the Red Sox, the slumps the Jays’ sluggers were going through and John Farrell’s seeming insistence on using Octavio Dotel against left-handed batters.

I tuned into tonight’s game during the eighth inning. I can’t speak to what happened before that, but what I saw afterward was pretty inspiring.

The bottom of the ninth. Down two to the Yankees. Mariano Rivera on the mound. This is not a situation many teams have been able to overcome. Ever.

Over the course of his career, Rivera had 566 saves in 615 opportunities. That’s a 92% success rate. That’s a pretty slim chance the Jays are going to win.

But win they did.

Yunel Escobar, Jose Bautista, Adam Lind: They all reached base. Travis Snider did not.

Escobar scored. Lind moved Bautista to third. Literally everybody’s favourite Blue Jay (if that’s not true, it should be) Johnny Mac comes to the plate.

Beginning the season, when the Jays were doing great, fans everywhere seemed excited about the running game and the willingness of the team under Farrell to take chances. Then, when the Jays started losing, the running game was the first target of many fans’ ire (and, in some cases, rightfully so.)

People criticized Cito Gaston for sticking to his guns, but Farrell does that, too. Last night, with the Prime Minister of Defence at the dish and down a run to the Yankees with Rivera on the mound, John McDonald executed a perfect bunt and Bautista came home to score on a safety squeeze.

Let me say that again: John McDonald laid down a perfect safety squeeze bunt against Mariano Rivera to tie the game.

It was a thing of beauty.

Of course, asking for Rivera to take the loss in addition to blowing the save would be too much, and he got out of the inning. Extras. A good enough top of the 10th from Jon Rauch and the Jays again got a chance to end the game.

Ivan Nova comes in and Edwin Encarnacion immediately singles. Jayson Nix and Escobar proceed to hit deep fly outs, but E5, often slammed for a lack of hustle, runs his little heart out on those two flies. The man wanted to win, wanted to be the one to score the run that capped the comeback against the Yankees.

Two outs and Snider, who was 0-for-5 in the game had struck out three times — once apparently breaking his bat over his knee in frustration — comes to the plate. The same Snider who came into the game with a slash line of .151/.250/.245 and who seems to have been touted as a “bust” by impatient Leafs fans for years now.

But since you’re reading this, I assume you’re not one of the Snider doubters.

Snider comes to the plate and what does he do? He justifies your love.

Lunchbox Hero.

If you read this hoping for some kind of insight why what happened happened, I’m sorry. Sometimes when you witness something great, you just need to get it down.

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Won’t somebody please think of Lind?

Despite constant reassurances since he was resigned that he’d be the DH and occasional first baseman, the Blue Jays today announced that Edwin (E5) Encarnacion will be the team’s everyday third baseman.

According to the above-linked article from the National Post’s stalwart Jays reporter John Lott, manager John Farrell, the decision was made based on E5’s defensive improvement — especially his footwork.

Now, yeah, from the little bit I’ve seen, read and heard out of the Jays camp, E5’s looked great at first. Good footwork, good reactions, everything. If all that’s true, sure, he might be great at third. But E5’s problem at third hasn’t been his glove, it’s been his arm.

You can kind of get away with a third baseman who can’t hit the side of the barn if you’ve got a great glove at first, but Toronto’s got Adam Lind. I guess management is pretty confident in his glove. They’d better be.

Couple of quick things

Travis Snider’s eating and tweeting habits are newsworthy.

Let’s all root for Adam Loewen.

It’s too bad Drew’s outfield preview is out of date already, but it’s still worth a read if appreciate fun and smart.

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Mathletes

I haven’t seen the particular ad yet myself, but apparently Sportsnet is using Travis Snider’s fielding percentage in some of its advertising for the upcoming Jays season. I’m going to assume that the vast majority of people who bother to read baseball blogs know enough about the game to know that fielding percentage is not even remotely a good way to evaluate a player.

Anyway, the ad led to an interesting Twitter exchange last night between Stoeten of DJF fame and a guy who goes by GoatmealCrisp about why exactly Sportsnet would take such a tack in its promotional course.

Goatmeal argued that the ad is for the “casuals” and that people who know better are watching the games anyway. Stoeten, who was making the most of St. Patrick’s Day, was having none of it.

Now, I’m with Stoeten 100% in that nobody should be pretending a worthless stat means anything, but the second half of his statement might not be entirely accurate.

I’ve often wondered why words like “grit” remain so prevalent in discussions of baseball and what makes a player good or valuable to a team. The following map might, in part, help explain the reluctance of some people to adopt new ways of looking at the game:

What you’re looking at is a map of Canada, drawn up to show numeracy skills for a recent feature in the Globe and Mail. Red is bad. Going by these stats, there are an alarming amount of people in Canada who lack the basic math skills to “live fully in a modern economy.”

The consequences of poor math skills are many and affect more than just the individual who struggled with calculus in grade school:

The financial crisis of 2008 is often blamed solely on the banking world’s irresponsibility, but individual decisions by people struggling to understand their mortgages, or the true cost of a loan or a debt, arguably helped bring world economies to their knees.

To be sure, people losing their jobs and their homes is a much more important issue than the widespread acceptance and understanding of a stat like ISO, FIP or any of the other advanced metrics out there. But if people can’t wrap their heads around a personal loan or a mortgage, with the huge implications those things can and do have on their personal lives, how can we expect those same people to be bothered with the sabr movement?

Now, just to be clear, I’m not saying people who don’t “get” math are stupid — far from it. I know there any many, many factors that go into what people can or can’t do intellectually and the individuals in question don’t have control over all of them.

And I’m not excusing large swaths of the mainstream media for continuing to look at the game of baseball in an outdated way. Good media should be reporting things in the best way possible — including taking advanced stats and explaining them, or converting them into language most people can understand. Unfortunately, most media doesn’t work that way — for a number of reasons, some understandable, some horrible.

Sportsnet really shouldn’t be promoting the Jays with Travis Snider’s fielding percentage. But if you run into a Jays fan in the real world who likes to talk about simple, outdated things like fielding percentage, it might worth it to see if they’ve got a grasp of fielding range or something else that you can get a good sense of without looking at numbers. If they do, their use of fielding percentage as a go-to metric might not be entirely their fault.

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‘The main guy who needs to play’

Today is Monday. E5’s eligible to come off the disabled list. This means Jose Bautista and his bombs will move back from third base to right field. Cito being Cito, this also likely means that DeWayne Wise will be moving back to left field while Travis Snider gets some more time on the pine.

But that would be too simple. Too expected.

Cito likes to let guys who have proven themselves play everyday. This leads to the blogosphere and some members of the media questioning Cito at every turn and getting angrily frustrated when he does things like sit Snider and Aaron Cibia for extended periods.

Well, something’s happened. Maybe Alex Anthopoulos had a talk with The Manager. Maybe Snider showed some magical intangible in the clubhouse that’s won Cito over. Maybe Gaston just had what alcoholics refer to as a moment of clarity.

Whatever happened, it should make some people happy because when Gaston was questioned about what E5’s return would do to Toronto’s lineup, he said this: “We’ll find spots here and there for them. But the main guy who needs to play is Snider.”

Rejoice!

Sniderman’s played in each of the last 10 games and should (if Cito can be believed) see the bulk of the action for Toronto’s remaining 19 games. It’s hardly the majority of the season that he should have gotten, but it’s a start and that’s more than I expected Cito to give him.

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